1999 was a good year.  The economy was solid, unemployment was low, high-tech and all things dot-com were flying, and the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl.  I was employed by a small, start up firm in Boulder as a Regional Sales Executive selling internet performance monitoring software.  Basically, we measured the speed of web sites and e-commerce models.  Cool company, cool job, good times.

Back then at least once a week, I would receive a voice mail from a recruiter representing some firm saying he’d found my resume posted on a job board and had an opportunity for me.  The interesting thing was that I hadn’t done much to my resume since I was last in-between jobs about a year and a half prior and actually forgot I had it posted on a few of the big job boards.   It was outdated and mostly generic, but still garnering attention.  Despite their lucrative offers and sales pitches of greener pastures elsewhere, I generally wasn’t interested.  The position I had was a decent fit, paid well, and I enjoyed the work.

The Rules Have Changed

It’s now 2010 and most of the wannabe dot-coms of 1999 are “dot-gones.”  The high-tech industry is tepid, the Denver Broncos have a mediocre team, and the “cool” start-up I worked for in 1999 has evaporated.  Job seekers who once relied on job boards to bring them solid leads and opportunities are now facing tremendous odds when applying for public openings.  The job search techniques that worked in 1999 don’t work well now — if they work at all.

It used to be that a resume was a document which described your employment objective, chronological work history, and formal education.  It was a one-size-fits-all proposition.  List everything you’ve done at the different jobs you’ve had and the recruiter will figure out that you’re a solid fit for the position, was the attitude of most job seekers a decade ago.  Back then, this plan actually worked.

A New Job Market Means New Resume Techniques

The rules for resume success have changed greatly in the past few years.  These changes have further been amplified by the recent economic developments of the past 18 months.  Today, for a resume to be successful in landing someone on the list to be considered, it must be a high-impact marketing document selling the candidate as a specialist and expert in a particular area.  It needs to talk about tangible accomplishments, achievements, and major problems solved.  It needs to break out relevant key skills and areas of expertise in a what am I bringing to the table NOW format.


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The competition for the best jobs has never been greater.  With some openings garnering more than 1000 applications, there is less emphasis on the day-to-day duties of past positions, and more emphasis on problem solving, requisite skills, and key achievements.  Companies today want A+ employees who come in early, stay late, and go up and above in every instance.  Describing yourself as anything less is a one way ticket to the discard stack.

There are some new rules that need to be incorporated for a resume to have maximum effect in a highly competitive job market and tough economy.  Here are some key recommendations for enhancing your resume and creating a high-impact marketing document which will reflect an up-to-date image and enhance your overall marketability:

1-A resume should be focused for a particular job or occupation within a specific industry.  Generic, chronological resumes do not work.  The job today goes to the specialist, not the generalist.  Create a “branded” resume that incorporates relevant keywords, skills, phrases, acronyms, and areas of expertise that are consistent with the occupation or job title that best reflects your number one brand and target position.

2-Drop the Objective and create a Professional Summary. Recruiters know what your objective is when you apply for a position.  Create a 6-7 line summary consistent with the job type you are pursuing.  It should talk about the key skills and areas of expertise you are bringing to the organization.

3-Break out Achievements and Accomplishments separately. Detail your top 3-6 professional achievements in a separate category.  Quantify each one using tangible numbers and percentages where possible.  Describe all major awards and key problems solved with final results and impact on the company’s bottom line.

4-Customize your resume for each application. Work in the top keywords and phrases from the job description directly into your resume (provided you can validate them!).  Focus on the most important duties and responsibilities, usually listed early on in most job descriptions.  Often, the first thing to “see” your resume is a scanner, not a human, and will be looking for the operative keywords that are consistent with the same ones used in the original job description.  Skipping this step is greatly reducing your chances.

5-List your LinkedIn and Twitter account URLs in your contact information section. Give your resume a 2010 look and show employers you are up to speed on new technologies by incorporating your LinkedIn and Twitter web links.  Create a hyperlink to each site in your resume and ensure all information on each site page is up to date.

6-Create brief descriptions of past duties and responsibilities in prior positions. Stay away from lengthy and verbose descriptions of what you were responsible for in past positions.  The rule is 3-5 bullets maximum for each work entry.  Hyperlink each company name so employers can view exactly what sort of business Company X is with a single click.

A new economy and new job market means employing new rules for resume success. Rather than reading as a laundry list of past employers and duties, a resume today needs to read like a marketing brochure describing you as the ideal product and detailing exactly what you will bring to the company to help them solve problems and generate revenue.  It needs to convey the message that you are an A+ employee (most companies already have their fair share of C+ employees and “pikers”) who solves problems and gets things done!  Your resume also needs to be consistent with how we do business in 2010, so create a document complete with web links to prior employers and your professional networking sites.

1999 was a good year.  But 2010 can be even better!  Jumpstart your job search and get your resume noticed.  Make sure you’re playing by the New Rules for Resume Success and soon you’ll be partying like it’s 1999 when the recruiters are calling you once again!


Donald J. Strankowski is founder and president of Ascend Career and Life Strategies, a career training and professional development firm for businesses, professionals and executives.  He works out of Boulder, Colorado and can be contacted via email at [email protected], or on the web at www.AscendCareers.net