Resume Writing Basics: 5 Steps for Success
By Pat Kendall, NCRW
your resume do a good job of "selling" your qualifications? Is it
up to today's standards? In this highly competitive job market,
your resume has to do more than simply outline your work history
it has to function as a personal marketing
We know that the average employer spends only 15-30 seconds reviewing
it, so how do we get their attention?
Listed below are some specific tips that will get your resume successfully through the screening process and make it more appealing to potential
Steps for Success
One of the easiest
ways to improve your resume is to summarize your qualifications at
the top of the page. This keyword-based profile should position you for your desired job and focus on your job target's "core
competencies" and critical keywords. When this summary is done
right, your resume will not only be keyword optimized, but
it will "sell" you more effectively to the human reader.
If you have a
diverse background, you'll benefit by preparing different versions
of your resume each one aimed toward a different job target.
Most employers prefer to hire specialists, not "jacks-of-all-trades,"
so edit your resume accordingly. When deciding whether a particular
item should be included, ask yourself: "Is this information relevant?
Does it verify or support my ability to contribute to an employer's
operation?" If not, take it out. (More
about keywords and targeting)
Since you only
have a few moments to get potential employers' attention, the sequence
of your information is critical. For example, if you have recently
earned a college degree, your "Education" section should be placed
near the top of the page. If your education is less impressive than
your experience, place it at the bottom. If you have limited experience,
you may want to include volunteer work or other activities that demonstrate
organizational ability, leadership qualities, and other transferable
Your resume should
prominently highlight achievements and awards related to your career
or recent academic performance. Employers are naturally attracted
to high achievers (i.e., those who are willing to "go the extra mile"),
so don't hesitate to describe your accomplishments or involvement
in special projects. If there was ever a time to toot your own horn,
this is it!
type of resume is best for you can be a difficult task. These are
RESUME is the standard, traditional format. It focuses
primarily on employment history and presents your work experience
in reverse chronological order. This type of resume is ideal if your
job listings are impressive, your employment history is linear, and
your current position is directly related to your career path. Because
of their straightforward nature, chronological resumes are typically
favored by recruiters and hiring managers.
RESUMES focus on transferable skills and de-emphasize individual
positions, job duties and employment dates. Functional styles are
frequently used by job seekers who have "holes" in their work history
or want to make a career change. Their use should be carefully weighed,
though, as some employers consider them "less credible" than traditional
resumes with a blow-by-blow employment history.
For many, the
best approach is a COMBINATION RESUME with a functional summary and a chronological work history.
This strategy is advantageous for most job seekers and if done
properly, allows employers to quickly see how your background qualifies
you for the position. A combination resume also provides additional
flexibility if you have multiple objectives, as the summary can be
rewritten and "slanted" toward the skills you want to emphasize.
is similar to other forms of writing: it requires proper planning,
editing, rewriting, proofreading and more editing. Unfortunately,
there are no shortcuts! After you've completed the writing and editing,
double-check all data, run it through a spelling checker and make
sure the format is consistent. The next step is design and layout
and whether you like it or not, appearance does count! To ensure
optimum readability, the resume should be expertly typeset in a professional,
distinctive format. Employers see multitudes of mediocre looking resumes
and even worse, over-embellished presentations that look like
they were designed by amateur graphic artists. You want your resume
to stand out, but it needs to look professional.
Bottom line: Take
the time to do it right or hire someone who can.
for a specific job target and be selective about the information
a power-packed "Qualification's Brief" at the top of the page.
Summarize your key selling points so that employers can quickly
see what you have to offer.
sure your resume actively sells your qualifications by focusing
on relevant accomplishments and results.
specific experience (and contributions) that support your job target.
plenty of active verbs (managed, coordinated, planned, implemented,
directed, initiated, conducted, completed, recommended, etc.).
But don't get carried away use simple, straightforward
organize resume categories so that the most relevant, most impressive
information is listed near the top of the page.
transferable skills throughout your resume: verbal and written
communication, organization, leadership, planning, aptitude for
learning, adaptability, creativity, resourcefulness and problem
the resume to one or two pages (unless you're an executive or
work in a technical profession.
In short, your resume
should be a strategically organized "personal brochure" that summarizes
your experience and highlights your achievements. It should present
your skills, capabilities and strengths in the best possible light,
without resorting to overstatement or exaggeration. Your resume gives
you one chance to make a first impression. What are you saying about
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