You can create a resume that makes you stand out as a superior candidate for a job you are seeking! Even if you face fierce competition, with a well written resume you should be invited to interview more often than many people more qualified than you.
To do this, let’s take a look at the purpose of your resume. Why do you have a resume in the first place? What is it supposed to do for you?
THE NUMBER ONE PURPOSE OF A RESUME
The resume is a tool with one specific purpose: to win an interview. A resume is an advertisement, nothing more, nothing less.
A great resume doesn’t just tell them what you have done but makes the same assertion that all good ads do: If you buy this product, you will get these specific, direct benefits. It presents you in the best light. It convinces the employer that you have what it takes to be successful in this new position or career. It inspires the prospective employer to pick up the phone and ask you to come in for an interview.
Research tells us that your resume will be quickly scanned, rather than read. Ten to 20 seconds is all the time you have to persuade a prospective employer to read further. What this means is that the decision to interview a candidate is usually based on an overall first impression of the resume, a quick screening that so impresses the reader and convinces them of the candidate’s qualifications that an interview results. As a result, the top half of the first page of your resume will either make you or break you. By the time they have read the first few lines, you have either caught their interest, or your resume has failed.
FOCUS ON THE EMPLOYER’S NEEDS, NOT YOURS
Imagine that you are the person doing the hiring. This person is not some anonymous paper pusher deep in the bowels of the personnel department. Usually, the person who makes the hiring decision is also the person who is responsible for the bottom line productivity of the project or group you hope to join. This is a person who cares deeply how well the job will be done. You need to write your resume to appeal directly to them.
Ask yourself: What would make someone the perfect candidate? What does the employer really want? What special abilities would this person have? What would set a truly exceptional candidate apart from a merely good one?
Putting yourself in the moccasins of the person doing the hiring is the first, and most important, step in writing a resume that markets you rather than describes your history. Every step in producing a finished document should be part of your overall intention to convey to the prospective employer that you are a truly exceptional candidate.
A Few Guidelines For A Better Presentation
The resume is visually enticing, a work of art. Simple clean structure. Very easy to read. Symmetrical. Balanced. Uncrowded.
There is uniformity and consistency in the use of italics, capital letters, bullets, boldface, and underlining. Absolute parallelism in design decisions. For example, if a period is at the end of one job’s dates, a period should be at the end of all jobs’ dates; if one degree is in boldface, all degrees should be in boldface.
As mentioned above, the resume’s first impression is most important. It should be exceptionally visually appealing, to be inviting to the reader. Remember to think of the resume as an advertisement.
There are absolutely no errors. No typographical errors. No spelling errors. No grammar, syntax, or punctuation errors. No errors of fact.
All the basic, expected information is included. A resume must have the following key information: your name, address, phone number, and your email address at the top of the first page, a listing of jobs held, in reverse chronological order, educational degrees including the highest degree received, in reverse chronological order. Additional, targeted information will of course accompany this. Much of the information people commonly put on a resume can be omitted, but these basics are mandatory.
Jobs listed include a title, the name of the firm, the city and state of the firm, and the years. Jobs earlier in a career can be summarized, or omitted if prior to the highest degree, and extra part-time jobs can be omitted. If no educational degrees have been completed, it is still expected to include some mention of education (professional study or training, partial study toward a degree, etc.) acquired after high school.
Use power words. For every skill, accomplishment, or job described, use the most active impressive verb you can think of (which is also accurate). Begin the sentence with this verb, except when you must vary the sentence structure to avoid repetitious writing.
Writing is concise and to the point. Keep sentences as short and direct as possible. Eliminate any extraneous information and any repetitions. Don’t use three examples when one will suffice. Say what you want to say in the most direct way possible, rather than trying to impress with bigger words or more complex sentences. For example: “coordinated eight city-wide fund-raising events, raising 250% more than expected goal” rather than “was involved in the coordination of six fund- raising dinners and two fund-raising walkathons which attracted participants throughout St. Louis and were so extremely successful that they raised $5,000 (well beyond the $2,000 goal).”
Vary long sentences (if these are really necessary) with short punchy sentences. Use phrases rather than full sentences when phrases are possible, and start sentences with verbs, eliminating pronouns (“I”, “he” or “she”). Vary words: Don’t repeat a “power” verb or adjective in the same paragraph. Use commas to clarify meaning and make reading easier. Remain consistent in writing decisions such as use of abbreviations and capitalizations.
Make it look great. Use a laser printer or an ink jet printer that produces high- quality results. A laser is best because the ink won’t run if it gets wet. It should look typeset. Do not compromise. Use a standard conservative typeface (font) in 11 or 12 point. Don’t make them squint to read it. Use off-white, ivory or bright white 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper, in the highest quality affordable. Don’t have your resume look like you squeezed too much on the page.
Shorter is usually better. Everyone freely gives advice on resume length. Most of these self-declared experts say a resume should always be one page. That makes no more sense than it does to say an ad or a poem should automatically be one page. Don’t blindly follow rules! Do what works. Sometimes it is appropriate to have a three pager. But unless your life has been filled with a wide assortment of extraordinary achievements, make it shorter. One page is best if you can cram it all into one page. Most Fortune 500 C.E.O.s have a one- or two-page resume. It could be said that, the larger your accomplishments, the easier to communicate them in few words. The only useful rule is to not write one more word than you need to get them to pick up the phone and call you. Don’t bore them with the details. Leave them wanting more. Remember, this is an ad to market you, not your life history.
Watch your verb tense. Use either the first person (“I”) or the third person (”he,” “she”) point of view, but use whichever you choose consistently. Verb tenses are based on accurate reporting: If the accomplishment is completed, it should be past tense. If the task is still underway, it should be present tense. If the skill has been used in the past and will continue to be used, use present tense (“conduct presentations on member recruitment to professional and trade associations”). A way of “smoothing out” transitions is to use the past continuous (“have conducted more than 20 presentations…”).
Telephone number that will be answered. Be sure the phone number on the resume will, without exception, be answered by a person or an answering machine Monday through Friday 8-5pm. You do not want to lose the prize interview merely because there was no answer to your phone, and the caller gave up. Include the area code of the telephone number. If you don’t have an answering machine, get one. Include e-mail and fax numbers, if you have them.
A FEW MORE TIPS
Use bold caps for your name on page one. Put your name at the top of page two on a two-page resume. Put section headings, skill headings, titles or companies (if impressive), degrees, and school name, in boldface.
Spell out numbers under and including ten; use the numerical form for numbers over and including 11 (as a general rule), unless they are the first words in a sentence. Spell out abbreviations unless they are unquestionably obvious.
WHAT NOT TO PUT ON A RESUME
- The word “Resume” at the top of the resume
- Fluffy rambling “objective” statements
- Salary information
- Full addresses of former employers
- Reasons for leaving jobs
- A “Personal” section, or personal statistics (except in special cases)
- Names of supervisors