The job hunt

The Job Hunt: Bolster that résumé

Highlight skills, accomplishments

Contributing ColumnistMarch 4, 2013 

Theresa Mickelwait, assistant director of UK's Stuckert Career Center


The appearance of your résumé is a key first step in getting employers to notice you, but having solid content on it is going to persuade them they need to talk to you in person.

Your résumé should be more than just a list of tasks you did; it should highlight your accomplishments.

Here are some strategies for branding and targeting yours to a specific position or industry and translating your job descriptions into a compelling case to hire you.

Identify résumé keywords: Employers want to find quickly your skills and knowledge that is relevant to the position.

With the increasing use of software technology for résumé screening, it's even more crucial to include this so you are not eliminated before a person even sees it.

Here are some areas in which you should note relevant industry keywords:

■ Position titles you've held or would want.

■ Equipment, hardware or software.

■ Techniques used.

■ Processes or policies.

■ Professional or technical acronyms.

■ Professional jargon or phrases.

■ News, buzzwords or hot topics in the industry.

Quantify accomplishments: Employers want to see accomplishments listed and demonstrated in measurable ways.

Add numbers whenever possible to give a sense of the scope of your responsibilities. Write down your responsibilities and ask yourself simply how many, how much or how often? For example, if you supervised or trained people, how many? If you handled money or budgets, how much?

Think about how to highlight the accomplishment in the best way, too. Saying that as a sales representative you provided sales services for 15 percent of the customers in your area is not as impressive as you tripling your customer base from 5 percent to 15 percent in six months. In this case, the increase is more impressive than the raw number itself, so it better demonstrates your accomplishment

Money is always an important figure to present, too. Employers want to know how you have affected the bottom line, which can be difficult for some positions. You might not have had a direct effect on sales, so try to think of the indirect ways you might have saved money for the company by cutting costs, increasing efficiency or streamlining procedures.

Contributions to the organization's goals: One important question to ask yourself is what value did you add to the organization? How did things improve after you were hired?

Think back to your interview or your first week on the job. What was it like before you started? Why did the company hire you? How did you help the company achieve its goals?

Benefit from affiliation: Sometimes employers are impressed by the companies for which you've worked. If your company has done well, your contributions or the things you may have learned while working there become an asset.

If you've worked for well-recognized name brands in your industry, you may want to highlight the companies more by bolding them. Maybe you have worked for or have experience dealing with the employer's big name competitors. If so, make sure you mention that in your description.

If your company is lesser known, you can point out attributes that can benefit you. How does your company compare against others? What are some impressive statistics?

Perseverance in tough environments: Overcoming challenges and obstacles can definitely reflect positively on you. Make sure to mention if your company was high-pressure, fast-paced and experiencing growth during an otherwise slow time.

Also highlight your personal achievements by describing some of the challenges you had to overcome. Did you achieve goals more quickly than the average person in your position? Is your output higher than the company or industry average?

Leadership: I have seen some people just list the final position they have held at a company, presuming the previous position was not that impressive.

Big mistake!

While your former position is not important, the fact that you were promoted is a big deal to employers.

And you don't necessarily have to be the big boss to demonstrate your leadership. What teams did you work on that had significant accomplishments, and what was your role? Were there projects that you led?

Companies can't always give promotions for outstanding leadership, but other things can reflect on your performance. Did you win any awards? Were you recognized in your position by being given special training opportunities or presentations?

Awards and training opportunities cost money, so it shows your company was willing to invest in you, and other companies will, too.

In a highly competitive job market, you really have to stand out because companies are looking to hire the star performers.

Adding this kind of substance will put your résumé at the top of the stack for an interview.

Theresa Mickelwait holds a master's degree in psychology and a certificate in career coaching from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. She is a senior assistant director at the University of Kentucky James W. Stuckert Career Center. Reach her at

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