How to write a better resume and land more interviews

When I moved across the country a few years ago to follow my husband’s career, I did not have a job lined up when I left San Diego. But within 2 weeks of arriving, I had already started working at a great company, doing exactly what I wanted to do, and received a raise from what I was making to boot.

How did I do it?

I have spent many, many years researching and learning about getting hired, and putting that learning into place. I’ve gotten a raise with each new position I took, as well as a level up in title, so these tips work.

This is number one in a series I am starting on Resume FAQ. They are the most common questions I come across in the course of my days, and that I see over and over again.

I am currently working on a resume-building course that I hope to release in the next month or so, but until then, these FAQ should get you started!

How to write a resume

What can you do when the company that you are working for is completely in a wrong direction but you can't leave it as you need money?

You'll want to start looking for another job right away. While you currently have the luxury of time, if your current employer is really on the down trend, there might not be as much time as you think. You need to prepare now.

Treat job hunting as your second job. Set aside as much after work time as you can for it-this is important. Its much easier to get a job while you still have one than to get one when you are unemployed.

Don't spread around that your company is in trouble to potential employers. Its negative and they won't want to hear you bad-mouthing another company because that means you might do the same about them. If asked why you are leaving, say something like you have outgrown the position with no possibility for further growth at your company, or you are looking for more challenges, or something similar.

How do I conduct a job search as someone who has spent a lot of time in many silos but perhaps not mastered any?

This might be tricky, but it can certainly be done!

Think about what types of skills you have learned that transfer to a given job posting. Even if you don't have direct experience, there is likely something you have done that would cross over. Remember, a job posting is not a requirement list-they are things that are nice to have in a perfect world. Don't exclude yourself if there are a few things in a posting you don't know, or you don't quite match up to the requested level of experience desired. For example, if they want someone with 4 years of experience, and you have 3, that's definitely worth a shot.

Also, this is something you will want to address in your cover letter. Write a fresh one for each place you apply to, and explain your passion for their work, how the skills you have gathered would benefit them and are transferable, and your reasons for seeking employment in a different sector.

Does it help to include a keyword on a job description more than once on resume?

Honestly, it really depends on the Applicant Tracking System being used, and the importance placed on the keyword. The likelihood of it being a very important word increases the closer it is to the top of the job description.

I don't recommend throwing the keyword around in random places, but it sure doesn't hurt to put it (in context) more than once. I wouldn't do it any more than 2 or 3 times though, as there are other key words you want the ATS to recognize as well, and they will penalize you for using a keyword too many times.

Also, make sure when you put the keyword in your resume, you are using the exact way it appears in the job description. For instance, some ATS systems can not distinguish between "keyword" and "key word" even though it is the same thing to a human eye.

What are some good descriptive phrases for resumes?

The most important thing to keep in mind when thinking about good phrases for your resume is the original job description. You don't want to send the exact same resume to every job you apply to; you need to customize it for each one.

Pick out the top skills the company has listed in the job description (that you also have experience in) and focus on those. Provide results you achieved while doing that skill.

For example, if a job description calls for Powerpoint experience, instead of saying "Powerpoint skills", you would say something like, "Created 30 slide marketing deck that brought in 15 new clients", or something similar.

With that in mind, you'll want to use power words to describe your skills. Rutgers University has a great PDF sorted by skill that you can reference.

I am in high school and my resume is very unimpressive. How should go about improving it?

It depends on what you are trying to use your resume for. Are you trying to get an after school/weekend job? If that's the case, you need to focus on the job posting you are looking at.

What skills and tasks does it mention? For example, if it is a retail job, you are probably going to see things like " customer service skills". You would want to mention things such as "volunteered at homeless soup kitchen, serving soup to XX people a day". If you have little to no experience, showing similar things you've done will really help catch their eye.

Have a look through the job post and see what things you've done in the past might be related, even if they weren't jobs. Most places that hire high school students know your resume will be very light on job history, and will be impressed that you've taken the time to think through the type of employee they are asking for.

Could you get away with adding a college to your resume that you didn't actually attend?

Absolutely not. Your potential employer will likely do a background check and will find out that you lied. They will pull the offer and you will be in the same position you were before-without the job. It is NEVER ok to lie on a resume.

Alyssa Johnson