Putting Your Resume Together (page 5)
BY NOW, YOU should have a pretty good idea of what type of job you're going to be applying for, and hopefully you have spent ample time evaluating yourself to determine what makes you marketable in today's competitive business world. You should also have identified major similarities between the job openings and your qualifications.
The next step in the resume-writing process is to take all of this information and put it together into what will become your resume. This article will help you:
- Format your resume content so it fits the selected resume style (chronological, functional, targeted, etc.).
- Develop the best way to state each piece of information within each section of your resume.
- Decide whether or not to use bulleted lists within the various resume sections.
- Select the best action verbs and power phrases to add impact and ultimately sell yourself to a potential employer.
Better Resume, Better Offer
Unless you're currently employed and looking for a new job on the side, the fact that you're unemployed is costing you money in lost wages. Obviously, the sooner you land a new job, the faster you will begin receiving a paycheck. By creating a powerful resume, not only will you land a job faster, but your resume can also be used to position you to earn a higher salary in the future. You can represent yourself as someone with higher earning potential through the way you use job titles and define your skills and expertise on your resume.
If you receive a job offer from an employer, the salary offered will be based on how the employer values you, and that will be based on your resume and your interview. When an employer offers you a job and then proposes a salary or compensation package, that offer will be based mainly on the employer's bottom line—not on how much an employer likes you as a person.
Every employer typically has a salary range to offer someone filling a specific position within his or her organization. The low and high ends of this range can be several thousands of dollars apart.Additionally, there are various negotiable benefits. Based on your educational background, proven skills, and work history, an employer decides how much of an asset you can be to his or her organization and determines where your salary should fall within the predetermined range.
If the employer thinks you're simply qualified to fulfill the responsibilities of the job, you will be offered a salary that's on the lower end of the range. In the future, you may receive raises once you've proven your skills, but you will start out earning less money than you would had you proved yourself a more valuable candidate early on, both on paper and in person.
If you're perceived to be more than qualified, because you have proven skills the employer wants, plus you're able to demonstrate your ability to quickly take on additional responsibilities, the employer will value you more. As a result, your chances of being offered a salary that's on the high side of the range is much more likely.
One of the roles of your resume, once it captures the employer's attention, is to showcase you as a valuable asset to whomever you will work for. As someone reads your resume, he or she should easily see how your skills and experience can be immediately put to good use within his or her organization.
Making Your Resume's Content Fit the Format You Choose
The resume format you choose should be based on a variety of criteria. Most important, choose a format that allows you to showcase your skills, education, and work experience in the best possible light. Once you've selected your resume format, review each piece of information you believe should be on your resume and determine where it belongs.
"Don't forget to use both a spell checker and a proofreader. A person can catch errors your computer's spell checker can overlook, like the difference between it's and its. In addition, it is especially helpful to have someone read your resume to you out loud. That way, you can make sure it reads the way you want it to."
—WES, RISK MANAGER
As you begin to formulate the look and contents of your resume, consider the following examples to determine how the information should be presented. No matter what resume format you choose, each piece of information needs to be conveyed using the fewest possible words and in the most exciting and impressive way
Exhibits 4–1 and 4–2 are two sample resume formats available to you as a job seeker. The first is the most widely used—the chronological format, and the second is an alternative—the functional, which you might use instead in order to focus on your skills as opposed to your employment history. As you look over these sample resume formats, think about how you will plug in your own information.
Making Your Information Stand Out
Within five to ten seconds, the person reading your resume must be able to determine who you are, what job you're applying for, and why you're qualified to fill that position. If your resume doesn't achieve this objective, it needs to be revised.
To capture the attention of the reader, no matter what resume format you're using, you need to make each piece of information sound important and somehow related to the job for which you're applying.
"Bulleted lists are easy on the eye. They highlight each important piece of information in your resume."
—GRETA, SALES DIRECTOR
Stating Your Objective
Your resume's objective needs to convey, in no uncertain terms, a synopsis of your accomplishments, skills, and any other favorable information that will help convince the reader to keep reading. The most common mistakes people make when creating their objective statement, for example, is brevity or stating something that's generic or obvious.
The following statement is too generic and does nothing to showcase the applicant's abilities. Thus, it does nothing to sell or promote the applicant.
- Objective: To work in a Public Relations position offering advancement opportunities.
Because you want to state what position you're applying for and include at least one or two reasons why you should be considered as an applicant, a better way to use this space is to state:
- Objective: To work as a Senior Account Executive at a public relations firm that would allow me to use my eight years' experience developing PR campaigns, writing press releases, working with corporate clients, and interacting with major media outlets.
Some people use an objective statement within their resume to state the job for which they're applying. An alternative is to use a summary statement, which describes your qualifications in a short sentence. For targeted resumes, however, it's ideal to use an objective statement that incorporates elements of a summary statement, provided you can do this concisely.
Describing Your Work Experience
When you're ready to begin writing the work experience section of your resume, for a traditional printed resume, begin each sentence, bulleted point, or item of information with an action verb. Appendix A offers an extensive list of words and phrases you can incorporate into this section of your resume.
For each item of your resume, use a different action verb. Avoid being repetitive or redundant. For example, find alternate ways of stating information if you held similar positions with different employers.
Writing in a style that's concise yet punchy is a skill. To convey the information in this section of your resume, plan on writing and then rewriting your text many times. To help you make your accomplishments sound better, for each job title you've held, ask yourself the questions listed in Exhibit 4–3.
