What a Resume is—and What It's Not (page 2)
SO, YOU'RE ABOUT to embark on a quest to land a new job. Perhaps you're looking to make more money, assume more responsibilities, or work for a new company. Maybe you're returning to the workforce after an extended absence, or you've recently graduated from high school, college, or graduate school and are entering the workforce for the first time. No matter what your reasons for beginning a new job search, finding the perfect job opportunity is going to take time, effort, and dedication.
The overall job-search process involves taking a close look at yourself, your education, skills, past work experience, overall qualifications, and marketability. You will need to determine what types of jobs or positions you're qualified to fill. Next, through research, reading help-wanted ads, networking, and surfing the Web, you will need to find job openings for which you're qualified.
Upon finding job openings, you will need to perform additional research to learn as much as possible about the potential employers and then submit a resume, cover letter, and/or an employment application to be considered for each position. Thus, your resume becomes an extremely important tool for marketing yourself to potential employers.
What Your Resume Needs to Do
One of the most challenging tasks you will embark upon during your job-search process is writing a resume. After all, it will likely be the information on one single-sided sheet of 8½-by-11-inch sheet of paper that determines whether or not an employer invites you to an interview. On one sheet of paper, you have to concisely summarize, using examples, all of the reasons why a potential employer should hire you.
All potential employers that evaluate your resume will have a series of questions that they will want instant answers to as they read your resume. The primary goal of your resume is to answer the employer's questions quickly. When any human resources (HR) professional or potential employer reads your resume, your answers to the questions need to be obvious:
During a job interview, you must be prepared to answer all of these questions (and others) in detail. Your resume also needs to work as a sales tool and offer a preview of what an employer can expect from you now and in the future. Your resume has to be powerful, positive, attention getting, and 100% truthful.
When a potential employer reads your resume, it needs to shout out, "Hire me!" not "File me!" Writing a powerful resume is a challenging process that takes time, planning, much thought, and the willingness to make revisions until you have written what you believe to be the perfect document.
Anytime a company markets an expensive product, such as a major appliance, computer system, car, or some other type of machine, one of the first steps for enticing consumers is to provide a brochure that lists the product's unique benefits and features. The sales brochure is designed to get customers excited about the product before they actually see it firsthand. Similarly, when it comes to landing a job, your resume is the brochure you will use to market yourself. Your resume must get potential employers interested enough in you so that they invite you in for that all-important interview. From that point on, your chances of securing the job rely on your ability to sell yourself in person, but more on that later.
Perfecting Your Resume Requires Time
Many people think that because a resume is only a one-page document (with lots of white space), they can construct it in a matter of minutes, without giving thought to the content or the overall appearance. This is a common misconception. If you attempt to take shortcuts when writing your a resume, your chances of capturing the attention of a potential employer and ultimately landing a job decrease dramatically.
Most job seekers should rely on a standard one-page resume. However, if you have an extensive amount of work experience or specific skills relevant to the job for which you're applying, it is sometimes acceptable to have a two-page resume. Keep in mind, the person initially reading your resume will probably only scan it for about 20 seconds to determine if you're qualified for the job opening. All of the most pertinent information and key points you're attempting to convey should be attainable by glancing at the document for a brief period of time. If your resume is multiple pages, it becomes harder for someone scanning it to quickly develop an understanding of who you are and what qualifications you have.
Choosing what information to include in your resume, how to present that information, and finally, how you should customize your resume to target a specific job takes a lot of thought, creativity, and planning. Chances are, you will need to write, revise, and edit your resume multiple times before you create a document that you believe offers a preview of who you are and what you are capable of.
Writing a resume that makes a strong impact and that can effectively be used to market yourself to potential employers takes time and will probably require you to write and rewrite multiple drafts. If you want to experience success, it's critical that you make the commitment to yourself right now to invest as much time and energy as necessary to pursue every aspect of the job-search process correctly. You will have to have a good understanding of what a resume is, what needs to be included within it, and how to use it as a marketing tool. You must also understand how your resume is just part of an overall package you will soon present to potential employers.
"Have extra copies of your resume ready, so that you can present a clean copy at your interview."
—LISA, ACCOUNT SUPERVISOR
The Anatomy of a Resume
No matter which resume format you use, the document itself gets divided into sections that make it easier to read and understand. As you read the next chapter of Resumes That Get You Hired, write down the pieces of information about yourself that fit into each resume section. Later, you will condense, organize, and rewrite this information, using action words to add impact.
Although not every resume includes all of these sections, the most common sections of a resume are:
- contact information
- job objective
- educational background
- employment experience
- professional affiliations
- military service (if applicable)
- personal and professional references
The rest of this chapter describes what you should include in each of these sections; Chapter 2 walks you through the process of compiling your information for each of these resume sections.
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