Help! My Resume Is Dead On Arrival

Help! My Resume Is Dead On Arrival

If you've been sending your resume out repeatedly and not hearing back from employers, then it's time to perform some CPR. By making some strategic changes to how you present yourself, and combining that with improvements designed to make your value and career accomplishments crystal clear, you should see a rapid uptick in responses. Related: Kick These 5 ‘Resume Killers’ To The Curb!

Position Yourself As An Ideal Candidate

Remember: at the resume stage, communicating excellent fit for a role is more important than uniqueness. In other words, a reader needs to come away with the impression that you are credible, highly experienced in key areas, and the "cream of the crop" professionally, and only then will those aspects which set you apart come into play.

Identify your ideal job target, and compile a folder of job postings that have piqued your interest.

Evaluate job postings for common qualifications and requested attributes.

For example, if you're looking for a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) role, then here are some qualities that are frequently asked for:
  • A proven track record of strengthening Finance & Accounting functions (centralized and de-centralized) to support continued business growth.
  • Outstanding management of third party relationships/functions in areas such as insurance, auditing, banking and tax preparation.
  • Improving risk management across the firm.
  • Soft skills: business acumen, analytical and writing skills, independent judgment and a clear operational focus.

Use your research as the "theme" of your resume.

Now that you've identified exactly what employers are looking for, make sure it comes across at multiple points in your resume. Here are some areas to focus on:
  • A "Summary" section at the start of the resume that crystallizes your abilities in the key areas identified.
  • A "Core Competencies" or keywords section that provides an at-a-glance view of all of your major skills. Beyond job postings, checking out the LinkedIn Profiles of people who currently have the position you want is a great way to collect keyword information (you can find this in the "Skills & Endorsements" section of a person's profile).
  • Highlighting those aspects of your work history which tie into these key areas. Have you faced major challenges that relate to these skills, or pulled off some significant successes? Include it!

Make Your Resume Scannable

According to a recent survey by, recruiters spend an average of just 6.25 seconds scanning a resume. That means your document NEEDS to be easy to read, and filled with "hooks" to nab attention and invite closer analysis.
  • Don't list responsibilities that are taken for granted at any of the jobs you've held. Instead, focus on what's unique and the accomplishments you're most proud of.
  • Keep industry jargon to a minimum. Your resume needs to impress regardless of a reader’s background in your field.
  • Be careful about using ALL CAPS. ALL CAPS is very difficult to read at-a-glance. Instead, use italics and bold facing as tools to draw attention (sparingly, of course).
  • The first five words of a bullet point are critical. Highlight the result first (preferably with a metric) and then describe how you achieved it.
  • Use digits when writing about numbers (ex. 2K instead of two thousand).
  • Keep formatting consistent throughout the document.
  • White space is your friend. Having a document that's filled to the brim with text isn't confident. Being succinct is.

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About the author

Anish Majumdar, CEO of is a nationally recognized executive resume writer, LinkedIn expert, and interview coach. Surveyed clients report a 40-60% reduction in placement times through working with him, and typically secure offers at least $10-40K higher. Schedule a free LIVE Resume Critique with Anish, or connect with him on LinkedIn. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.Photo Credit: Shutterstock