Elevate Your Resume to the Next Level

By Erin Wolfram, M.S.

[Editor’s Note: The following originally appeared in the February issue of SportsField Management magazine, sister publication to Landscape Business.]

What do you think is the purpose of a resume? Most people think the purpose is to get you a job. However, there is a very important step in between: to introduce yourself to the hiring committee, and ultimately to secure an interview. However, securing the interview can be much harder than it may seem, especially if you do not know someone within the organization who can put in a good word for you. Unfortunately, all too often, the old saying, “It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know,” holds true. Therefore, it is important to make sure your resumequickly grabs the attention of the reader(s) and compels them to invite you to interview.

So, how do you ensure your resume represents you in the best way possible? Your resume needs to clearly and concisely demonstrate that you meet or exceed the qualifications of the position and prove your value. To achieve this, and take your application to the next level, take a moment to review your resume, and check for the following:

• Does your resume effectively demonstrate how your skills and strengths meet or exceed the qualifications listed in the job description?

• Do you have action-oriented bullet statements for each of your experiences, and if so, do they adequately reflect the accomplishments and outcomes of your actions?

• Is your resume error free, easy to read, and have consistent formatting throughout the document?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, below are a few tips to help you update your resume and transform it from a generic, duty-based document to a more personalized, achievement-based reflection of your unique qualifications and characteristics.

1. Consider adding a “Career Profile” or “Summary of Qualifications” section at the top of your resume that includes five to seven bullets highlighting your skills and strengths that align with the position for which you are applying. Make sure to include information about your technical, sports field management, and leadership qualities. Many candidates forget to include leadership capabilities; however, these are the unique characteristics you possess that can really set you apart from your competitors. Use these examples to start generating ideas:

2. List your relevant areas of expertise in a separate “Skills” section so the hiring committee can easily see how you meet the required and/or preferred qualifications. The rest of the information within your resume should provide evidence that you have these skills. You may also want to elaborate more on these areas of expertise in a cover letter.

3. Include 3 to 5 bulleted impact statements for each of your experiences. These statements should not be a list of your duties or responsibilities. Rather, they should be achievement-based. A person’s duties, typically, are not unique and do not demonstrate proof of skills, strengths or contributions. Aim for each statement to be specific, include measurable outcomes of your contributions, and start with a strong action verb. Here are some examples of how to effectively describe your experience:

4. Proofread, proofread, proofread! Read through your resume several times before submitting your application to make sure it is free of any errors. It is a good idea to have a friend, family member or colleague read through it as well, just in case you overlooked anything. Additionally, consider these formatting tips to ensure your resumefollows some basic standards and is easy to read.

• Font: Use a generic font such as Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial or Helvetica with a size between 10 and 12-point for the main text. The font in your header that includes your name and contact information should be slightly larger.

• Margins: Aim for .5 to 1-inch margins on all sides. This will allow plenty of white space so your document doesn’t appear too crowded.

• Consistency: Make sure you are consistent with how information is formatted throughout your document. If your first section heading is in bold and has all capital letters, each section heading that follows should have the same format. Use bold, italics, and underling sparingly so they do not distract from your content. 

• Bullets: Hiring committee members are often very busy and do not have much time to read every detail on a resume. Make it easy for them to skim. Avoid complete sentences and include bullet statements in action-verb form.

• Length: Entry-level and early-career resumes should be one-page long. However, as you progress in the industry and gain more relevant experience and skills you may need to extend your resume to two pages. The keyword here is “relevant.” You should not include information on your resume to simply add more content, but rather include relevant information that supports your qualifications. Remember, you will often be submitting a cover letter with your application, so you can always include additional details in your letter that can help reduce the need for some information on the resume itself.

5. Always follow the application instructions carefully. Some position descriptions are very particular in how they want to receive application materials. Check to see if they requested any of the following:

• A certain file format such as .doc or .pdf

• A specific way to name your file(s)

• Multiple documents such as a resume, cover letter and reference page

• If multiple documents are requested, are multiple files requested or should they be in one file?

• Salary history or requirements or any additional information

∗ BONUS TIP: If a cover letter is requested, always include one, and find out to whom the letter should be addressed. The cover letter provides you the opportunity to explain why you are interested in the particular position and organization, and how you are uniquely qualified. Each cover letter you write should be tailored to the specific position and not extend beyond one page. Draw the reader in from the very beginning by expressing your interest and providing highlights of your skills, strengths and accomplishments that directly align with what they are seeking in a top candidate. The letter should be in block format with three to four paragraphs, including an introduction, two body paragraphs, and a closing. Use the same header from your resume, as well as the same font style. As with your resume, proofread to make sure there are not any errors, and remember to provide specific details and examples that prove your value. 

By adding more relevant skills, strengths and impact statements, your resume will quickly transform from a generic document that is easily overlooked to a compelling representation of your unique qualifications that will guarantee to impress any hiring committee. Always remember to match your skills, strengths and experiences as much as possible to the qualifications listed on the job description and go beyond your duties and responsibilities. By demonstrating your value to a potential employer, you will elevate your resume to the next level and land that interview.

Erin Wolfram, M.S., is a career services professional with more than 15 years of experience. She has a specialization in assisting those in the turfgrass management industry, and works with clients to help them recognize their strengths and unique qualities to rise above the competition. She works alongside individuals to make sure they are confident throughout their job search and professional growth, and believes in getting to know clients and their stories to help them reflect their best selves in their application materials and portfolios. She owns and operates Career Advantage and Career Advantage Golf (http://careeradvantagegolf.com), and helps professionals throughout the world. Additionally, Wolfram is an ISSA certified trainer, and runs an online personal training and nutrition consulting business, The Fit Advantage.

Wolfram received a Bachelor of Science in Secondary English Education from Kansas State University, as well as both a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology and a Master of Science in Educational Technology from The University of Kansas. She also earned a professional etiquette certificate in 2012 from The Etiquette Institute in St. Louis, Mo. She can be reached at erin@careeradvantageresumes.com.