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Pass the 30 second test!

by Kelly Bryant

To rise above the competition and have a successful job search, you have to do more than hand out resumes and wait for responses that never come. Applying for jobs is more competitive than ever. With the high volume of applications being submitted to job opportunities, the average employer only spends 15 to 30 seconds looking at a resume.

In fact, new technologies allow companies to electronically scan a resume and search for keywords to further speed up the review process. You can see why it is difficult to get a foot in the door. In this ultra-competitive job market with limited opportunities, you need to stand out. Here are a few basic tips that potential employers expect of every resume:

• Create a professional image with employers by putting your contact information at the top of the resume and use the same contact information for cover letter, references and thank you letters.

• Choose Arial or Times New Roman for the font, size 11 or 12, except for your name, which should be bold and larger than the other text.
• Resumes need to be 1-2 pages in length. Only list jobs from the last 10 to 15 years because they are often the most relevant and may minimize age discrimination.

• Always ensure that the information in the resume is correct. Make sure your resume is free of spelling and grammar mistakes. It is best to have another person proofread it.

• Use verbs to describe your accomplishments. Leave out the word “I” and avoid using “responsible for…” or “duties included…”. Describe the skills you used for the job instead. While it is important to complete the basic steps to make sure your resume is up to date and professional, why not take a little extra time and effort to make your resume stand out from the rest of the applicants? In return, the employer will appreciate the time and effort you put in and hopefully reward you with an interview.

Here are some additional tips to help you stand out from the rest:

• Get to the point early in your resume. Make sure that your most important skills match the skills requested by the employer and are listed near the top of the page. By using the employer's specific words it will ensure you get attention. Appearance counts, so be neat.

• A keyword-rich resume will help if your resume is scanned by software. The best way to do this is to print 10-20 job advertisements and create a list of the skills, education and experience that were mentioned. Then you can include the skills that you have that match the list of skills in the advertisements. Without those keywords in the resume, your resume could be rejected.

• Use a bulleted list to describe your experience and accomplishments so they are clear and easy to read.

• Resumes must be concise, accurate and relevant. It is a reflection of how effective your communication skills are.

• Support your claims with facts. Instead of general statements, use examples and quantifiable results. Once you get to the interview, you will need specifics to make those statements real. Better to do it now than assume you will be able to produce the information if you get an interview.

By following the tips above you can dramatically increase your success in this competitive market. A professional resume will decrease the time spent in job transition by helping you stand out compared to the other candidates applying for the same position.