Some Crucial Advice for Successful Real Estate Resume Writing

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The economy is either in a recession or heading for one, depending on whom you speak with. One thing is certain, though: the world of real estate has seen few times as tough as those it's experiencing right now. Many mortgage companies, lenders, and housing construction companies are closed or closing, and of those that are still open, few are thriving.

According to the Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter, as of March 30, 2008, 244 major lenders had “imploded” — in other words, shut their doors. An additional 19 were ailing. What this means is that there are relatively few openings available and too many qualified people to fill each of them.

How does this affect the average real estate job hunter? Well, for one thing, your resume has to stand out from the crowd. But you don’t want your resume to be noticed for the wrong reasons, such as grammatical errors or spelling mistakes.



According to OfficeTeam, 84% of executives said it takes just one or two typographical errors in a resume to remove a candidate from consideration; 47% said one typo is a deciding factor. Simple typos can become not so simple very quickly.

Don’t rely on your spell-checker to find everything. For example, if you accidentally type “id” rather than “is,” it will not be picked up as an error. So proofread your resume at least twice and make sure you have someone else read it as well, marking it up in a contrasting color.

Wait for a couple of hours before you proofread your corrected resume. We tend to skim over what we have recently written and miss errors. One tip for avoiding this is to read your resume backwards, just looking for misspelled words. This is a good way to trick your brain into looking at the letters of words individually.

How can you make your resume stand out so that you will be noticed? Don’t use the templates in Microsoft Word. Or if you do, make sure you change the template around some. Most resumes are skimmed very quickly. If your resume looks like everyone else’s, it is doubtful it will get the notice it deserves.

Allison Doyle, author of Internet Your Way to a New Job: How to Really Find a Job Online and the About.com Guide to Job Searching, recommends writing a resume that is “consistent, concise, clear, and easy to read.” This means no fancy, obscure fonts, no neon-colored paper, and no inconsistencies.

Make sure your resume is job specific. If you are looking for an underwriting position, don’t write about the steam-cleaning job you had for two weeks in college. It’s not relevant and will take up valuable space that could be used to describe your accomplishments in your previous underwriting job.

What is the best way to write a real estate resume? Well, the National Association of Industrial & Office Properties (NAIOP) has some good tips, one of which is to never put your picture on your resume. It is not appropriate and could be considered offensive. Your resume is the one part of the job search that allows you to be almost completely anonymous. You will be judged on what is written rather than your sex, age, ethnicity, fashion sense, or weight. By including a photo, you could be hurting yourself more than helping. What if you happen to look like the hated bully from the reader’s high school? Or what about his ex-wife? You see my point.

Keep all superfluous and/or irrelevant information off your resume. Other items to avoid on your resume are unnecessary acronyms and jargon. Yes, the real estate industry is fraught with its own special language, but the fact that you’re applying for a job in the industry doesn’t mean the person reading your resume will be knowledgeable about all of the shortcut terms used. He or she could be an outside recruiter who doesn’t know the difference between an escrow account and an escrow officer. Or, while he or she might have rather in-depth knowledge, your past company’s software could be unknown. If you put down just the name without explaining it, you could confuse your reader. And normally, confusing information becomes ignored information.

If you are in doubt, have a person outside the industry read your resume. If that person is unclear about anything, revise it. There is no reason to sabotage your chances when a few minutes of extra work could land you the interview.

Length can also be a large pitfall. Don’t make the mistake of writing a book for each job on your resume. Your real estate resume should be one, maybe two pages long. Some senior-level executives could go up to three pages, but be careful. Most recruiters will refuse to look past three pages, some past two.

Factors to consider include career objective, occupation, industry, years of experience, number of employers, scope of accomplishments, and education/training. Anyone with less than a decade of experience, only a few employers/positions, or no experience in the real estate industry should probably stick with a one-page resume. Use two pages if you have a lot of accomplishments, many jobs, or many positions within different companies.

One way to help yourself while you are writing your resume is to ask yourself, “Is this relevant to this position?” Also, focus on what you accomplished, not just what you did. Simply listing job duties will fill up room but won’t get you far, especially in the real estate industry, where managers like everything to be quantified.

Be specific, but make sure what you say is relevant to the job you are trying to get. A real estate agent trying to become a loan funder does not need to mention how many sales he or she closed in the previous year and the associated dollar amounts. But if that same agent is looking for an agent position, then including such information is very important.

Don’t go overboard with numbers, though. Select key areas that are associated with the position you seek. You want to advertise to your reader why you are perfect for the job, not overwhelm him or her with a page full of numbers.

