Unlock Your Dream Job: RVA Insider Secrets to Crafting a Winning Resume

February 4, 2023
Will Melton, National Editor

If you’re searching for your dream job, you probably don’t want to widely circulate a poorly assembled resume only to find out that it’s slipping through employers’ applicant tracking systems or it tends to rub everyone who reads it the wrong way. If you do, you may be ruining your chances with “the one” and you may be burning valuable time you can’t afford to lose.

Dan Imbody of RVA Resumes and Recruiting recently spoke with RichmondHires.com about the impact of professional resume writing. Through his experience, Imbody has seen firsthand how an expertly crafted resume can give job applicants an edge in getting hired. He shared stories of successful clients and what it was about their resumes that helped them land their jobs.

In our interview, Imbody shared his advice on the approach applicants should take when crafting resumes so they can effectively showcase their skillsets and impress potential employers. He also offered advice on how to address common issues such as resume gaps and overstating accomplishments. Read below for excerpts from our chat and tips on how you can improve your odds of landing the perfect gig.

Tip 1: Mind the Robots

RichmondHires.com: “What is a common issue that candidates might not be aware of that you help them overcome?”

Dan Imbody: “Something that’s very common, especially with bigger companies, they’ll have these ATS systems, applicant tracking software, and that’s where this huge volume of applicants is just getting pre-selected and pre-rejected before it even gets to the human eye.

“So usually that means they need to see certain keywords in there. They’re gonna want to see maybe some titles, some job titles that match. If you want to manage nurses, they’re gonna want to see the word ‘nurse’ somewhere in there or ‘RN.’ So it’s making sure that that’s all done correctly.

“And then formatting, there can’t be a lot of graphic design on there. There shouldn’t be a lot of busy graphics cause that can trip up the computer systems. So I usually write client resumes organized down the center, using one font, with different font sizes, but not italics or underlining or any other formatting. I do not include a photo of the person because that just trips up the software. It could mean someone doesn’t even get considered simply based on the layout of their resume.”

Tip 2: Keep it Short & Punchy

RichmondHires.com: “How long should a resume be? You often hear to keep it to a page; is that right?”

Dan Imbody: “So reviewers have attention span issues, like everyone else, so the key here is that it shouldn’t be a comprehensive document – it’s a teaser. It’s inviting a conversation and setting yourself apart from your competition. So the resume shouldn’t have everything you’ve ever done, you know, and other duties as assigned or whatever.

“With a resume, not only do you have a document that you’re giving to the employer, you’re articulating to yourself and clarifying and reducing the breadth of your experience into bite-size marketable pieces.

“It should be, here are some big reasons to call me. End of story. Management, senior management, and up, it’s fine if they go to two pages. They might need to, to even get that basic layout and they might get a little more attention anyway, the higher up the ladder you go. So, one to two pages.”

Tip 3: Be a Problem-Solver

RichmondHires.com: “How do you stand out against the sea of other applicants?”

Dan Imbody: “To a job applicant, I would say identify a problem or a common problem faced by employers in your sector. What do they need employees for? And then build your resume and your self-presentation around solving that problem or those problems. And if not problems, maybe it’s a growth thing where the employer says, ‘We need to grow our client base, or we need revenue to go up, or we need profitability to be better. We’re spending too much to make money,’ or whatever the case is. Build your accomplishments and present yourself around those deliverables.

“Put those things as the top three bullets of your resume: ‘I saved my last company a million bucks. I passed all of our audits. I trained a bunch of people, and five of them became managers.’ You’ve got to put it in one-sentence format. People can get stuck in the complexity of their own careers and communicating it comprehensively and they need to reduce it to digestible sound bites.”

Tip 4: Choose Whether to Write a Cover Letter

RichmondHires.com: “Different industries have different filters. A common filter debate that is blazing right now is to-cover-letter or not-to-cover-letter. What’s your recommendation? And, please, tell us why.”

Dan Imbody: “Yeah. So most people don’t read the cover letter, but one out of 10 do. So if you’re an applicant and you’re applying to a hundred jobs, that cover letter might close the gap between you and another candidate for 10 of those jobs.

“And what the cover letter does is provides a narrative arc of your career. It can also explain a few things like, oh, you see a three-year gap: ‘I was a stay-at-home parent during that time,’ or ‘I was working on my master’s degree at that time.’ It just gives you a chance to allow the reviewer to better evaluate the candidate through terms that you set. You know, they’re not making assumptions. 

“If there’s a three-year gap in your history, you’re telling them what happened. Or you could use that cover letter to just lay out, ‘Hey, you need a person who does X, I’ve done X before, and here are three examples of when that turned out.’ Great. You could quantify, ‘I’ve trained 25 people in my last job,’ or ‘I’ve managed budgets up to 2 million; I’ve managed inventory up to 50 million, or whatever the case may be.’ And just give them a really quick reason to call you.

“But yeah, so with cover letters, different sectors, they’re more or less read too. If you’re a maintenance mechanic in a factory, don’t bother. You know, like if you are a nurse, probably don’t bother. If you are an accounting manager with 20 years of experience, maybe it is worth doing it. If it’s a senior-level position, that’s probably worth doing it cause they’ll look at that candidate longer than they would other candidates. So it depends on the level. I’d say senior do it, junior do or don’t do it.”

Tip 5: Avoid Coming Across as Desperate

RichmondHires.com: “Does desperation read through on a resume?”

Dan Imbody: “That’s a great question. So there’s a move away in modern resumes from flowery language, lots of adjectives, you know, ‘skillfully, dutifully’ you know, ‘brilliantly led an initiative,’ blah, blah, blah. That stuff. It may or may not speak to desperation, but it’s meaningless at least. Speaking in flowery terms also kind of conveys a little bit of dishonesty. It doesn’t add value. So desperation might be seen through flowery language and, and excessive adjectives. If you’ve got numbers, let the numbers stand for the accomplishment rather than, you know, ‘Hey, I’m so good at this, I did so great.’

“There’s almost an element that to where an understatement might be stronger than an overstatement, depending on the context. You want to brag in a resume because you want to convey confidence that you’re the right hire. But if you cross the line and it’s too braggy then they might have concerns that you’re going to be a diva, you know, and a needy hire who needs assurance all the time that they’re the best. Also, if you have a lot of resume gaps maybe you weren’t working, desperation could look like overstating things to try to fix that.”

Tip 6: Consider Professional Resume Help

RichmondHires.com: “What sort of feedback do you get from clients about the value of hiring you to write their resumes?”

Dan Imbody: “I have collected lots of success stories. It’s anecdotal, but they serve as constant reminders that this is working. It does feel good to get the texts and the emails, ‘I got the hundred thousand dollar job!’ Especially when I have people who are at the six-figure and up level who couldn’t get a job and now they do with the new resume, that’s like, alright, this is working.”

Closing Thoughts

It is clear that a well-crafted resume and cover letter can make all the difference in securing your dream job. However, it’s important to remember not to overstate or come across as desperate. Professional help from an experienced resume writer can be invaluable if you are struggling to get noticed by writing your own resume. By understanding how AI technology and neuroscience principles affect visibility during the review process and leveraging this knowledge when crafting resumes, you can significantly increase your chances of success in landing interviews for great jobs.

To learn more about working with Dan Imbody, see pricing, and read testimonials, visit the RVA Resumes and Recruiting website. We’re big fans of investing in yourself at RichmondHires.com and if a small investment of time and money can land you thousands of dollars more a year or the job that gives you all the satisfaction you could want, that’s real ROI.

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