LivAbility Magazine
A woman's hand points at a resume. A man's hands are on the paper, gesturing with a pencil

By Susan Webb

When job-searching, you need a resume. There are templates all over the internet, so writing a resume is simple, right? It should be, but the resumes I see every day are poorly done. Your resume is your calling card – if it does not grab the reader immediately, don’t even bother sending it. There are tried and true methods for writing a good resume. This article gives you tips, all of which you MUST follow if you want to rise to the top of candidates considered for the job.

Today’s applications are on-line. Employers use Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software, which scans your resume for format and content based on criteria the employer has assigned to a job. The scanner scores your resume electronically and matches the key words in your resume to what is in the job description. If your resume does not include many of the same words and/or has boxes, shading, fancy fonts, or pictures, the scanner cannot read it, thus scoring it low. If it does not meet the minimum score, it will never be reviewed by a human being.

Even if the employer does not use an ATS and your application is first reviewed by a person, these rules still apply. A reviewer spends about one minute scanning a resume. If (s)he does not see the relevant Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Experience, and Education (KSA+EEs) in that time, she will likely overlook it.

1. Tweak your resume for each application to accurately reflect the key words in each job description. If the job description is vague about job tasks and qualifications, look for a different job.

2. The first section should always be a qualifications summary and labeled as such. This is a list of 5-7 specific, measurable KSA+EEs you have that are specifically included in the job description. This is your minute-long review. If the reviewer sees what (s)he is looking for here, (s)he will read the remainder of your resume. The experience and education section should follow. These sections should prove the facts you use in your qualification summary.

3. Tell them what they want to hear, not what you want them to know. If your resume includes skills not required by the job description, leave them out. They clutter your resume and use up that precious one minute the reviewer gives you.

4. Always think about what the employer needs and tailor your resume to them, not to you. Prioritize the order of your KSA+EEs based on what is most important or prevalent in the job description, i.e., job requirements as opposed to preferred skills.

5. Avoid meaningless clichés such as self-starter, hard worker, team player, community-minded, love people. You will sometimes see these on the job description. If you do, and you can truthfully give examples in your employment or education section, then include them. Otherwise, the reviewer will dismiss them because “everybody says that.”

6. If you do parrot the job description with qualifications such as excellent oral and written communications skills, multi-tasking or team player, you absolutely must demonstrate where and when you have used these skills. In the experience section under a specific job, for example, you might say, “demonstrated excellent oral and written communication skills by developing a new wage reporting manual and presenting it to staff.” Or “demonstrated team player skills by participating in a task force to review employee suggestions for process improvements.”

7. If your education is general (Associate Degree in General Studies or Bachelor of Arts) or you did not complete a degree program, include courses you took relevant to the job sought. For example, if you are applying for an accounting job and successfully completed accounting courses, then mention them in the employment section under the institution where you took the courses.

8. Finally, if you tweak your resume for a specific job and find that you do not have a majority of the KSA+EEs required, find a different job. This one is not right for you. Following these rules should yield more frequent responses to your applications.

Susan Webb

Susan Webb

Susan Webb currently serves as Vice President of Ability360 Employment Services. Webb also served as Ability360’s Executive Director from 1991 – 2000. Webb has served more than 30 years as a local, state and national disability public policy advocate. In 1988, she was appointed by President Reagan to the U.S. Access Board, where she chaired the task force that developed the first ADA Accessibility Guidelines mandated and incorporated into the Americans with Disabilities Act.