What’s in a Resume? You!
Avoid the discard pile with a resume that lands you an interview.
by Sharon J. Oliver, CPC, CPMA, CPC-I
To change careers or advance your position, you need a resume that stands out from the rest. A well written and factual resume is a good start, but you’ll need to do more to warrant an interview in this highly competitive job market. How do you develop and write a resume to impress? Here are a few tips that I share with students in my Certified Professional Coder (CPC®) classes.
Prepare by Researching
Writing a resume used to be a lot harder. Resources were limited and finding a dependable, qualified resume writer was a challenge. That’s all changed. Now, you can find numerous, free resources online, including interactive online templates that allow you to fill in your information, and easily print, email, or fax your resume to prospective employers.
Confirm that the company to which you want to apply is a good fit for you by visiting their website and investigating other sources. Who works there? What is the company’s philosophy? Familiarize yourself with their product or specialty, too. This research will demonstrate your interest in the company, and help you feel comfortable with your decision to join their team. It will also help you to better tailor your presentation.
Tailor Your Resume to Suit the Job
As you compose your resume, review the job description for the position you are applying for. What are the skills and qualifications the employer requires? Tailor your resume to the job. If you are applying to multiple companies, customize each resume to fit the various job descriptions. You don’t want to submit a resume defining qualifications of an accounts receivable position when the employer is looking to hire a receptionist.
Use bold and large fonts to highlight the important items you want to stand out. Be sure your credentials are listed with your name (e.g., Sandy Smith, CPC). Put your skills and education in the fore-front (e.g., Anatomy/Physiology, billing, coding education, etc.). If the employer has to struggle to see what’s in your resume, they may overlook this important information, and you will find yourself in the discard pile instead of the “to be called” file.
List your skills and qualifications. Keep them directed to the job description. As employers resort to electronic scanning of resumes, you stand a better chance of being called when you use action verbs, sometimes called “buzz words,” detailing your accomplishments. “Maintained,” “developed,” “trained,” etc., should be included in describing your professional abilities. Showcase your greatest strengths first.
Everything we do or have achieved in life contributes to our experience. Always account for any time when you weren’t gainfully employed. For example:
- Boy Scout or Girl Scout leader
- Parent-teacher organization activities, such as decorator for special projects, project leader, treasurer, secretary, fundraising, etc.
- Band booster parent: cook, inventory control, handling money, customer service
- Stay-at-home mom: multi-tasking, budgeting the family resources, planning vacations, etc.
- General volunteer activities and community service
- Achievements and awards
- Work experience and tasks performed
Be sure to highlight accomplishments, such as “managed accounts payable, recovered a $10,000 mistake,” “supervised 11 employees,” or “responsible for the accuracy of daily deposits, and streamlined procedure, which saved countless man hours.” Use numbers and symbols to describe your skills, such as “Controlled the aging report of $150K to 40 days.” This will make your accomplishments stand out for the employer to see.
Whatever you do, always be truthful. And don’t forget: You are selling yourself to the employer. The employer is interested in what you can do for the business. Be clear on how you will be an asset to the employer, versus what you are seeking to fulfill your needs.
Don’t Surprise Your References
It’s a good idea to list your references on the resume, versus stating, “References available on request.” By including references, you’re showing your prospective employer you’re willing to do as much work for them as possible to get an interview, and to attain employment. Be sure to contact your references and ask if you can name them on your resume.
Be Critical and Ask for Opinions
When developing a resume, you must be your own critic. As you proofread your completed resume, ask:
- Did you identify yourself and provide contact information?
- Did you organize your resume so it’s easily understood?
- Did you highlight your skills?
- Did you illustrate specific qualifications pertaining to the position you are seeking?
- Did you describe your professional experiences?
- Would you read past the first line?
- Will you stand out from all the other potential candidates?
- Based on the resume in front of you, would you hire you?
Take the time to have someone else (who can be objective) read your final draft. Although you usually know what you want to say, you may fail to say it. Another set of eyes will help you see the merits of your resume more clearly.
Tip: Don’t depend on your word processing application’s spelling and grammar functions. Even if a word is spelled correctly, it may not be used appropriately. In fact, you might want to turn off the auto correction feature.
Include a Cover Letter
A cover letter allows you to introduce yourself more informally. Start out on the right foot by addressing the letter to the person who will be reviewing your resume. “To Whom It May Concern,” says, “I don’t care enough about this job to look up the name of the human resources director.” When you’ve got the person’s attention, use this tool to convince him or her you’re the best candidate for the job, citing tangible data as the basis of your claim.
Make sure to provide the most accurate contact information, along with the best time and day to reach you easily. You don’t want your prospective employer to have to work at getting in touch with you. You may only get one chance at getting an appointment for an interview.
Never Forget to Say “Thank You”
A resume is your one-of-a-kind marketing tool. Communicate to the fullest what you can do for the employer, and “knock their socks off!” Lastly, right after your initial interview, be sure to show your gratitude by sending a thank you note. You’ll soon have a lot to be thankful for!
Sharon J. Oliver, CPC, CPMA, CPC-I, is the senior in-patient coordinator for ETSU Physicians and Associates, Quillen College of Medicine Department of Cardiology. She is a 30-year medical professional, a PMCC, ICD-10-CM/PCS instructor, and serves on the 2013-2016 AAPC Chapter Association board of directors. Oliver owns Medical Coding and Consultants, and is a member of the Johnson City, Tennessee, local chapter.