Another possible pitfall is the layout and general look of your resume. About.com states, “Creating a professional layout is an essential aspect of resume writing. Readability is the key. Margins and line breaks should provide plenty of white space between and around resume text. If possible, keep margins at one inch on all four sides of the page.” Using headers and footers is common, but make sure you aren’t pushing items to the next page unnecessarily due to a header.

Highly formatted pages can also be difficult to read, and if you’re applying via a company’s website, some systems do weird things to formats. Also, if you overuse italics, underlining, bullets, dashes, and bold formatting, then they will lose their effectiveness. Use them sparingly and only where you need to emphasize a point. Keep things simple and elegant.

Font choice is a very important factor. Picking a font that is difficult to read or using a font size that is too small can be detrimental. Try to keep your font size to about 10 or 12. Your font style should also be professional looking. Some good fonts to use are Arial, Bookman Old Style, Helvetica, Palatino, or Times New Roman. Keep in mind that different fonts look different at different sizes, so adjust your font size accordingly.

Remember to do your homework. Find out everything you can about the company and the position. The Internet is a wonderful resource. While you ideally should conduct research on every employer you apply to, as a busy job seeker, you will probably not have the time to do so. If you can’t research a company, focus on the key jobs you think you are best qualified for.

Many people wait until they have an interview to conduct research. While this information is needed for the interview, if you know why the position has opened up, you might be able to focus your resume to better address the need the employer now has. And when you get to the interview, your homework will have been done in advance.

Know the job market. What positions have been eliminated? Opened up? Will you be fighting with a few dozen for this position or hundreds? Did a lender or large real estate office just close? Why should a manager hire you? What skills do you have that are in demand? These are all important factors for job hunting during a recession. Know your opposition and try to make yourself stand out.

Network as much as you can. Being in the real estate industry, no matter what type of position you hold, gives you contacts you can use. Think of vendors that know you or have seen your skills. Former managers, coworkers, and employees all might be able to help you find that unadvertised job. If they are employed by the company you are applying to, they might be able to give you advice on how to impress the person reviewing your resume.

Make sure your resume is updated. This might seem like common sense, but failing to update one’s resume is a common mistake. The mortgage/real estate industry was very strong for a long time, and some people haven’t had to update their resumes for decades. Update your resume to show the newest information.

The NAIOP states, “Job descriptions dating back many years are a red flag. A resume is not intended to be your biography, but a recitation of what you’ve done lately and how your skills will benefit their company. Providing information from the 70s is hardly relevant and can do much more harm than good.” Age discrimination is a possible worry, and you don’t want to advertise any more than you have to.

However, the NAIOP does recommend listing employment dates on your resume. Many people leave off graduation and employment dates in order to avoid possible age discrimination. The problem is that most corporate recruiters use resumes to weed out candidates, and a resume without dates may not be considered. From a recruiter’s perspective candidates eliminate dates on their resumes for only one reason: to hide information, such as a history of job-hopping or a long period of unemployment.

As an alternative, focus only on the last 10 or 15 years of your professional experience. You never want to make a hiring manager believe you are hiding something. If he or she doesn’t trust what you’ve included on your resume, then you probably won’t be trusted to speak the truth in an interview and therefore won’t be called.

It might be unfair, but in an employer’s job market, where applicants no longer have the upper hand, anything that can be used to weed out unsuitable resumes will be used. Recruiters and hiring managers will not try to determine an applicant’s motives or give him or her the benefit of the doubt. So make sure they have no reason to put your resume in the “circular file,” otherwise known as the garbage can.

Be concise and succinct. Since you now know to avoid unnecessary jargon, make sure what you say is as tight as you can make it. Your resume is very expensive real estate, and you want to put as much information on it as possible without overcrowding it.

Also, this is not the time to show off your expansive vocabulary. Using obscure words might demonstrate that you know how to use a thesaurus, but it won’t impress your reader if he or she needs to look up the meaning of every other word. Avoid slang and use standard business English.

Impress the hiring manager with your abilities and accomplishments. Correct use of grammar and perfect spelling are expected from every candidate. If you are in doubt, there are professional resume writing companies such as ResumeApple that can assist you. Some charge by the hour, others by the job. If you do choose this option, make sure to research the company. Ask for examples of its writers’ work and know exactly what you are paying for.

Job hunting during a recession is difficult, but with hard work and diligence, you can see the hard times through. Just keep your resume elegant and error-free, and you should be getting those interview calls soon. The next move is yours. Good luck.
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