Resume Writing 101

The resume is your key to the employment office door. It's what gets you the interview that gets you the job. It’s a declaration of what you can do and why you would be the best candidate for that job. Effective resumes do not write themselves. They require some research, a fair amount of self-examination and a good deal of self-promotion. Effective resumes are not laundry lists of jobs once worked. Save that for your obituary. A resume must trumpet your achievements—and you’ve got them—in a clear and concise way. Look at the resume as an exercise in pumping yourself up as well as cramming for the really big test—the job interview.
Key topics covered: Resume Formats What goes into the Resume Thought - Provoking Tips Examples of Resumes Cover Letters Examples of Cover Letters Resume Formats Remember, there is no magic format. The best format for you is the one that fits your experience, suits the job and industry you are pursuing, and looks good to you. The best format for you is the one that you like best.
Chronological: The chronological format (or the “reverse chronological” format) starts with your current job and then travels back in time. It lists dates, job titles, employer and employer’s location for each job. Under each job heading, list some of your duties and achievements in the most enticing language you can muster. Many employers prefer this format because of its familiarity. It is easy to read and understand. It can work well for job hunters who are staying in the same field, are applying in a conservative industry or have an unbroken job history that shows them climbing the career ladder. This format also points up gaps in job history or lack of experience quite effectively, so if you fall into these camps, consider another format.
Functional: The functional format emphasizes your skills and accomplishments. Achievements are grouped under headings like “personnel Management” or “Public Relations” or “Cost Containment.” Jobs and titles are listed at the end, sometimes glossing over the years of employment. This format can be a good one for those changing careers by pointing out the types of skills that can be transferred to the new line of work. The functional approach can also minimize flaws; such as gaps in work history or lateral employment moves. But be warned that some resume screeners really hate any format that is not the tried-and-true chronological.
Hybrid: Hybrid formats exist because career paths refuse to conform nowadays to what was once considered normal. A consultant, freelancer or temporary worker might list a job titles—perhaps “Balloon Animal Artist”—and follow that with a list of some clients and achievements on each job. A homemaker reentering the work force might list volunteer achievements— “Coordinated school gift wrap fund-raiser for three years, achieving a 30% increase in sales each year.”—followed by the more remote job history.
What goes into the Resume: Some resume experts think an objective is key because it focuses the entire document that follows. Others find it entirely dispensable because you will be stating your objective in your cover letter that accompanies the resume. Space shortage may make the decision for you. But even if you don’t include an objective, you’ve got to have one at least in your own mind.
Skills: Many resume pros recommend starting with a summary of your skills and experience. IT might be in the form of a sentence or two, or it might be a bulleted list. This is where you need to grab the attention of the resume screener, who probably has a stack of other resumes to read that day.
Accomplishments: No matter what format you use, a dry listing of your job responsibilities is a sure way to bore the person who screens your resume. Instead, take a hard look at specific things you have done and turn them into advertisements that show a potential employer how you can be of service. Your resume is not the place to be modest or shy—promote yourself. If you lack experience, try listing some of your unpaid accomplishments. You don’t have to mention that you did it for free.
Education: Put this information at the bottom if it’s ancient history, perhaps leaving out the year of graduation if it is really prehistoric. Don’t forget ongoing training programs that your current and previous employers have provided.
Other stuff: At the end of your resume, you might list the associations to which you belong if they are relevant to the job. Also tout awards or publication that apply. Keep the personal information (of course you are in good health!) to yourself. Hobbies that are relevant to the job might be included, if you have room.
Thought - Provoking Tips What does the employer do? What is the corporate culture like? What are the challenges facing the industry? These are all clues as to what the employer is looking for in a job candidate. Go to the library for references books on corporations and industries. Look up newspaper and magazine articles on the company and industry. Find out if the company has a site on the Internet. All of this information will help you decide what facts about out will most impress the employer in your resume and cover letter.
Craft a resume for each job and employer: One size does not fit all. In this age of personal computers, there is no excuse for producing a generic resume. A resume that does not respond to the specifics of a job advertised or posted will end up in the trash.
The Right Way to Write: Use action verbs—the kind your ninth grade English teacher liked. Redesigned. Coordinated. Reorganized. Created. Planned. Negotiated. Rewrite any sentence that begins: “Duties included...” or “Responsible for...” Keep it short. Use short words and sentences in a short resume. Resume screeners are not impressed by flowery language or long, boring sentences. A one-page resume is sufficient in many cases, stretching to two pages for very experienced job hunters. Skip personal pronouns. The resume is about you and no one else. Everybody knows that, so drop the I and me. It will save space, too. Remember, correct spelling and grammar are crucial in a resume. This is your representative and it must speak for you without typos. Not even one. A computer spell checker is great, but it may not catch everything. Omitted words, words typed twice or the wrong word spelled correctly will get right past those electronic backstops. So have a friend or two read your resume and cover letter carefully.
Style is everything, but content’s important, too: Double-check your contact information. If the employer can’t find you, they can’t interview you. Also consider how they will contact you. If your current employer doesn’t know you’re looking, then it might not be wise to list your work phone. Don’t forget the little things: Is your answering machine working? Does it broadcast a professional-sounding message? Honesty really is the best policy. Put your best foot forward, but never lie. Stay away from resume gimmicks. Exceptions are made for artistic or creative jobs. But for the rest of us, its white paper, black type, and a normal type face like Times Roman. References, or not? For some employers, the “References Available on Request” line is a comforting traditional close. Never supply the actual names of the references until you are farther along in the interview process.
Write a scanner-friendly resume: One of the newest wrinkles in the hiring game is the resume scanner. These are computer systems that electronically scan resumes and store them for future reference. If possible, find out if the company to which you are applying scans resume so you can prepare accordingly. Certain snazzy, graphic elements can give these computer systems major indigestion. These systems don’t like fancy typefaces or colored paper or italics or underlined text. They don’t like boxes or borders. They don’t like over-large type. These systems like nouns, such as “purchasing” or “word processing” or “marketing.”
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