HOUSTON – With unemployment numbers at the highest level in decades, competition is fierce for people hoping to find a new job. If you are putting together your resume or updating it for the first time in years, you may be staring at the computer screen, stumped at where to start.

Your resume is the document that can get you in the door at a company so you can meet the hiring manager and convince them you are the best candidate for the job. That is why you should think of yourself as a product. Your resume is the marketing brochure to get the employer interested in you.

Marilyn Emanuel is the recruiting manager at Brookwooods Group, an employee search firm in Houston. Over the last 15 years, she has sorted through thousands of resumes. She says the most impactful need these five things:

  1. Your contact information should be right at the top on the front page of your resume.
  2. Your “value proposition" is "basically the value that you are going to bring to the hiring manager,” explained Emanuel. “That within itself will help you stand out.”
  3. Results: Don’t just list accomplishments. Employers want to know about your results. “Did you come in under budget?” Emanuel asked. “If so, did you save the company money? And if so, how much money?”
  4. Keywords: You absolutely have to use keywords or your resume won’t even make it past screening software to get to the hiring manager’s desk. Emanuel said you can find the keywords in the job posting. Use those same words in your value proposition. “They are basically looking for those keywords to see, ‘Do you have the skills? Can you do the job?’" said Emanuel.
  5. After reading your resume, the hiring manager should be able to answer these three questions:
    • Can you do the job?
    • Will you be able to do the job?
    • Will you fit in?

No more than three pages

The length of your resume should depend on your years of experience, but it should never be more than three pages long. And don’t waste your time on a cover letter.

“Hiring managers and recruiters really don’t read a resume,” Emanuel confessed. “In reality, it takes about seven seconds to scan over a resume.”

Biggest mistakes

Emanuel said the biggest mistakes she sees people make on resumes are typos and grammatical errors.

You can use Grammarly online to check your copy. She said you should ask three to five people to proof your resume to look for typos and errors before you send it out.

Avoid the temptation to add personal details on your resume. Some applicants like to share their hobbies, marital status or pictures. If the information is not applicable to the send job you are applying for, leave it off.

Resist the temptation to add color and graphics to your resume.

Some applicants are dressing up their resumes with icons and logos of companies. Emanuel suggests doing some research on the company you want to work for. If their website is more traditional and conservative, keep your resume standard with text only. Your skills should stand out, not the graphics, unless of course, you are applying for a position as a graphic designer.