Getting your resume noticed

By John Logan, Epsilon Delta ’89, RhoH

The job market remains difficult, even for graduates of the best universities. But the market is improving; the unemployment rate for college graduates 24 and younger averaged 7.2 percent from January through April (a reduction over the same period from the three prior years), and job seekers are starting to report multiple offers. (Washington Post, 2012). While overall US unemployment in April 2012 was 8.1 percent, that has declined from a high of 10 percent in October 2009 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2012).

With many candidates searching for work, focusing a search can be challenging. It is estimated that 89% of US employers planned to use social networks for recruiting in 2012 (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, in that order). Yet that fact counters the most common sources of employment cited by current workers – referrals, newspapers and internet job boards.

No matter the source of your job, one piece of any search is omnipresent – your resume. While you can’t rely only on a resume to get you a job, a resume does represent your basic introduction to a potential employer – it’s your calling card. So what gets a resume noticed?

Effective use of keywords

Key words are significant words or phrases that help employers pinpoint relevant experience they seek. Don’t dismiss these as mere industry buzzwords – using keywords helps employers find you.

Most companies use resume management software to screen candidates for jobs. Resume key words are words or phrases that recruiters and hiring managers use to review their resume database (or to search networking sites for passive candidates). In order for your resume to be found, it must include job-specific terms or phrases defined by the employer. Key words can be skills, software competencies, employer names or credentials.

As a job seeker, you identify key words by reading job postings. Search internet job boards for postings that match your skills, and review the requirements or preferred qualifications – the words that continue to pop up are the key words for that specific role.

Key words can be incorporated into your resume in several places. Experienced job seekers often build them into a summary of qualifications at the top of their resume. New job seekers tend to build them into a skills section at the bottom of their resume. Sometimes, they fit within the description of your accomplishments at each job.

Experience with impact

Many resumes I review don’t tell a compelling story. The experience section merely outlines a job description rather than highlighting the results the job seeker created in their position. As you write resume bullet points, you must include an action, a situation (with enough detail to communicate context), and results. By including these elements, you paint a picture of how you performed, and you help the employer imagine you working in their environment.

Action verbs cluster into skills categories – management, communication, technical, teaching, helping, financial, etc. – and give your experience direction and focus. Describing the situation shares the context of your work – its breadth or visibility. Every employer wants results, so including those shows that you have successful performance and aren’t a risky hire.

Some examples may help here:

  • Communicated with clients through mail, e-mail and personal phone calls. (weaker)
  • Launched multi-channel sales campaign with 3 clients, resulting in $750k new business. (stronger)
  • Coordinated Key Opinion Leader research network. (weaker)
  • Designed novel Key Opinion Leader research with internal staff and outside vendor to identify 500 regional opinion leaders in Alzheimer’s disease, saving 40% over external proposal costs. (stronger)

An open job often attracts between 100 and 1000 resumes these days, so job seekers face significant competition. Most resumes only garner a quick glance. But by using key words effectively and highlighting the results of your work, you can gain an advantage over many resumes in the market place.


John S. Logan (ED 1989, RH) is currently a Human Resources Manager and the Director of Global Recruiting for ZS Associates, a global sales and marketing management consulting firm. In his role, he supervises the firm’s recruiting efforts for 20 offices across 10 countries. Prior to ZS, John was a Manager of Organizational Development at Macy*s, where he developed the store-line university recruitment program and recruited store executives in the New York region. Before his work in human resources, John was a campus fraternity/sorority advisor at the Universities of Cincinnati and Houston and served on the Executive Board of the Association of Fraternity Advisors.
John’s Chi Psi experience includes his current service on the Chi Psi Executive Council and as an Educational Trust program facilitator, and past service on the Alpha Rho Alumni Association and as Rho’s Alpha Advisor after supporting its refounding in 2004. Outside the Fraternity, John has been a puppyraiser for The Seeing Eye and is an Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He lives with his spouse and two daughters in Highland Park, New Jersey.
Connect with John on the Chi Psi online community or LinkedIn.

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