Polishing Your Resume to Make the Best Impression

Martin Yate By Martin Yate June 7, 2021
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Polishing Your Resume to Make the Best Impression

​Your resume is your introduction to a potential employer. Make that first impression count, because it will determine whether the employer wants to interview you.

Take the time to revise your resume until it tells the right story about your career and how you can do the job the employer needs filled. A resume never springs complete in a single draft from anyone's keyboard.

Does My Resume Tell the Right Story?

As you write, rewrite, polish and otherwise revise your resume, regularly refer to your target job deconstruction, which clearly outlines the story your unique resume needs to tell. When you feel the story that you're telling is clearly focused and complete, review it against these questions:

  • Are my statements relevant to the target job?
  • Where have I repeated myself? Is the repetition redundant or does it make my resume stronger?
  • Is every paragraph focused on the employer's needs?
  • Can I cut out any sentences? Or can I shorten a long sentence? Can I break that one long sentence into two short ones?

Short sentences pack more punch. And if in doubt, cut it out!

Let's review the sections of the resume to make sure you've got all the parts of your story in order. Download this template for help.

Target Job Title

Use a headline to draw readers in. Do you have a target job title that echoes the words and intent of the job descriptions you collected when deconstructing your target job?

Performance Profile/Summary

This short paragraph follows the target job title and reflects the priorities and language used in typical employer postings for this job. Keep this summary to no longer than seven lines—just list the "must-haves" of the job. Also keep it short because dense blocks of type make reading harder. If your profile/summary runs longer, cut it into two paragraphs or one paragraph that's followed by bullets.

Professional Skills

List the skills you bring to your work that support the statements made in the preceding performance profile section. Prioritize the skills so the most important come first.

Chronology

Your work history should start with your most recent job and work backward. Make sure each entry emphasizes relevant experience, contributions and achievements. Can you include endorsements of your work, if they are relevant? Leave out lists of references and only mention they are available upon request.

Achievements

In all of the above entries about your work experience, whenever you can, give examples of doing your job efficiently and well, and emphasize these achievements with examples. Quantify your examples where possible, and make them easy to read by listing them as bullet points. You can encourage a reader to call you for an interview by telling what you've done, but not explaining. Create a reason for starting a conversation.

Education

Your educational record usually comes at the end of the resume and starts with your highest level of education. It should also include professional courses and accreditations that support your candidacy. However, if you work in education, law, medicine, sciences or other professions that put an emphasis on academic accreditations, your educational attainments will usually come at the beginning after the target job title and professional profile.

Much of the success of a project is determined by the amount of preparation put into it, and this is where the prep work gets done on your resume. I once worked with a senior HR partner on a resume and strategic career transition, and, before the job was finished, we had completed eight revisions, each one giving us just a little tighter focus and that much more punch. It took about two and a half weeks but generated eight interviews in seven days, one of which landed her a senior position at Microsoft.

Bestselling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. 

From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

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