Building a Resume that Stands Out

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First impressions are everything, and when applying for a new job, your resume is the first contact a potential employer will have with you, so make it good! Linda Groves works for Directions of Grand Rapids, and she goes through resumes with a fine tooth comb looking for common blunders, and making sure the unemployed get back to work.

West Michigan Woman: How can someone applying for a job stand out among all other applicants?
Linda Groves: The best way to explain it, is let's say you have a girlfriend having a fortieth birthday, and you need to buy her a birthday card. You walk into Hallmark, and there are 3,000 cards. There are 200 birthday cards, that that breaks it down. Break it down for her (specifically), so now you're looking at 50-100. One stand out that says "You're 40." You pick that up, that's the cover letter. You grab interest with the cover letter.

WMW: What should the cover letter include?
LG: A cover letter is two short paragraphs saying this is what you've been doing for the last ten years. Say something about how you can help the company, and include your contact information.

WMW: Walk us through a top-notch resume. What should it include?
LG: Don't start out with education, and I do not favor objectives. That should be part of the cover letter. Put in professional experience, background, and accomplishments. Say, for example, you increased sales 30 percent. Include that. Quantify everything, or it's just words. If you supervised employees, include how many. There's a difference between supervising one or 150.

WMW: Can you go overboard talking about your accomplishments?
LG: You need to boast about your accomplishments, even though the hardest thing to do for someone is to boast about themselves.

WMW: How many pages should a resume be?
LG: One page for the cover letter, the second page says, yes you're qualified. The last page details the person applying, and how they can be contacted. The last page is where you put your references.

WMW: Should women include their current employer as a reference, even if that boss doesn't know they are looking for a new job?
LG: If you're planning to leave the company for personal reasons, you could say that you're currently employed there, and you request to keep the correspondence confidential, however, give them a name of someone you work with in the company that they can contact after business hours if necessary.

WMW: What other references should be included in a resume?
LG: You should really have three to five references all over the board. People you have worked with including collegues, clients, vendors or customers are good references.

WMW: Where are the best places to post a resume online?
LG: MLive, Career Matrix, LinkedIn

Linda also recommends practicing interview questions out loud with someone else before the actual interview. Dress appropriately on the day of the interview. "You can't go wrong with a black suit blazer and skirt, but definitely not a mini skirt," Linda says.

Written by: Erika Fifelski was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys cooking, sewing, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses. Photo: Muris Kuloglija Kula

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