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Top tips for a tip-top resume.

The New Year is upon us, meaning that many people are trying to live up to New Year’s resolutions. You may be looking at losing those extra pounds, you may want to save more money than you did last year, or this year you are ready to take steps towards finding a new job.

If finding that new job is something that resembles one of your resolutions for this upcoming year, then you may need some assistance in gearing up for the job hunt. Before just sending out your resumes, make sure this document truly reflects the best about you.

As a career coach, I cannot tell you the number of resumes that I have critiqued or revised that I know are going to lead my clients nowhere. They have the drive to move their careers into a more viable direction, but the one tool at their disposal that really needs to be concise and focused is the one lacking in getting the attention of one employer, let alone several.

Resumes are your career ticket, your way of getting invited to the interview table. You may have a stellar personality, impeccable skills, great at communicating during the interview process, but that won’t matter if you do not create a winning resume.

Listed below are four of the most important mistakes people make when trying to create a document that wins them face-to-face time with an employer.

1. Content: If your resume is not tailored to market your strengths (that is, your achievements) then there is nothing to distinguish you from others. Resumes only get looked at for a couple of minutes on average, so this document must be able to pique the interest of the employer enough, to elicit an interview.

For example, think of times when you might have been recognized in the company newsletter for an accomplishment, or when you saved the company 25 percent on a project budget and got the project done before deadline. Your resume serves as a written excuse for bragging; now is not the time to be modest.

2. Focused objective: An objective gives the resume focus and allows the employer to know which position you’re interested in. Everything following the objective, should add more weight to how you can meet the desired objective.

The right type of objective is the goal here. For example, “To obtain a position where I can use my skills and education to help meet company goals” is not a winning objective; it’s fluff, a bunch of words that say nothing.

Let’s try again: “To obtain a position as a database administrator at XYZ Inc.” Now the employer knows what position you want. The rest of the resume will show them why you’re the best person for the job.

3. No errors: A resume that includes errors reflects poorly on the candidate, whether they actually wrote the resume or not. Make absolutely positive that misspelled words, grammatical errors, correct punctuation, and other goofs are corrected before submitting your resume. Have two or three of your brightest friends look it over.

4. Be honest: The most important characteristic of a resume is that it reflects the truth about your skill set, educational background, and professional history. In this time of corporate ethics (or the lack thereof) finding regular space on the front page, employers want integrity. Lying on your resume is simply a bad idea. In this post-Enron era, you must be able to back up what you say you can do.

Most people know the sections of a resume, but now you’re equipped to create a document that will distinguish you from other candidates. I hope you lose the weight this year, or that you build your savings account, but as a career coach it means a lot to see people fulfilled in their professional lives. Discounting the importance of the resume in this process will be a mistake. So for the New Year, I hope you take the steps to create a winning resume.

Felicia H. Vaughn, M.Ed., is a certified career management coach. E-mail her at

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