As you piece together answers to the preceding questions, check a newspaper's help-wanted section or go online and find five or more ads for positions that are similar to the one for which you're applying. Study the wording of these ads and choose keywords that you can incorporate into your resume to describe job titles, responsibilities, experience, etc. If you understand exactly what the employer needs, your goal is to explain, using your resume, how your experience makes you qualified to meet the responsibilities of the job.
Even though you're looking at several different ads, perhaps published by different employers, if the openings are for similar positions, chances are the job requirements and desired applicant qualifications will be similar. Thus, by evaluating multiple ads, you can create a list of the employer's requirements and then determine how your personal qualifications allow you to meet those job requirements. This is information that you need to highlight on your resume.
As you assemble this information, focus on providing as much specific information as possible. If you're writing about your skills as an administrative assistant, for example, in addition to listing your typing speed and accuracy, list specific word processing programs you're proficient in using, such as Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, and so forth.
Each of the job titles you use to describe past work experience will also have an impact on the reader. For example, listing a past position as Administrative Assistant signifies you're probably capable of doing tasks like answering phones, typing, and filing. If the person reading your resume sees job titles like Office Manager or Executive Assistant, it's implied that you've taken on additional responsibilities and can be of greater value.
Although you may think of yourself as an administrative assistant, one of your responsibilities while working for your last employer might have included booking travel itineraries (business trips) for the executives within your company. Under your Executive Assistant job title on your resume, listing one of your responsibilities as "travel coordinator" is a perfect example of how you can use your resume to highlight skills and responsibilities a potential employer will find useful.
When describing each of your skills, you want to highlight information that makes you more marketable. For example, if one of your skills is working as a typist, you should include the skill "Word Processor—proficient in Microsoft Office applications, including Microsoft Word" in your resume.
If you're using a chronological resume format, simply by looking at your job titles, the reader should be able to see career advancement. Because your most recent work experience will be listed first, your highest job title should be the one described first. So, if that job title was Marketing Manager, for example, other job titles listed on your resume (as the readers work their way back in your employment history) might include Assistant Marketing Manager, Marketing Associate, and Marketing Intern. With each item, you should be able to demonstrate career advancement. If you can't, consider using another format, such as the functional resume.
Appendix B at the end of this book discusses how to best use job titles to enhance your resume, make yourself stand out, and position yourself as someone with higher earning potential than equally qualified candidates who don't sell themselves properly using their resumes.
Simply listing impressive job titles along with a series of related skills isn't enough. It's also important to provide examples of how you achieved success in your past jobs, using specific examples. For example, using statements with specific dollar or numeric figures often adds impact to your statements.
For example, an experienced Marketing Director might make statements such as "Managed the company's $30 million marketing budget," "Trained the company's ten-person marketing staff," and "Launched three of the company's most successful products in 2005." These are impressive statements that demonstrate skill, leadership ability, and a strong knowledge of product marketing. Each statement opened with an action verb, such as managed, trained, or launched, and included a specific fact, such as a $30 million budget, the size of the team, and so forth. You should do the same on your resume, making the most of your skills and abilities, even if you don't yet have this impressive work experience.
It's important to use action verbs to describe your accomplishments, skills, and so forth, but it's easy to use big words that can make you sound pretentious. Whenever you can use a simple word that has impact as opposed to an obscure one, always keep your resume easy to read.
After listing each job title and employer in the Employment section of your resume, devise one or two full sentences of text, followed by bulleted points that support that sentence. Using action verbs and short sentences allows you to convey the maximum amount of information in the shortest possible space. As you write, make sure the voice and tense of the text remains consistent.
One common mistake made by many job seekers is they list their current job's employment dates as "20##–Present," and although they are still employed, they describe their current employment using the past tense. Likewise, people creating a resume tend to switch between first and third person within the text.
Using bulleted points as opposed to paragraphs makes it much easier for someone reading your resume to quickly determine what information you're trying to convey. For example, within your resume you could write:
The preceding paragraph lists several extremely important points that an applicant would want a reader to notice. The problem is, if the person responsible for reading your resume only glimpses at it for less than 20 seconds, he or she won't carefully read the paragraphs of text you worked so hard to incorporate into your resume.
A better way to present this information is to use bulleted points, with each point starting with an action verb or power phrase designed to capture the reader's attention. Using the same information in the previous example, here's a better way to present the facts using bulleted points in a standard chronological resume. Never try to incorporate too much information into a paragraph, sentence, or bulleted item.
As you create drafts of your resume, add as many bulleted items as necessary to convey what you believe is the most important information about each of your employment experiences. When you begin to edit your resume, you can prioritize, condense, and delete items that aren't absolutely necessary.
Your bulleted items need not be complete sentences (as long as they make sense, of course). If you're using a paragraph style, you must use complete, grammatically correct sentences. Under no circumstances are spelling mistakes or typos acceptable.
Place the Education section of your resume toward the bottom of the page. Just as you listed your employment history or the university you attended in reverse chronological order, you should first list your most recent degree earned.
When listing a college diploma and some form of graduate degree, there's little need to include information about your high school. If you haven't attended graduate school, however, include your highest level of education completed (or that you're about to complete, listing your anticipated graduation date).
This chapter has walked you through the basics of putting your resume together:
- what information your resume should include
- how you should format it (remember: you might also choose to use a functional resume, but the chronological format is usually preferred)
- how to state yor objective effectively
- how to describe your work experience thoroughly
- how to describe your education
To bring this all together, Exhibit 4–4 is a sample chronological resume that illustrates all of the advice and suggestions in this chapter. The next chapter focuses on other formatting issues to ensure that your resume is easy to read by HR managers and hiring managers.
Note: Because the page size of this book is smaller than the standard 8½ × 11" resume page, this sample is set as two pages. Your resume should be only one page.