Seven Secrets of the Killer Resume

Seven Secrets of the Killer Resume

Martin Yate, CPC

Your resume is the most financially important document you will ever own. When it works, you work; and when it doesn’t, you don’t. Unfortunately, technology has revolutionized corporate recruitment, and you may not know what it takes to build a killer resume for today’s job search. Here are seven secrets that form the foundation of every killer resume.

1. Understand what your customer is buying

“Understand and sell to your customers’ needs” is the phrase that underlies all business success stories. In the same way that corporations tailor products to appeal to their customers, you need to create a resume tailored to your customers’: the people in a position to hire you.

You don’t write a resume by reciting everything you have ever done, because your customers don’t care. They want to know if you can do the one specific job they are trying to fill right now.

Your resume will work better when it focuses on the skills and experiences you bring to the responsibilities and deliverables of a specific target job. This requires that your resume focus on how employers think about, prioritize, and describe that job’s deliverables.

2. Fifty percent of your success is in the prep work

Decide on a single target job, one that you have the credentials and experience for, then collect six job postings and analyze how your target employers think about and express their needs for that job. Prioritize their common requirements, and capture all the words and phrases used to describe them, in a fresh Microsoft Word© document. Then re-read this composite analysis of employers’ needs: you can now say, “this is how employers think about and describe the job I want.”

This knowledge will help your resume get pulled from resume databases for review by recruiters.

3. Use a Target Job Title

Seven out of ten resumes writers forget to follow contact information with a target job title. Every movie or TV show you have ever watched, every book, article, or blog you have ever read, starts with a title: it gives focus and draws the reader in. A Target Job Title will help make your resume more visible in database searches and will give the recruiter immediate focus.

4. Ditch the Job Objective

Starting your resume with a job objective is a waste of time and space. No recruiter—and no employer—really cares what you want until they know you have what they want. The top of your resume is prime real estate: algorithms favor information at the top of a document, so the right words up front can help your resume get pulled from databases. On top of that, your resume gets a first-time reading of between 5 and 45 seconds, so the first section is where you grab or lose the reader’s attention.

5. Include a Performance Profile

The first section of your resume should carry the title “Performance Profile,” and it should profile your ability to do this job. Secret #2 told you how to get inside your customer’s head and understand both his needs for this job and how he thinks about and expresses those needs.

Take the most common requirements from this Target Job Deconstruction (TJD) and rewrite them as your Performance Profile. Because long paragraphs are hard on the eyes, keep yours to a maximum of five lines; this can be followed by a second paragraph or a list of bullets. This will aid database visibility and create immediate resonance with a recruiter’s tired eyes.

6. Professional Skills

Clear identification of the skills you bring to a target job is critical to your resume’s database performance and to a strong first impression on a recruiter. Following your Target Job Title and Performance Profile should be a Professional Skills or Core Competencies section.

This is simply a list of all the skills you bring to the job. Placing this list near the top improves your performance with those search engine algorithms, and provides the recruiter with a series of “aha moments” as each word and phrase drives home your suitability. “Aha! She has the skills to back up the claim I just read about. Wow, she can talk about this and this and that…” Example:

  • 4-Handed Dentistry
  • Infection Control
  • Preventative Care
  • Oral Surgery/Extraction
  • Casts/Impressions
  • Emergency Treatment
  • Root Canals
  • Diagnostic X-Rays
  • Instrument Sterilization
  • Prosthetics/Restorations
  • Teeth Whitening
  • Radiology

7. Keyword Scatter

Repeat each skill listed in the Professional Skills section in the context of the jobs where that skill was developed and applied. This puts your skill claims in context for the reader, and every time you mention a skill a second or third time, it doubles and triples your resume’s ranking in a job search that uses those words.

A resume focused on a specific target job, with the customer’s needs in mind and built on these secrets, will get you more job interviews. You can learn more about building a killer resume at

Martin Yate, CPC, author of Knock 'em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, is a New York Times and international bestseller of job search and career management books. He is the author of 11 job search and career management books published throughout the English speaking world and in over 50 foreign language editions. Over thirty years in career management, including stints as an international technology headhunter, head of HR for a publicly traded company and Director of Training and Development for an international employment services organization.

Career Topics
Resume Writing