Top Secrets of Expert Resumes

By Steven Provenzano, CPRW / CEIP
Author, Top Secret Executive Resumes

It seems no matter how good we have it, we all want a better job.
That means keeping track of job listings, networking, tracking down leads, analyzing potential employers and scheduling interviews. But these depend on other people, word of mouth, and the quality and quantity of job postings available at any given time.
Only your resume gives you total control over how you are perceived by potential employers. It doesn't have to be a passive job listing with subjective information on why you think you're a great and wonderful person (which of course you are). You need a high-impact career marketing piece that takes full advantage of the paltry 10-60 seconds of attention most resumes receive: the breaking point for the email vs. web version.
Perhaps you don't think of yourself as a very good writer, and just don't like "writing about yourself." You're not alone: even published authors and top-flight executives who visit my office tell me they have trouble writing a decent resume. They also tell me, "My resume isn't perfect, but I'll explain myself in the interview."
However, you may be the perfect candidate for a position and still not get the interview, for no other reason than your resume. Resumes are typically used to exclude people from positions more often then include them; whomever is left in the 'potential' stack gets called for an interview.

The Big Picture
First and Foremost: Tell Employers What They Really Want to Know. Pre-digest your information. Employers may have a stack of resumes on their desk and a job to fill, right now. They'll have some key requirements that candidates must meet before they'll consider an interview. What they want to know from each person "sitting" on their desk is: What can you do for me? How can you fill this job effectively? Why should I talk to you?

Consistently Market Your Skills and Abilities
You must extract your most applicable skills and talents from your past work experience and sell them at the very top of your resume in that Profile.

Some key points for creating a better resume:


  • Think of a basic Title or Objective for the top of your resume.

  • This section should be very brief and to the point, just one or two words: SALES / MARKETING or ACCOUNTING / FINANCE, or something like EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP. Give the reader some idea of where you're coming from, and generally where you want to go, without blocking yourself from consideration for other positions.

  • Create a Profile section that develops your talents in these areas.

  • Here's where you create the link between your needs and the employer's. In a short, bulleted summary section at the top of your resume, you need to spell out and develop your most relevant and essential skills and talents, in accordance with what you think the employer needs to see.

  • Steer clear of fluff words in your Profile such as "Self-motivated, hands-on professional with an excellent track record of..."

  • Let's face it. The first two items in this sentence could be said about almost anyone. As for your track record, let the employer decide if it's excellent by reading about your abilities (on top) and your duties and accomplishments (under the Employment section).


This can be the most difficult task on any resume, and it has to be written just right. If it's subjective or contains ideas that can't be verified through education or experience, then don't include it, or you'll lose your credibility. Consider getting advice from a Certified Professional Resume Writer who typically won't charge for a review.

Employment and Education sections.
Now your writing must consistently verify, support and quantify what you've stated in your Profile section! Help the reader actually see you at your last position by spelling out daily duties most relevant to your career goals. Explain how many people you supervised or trained, types of clients you work(ed) with, computers utilized, and most important, results.
What are/were your achievements? Give facts and figures like budget amounts, how much you've saved the company over how long, awards, recognitions, etc.

Avoid the ubiquitous "References Available upon Request" at the bottom of your resume. If employers really want references, they'll ask you. Consider "CONFIDENTIAL RESUME" at the top of your resume, and/or stating this in your cover letter. Always respect the reader's intelligence!
Research the company's brochure, annual report and job advertisement, if any, and tailor your resume as much as possible to the position.

Final Thoughts
Although personal networking is the best way to get a job, an excellent resume can open doors all by itself, and is still required in most networking situations. Of course, a brief cover letter should be targeted to the hiring authority whenever possible.

Tell the reader what you know about their operation, and why you want to work specifically for his/her company. Make them feel like they're the only person getting your resume. Consider this: a resume that's only slightly more effective than the one you have now could help you get a job weeks, or even months faster than your old resume.
Resume writing is an art form in itself, and there are few hard and fast rules. You need a complete, professional job search strategy, and your resume must be a key part of that strategy. When you implement these ideas in the next update of your resume, you'll almost certainly get more interviews.

Steven Provenzano is a former corporate recruiter and author of six career books, most recently: Top Secret Executive Resumes, and has appeared on CNBC, CNN/fn, ABC/NBC in Chicago, on numerous radio programs and in various newspapers.

Steven is a Certified Professional Resume Writer / CPRW, Certified Employment Interview Professional/CEIP, and president of ECS (Executive Career Services & DTP, Inc.), and has written more than 4000 resumes.

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