What a Resume is—and What It's Not (page 6)
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.
The Heading: Your Contact Information
At the very top of the resume, list your full name, address, phone number(s), and e-mail address. If you're still in school, include your permanent address as well as your school address.
If your job search is to be kept secret from your current employer, never list your current work phone or fax numbers, or your work e-mail address.
Whenever you list a phone number on your resume, always make sure that if a potential employer calls, the phone will be answered 24 hours a day. Make sure the caller can reach you on the first attempt. Connect an answering machine to the line, or subscribe to the call answering service offered by your local phone company. If a potential employer can't reach you easily, you could be passed over for a job.
The heading of a resume can be formatted in a variety of different ways, as long as the very first line of the resume (at the top of the page) lists your full name. Subsequent lines of your resume within the heading should explain exactly how to contact you.
Following are a few sample resume headings. Using your own creativity and personal taste, you can format your heading information as you see fit.
The heading information within your resume can be centered, right justified, or left justified as long as it appears on the top of the page.
Okay, here's a challenge … In just one sentence, clearly state what position you hope to fill. To secure a job, the objective that you list on your resume should closely (if not perfectly) match the job for which you are applying. This sentence should be customized for each resume you send.
Don't write a generic job objective at the top of your resume, such as, Seeking a challenging and rewarding opportunity—this is worthless. It takes up space, but says nothing about you as an applicant. It also conveys to the employer that you don't know what type of job you're looking for, and you didn't want to take the few extra minutes necessary to customize and target your resume before submitting it.
When writing the job objective section of your resume, find the exact job title or description the company uses to describe the position available. This information is typically available within the ad or listing.
The heading you use for this section of your resume could be:
- Position Desired
- Job Objective
- Employment Objective
- Job Target
Suppose you find an ad that reads, "Executive Assistant … Seeking individual with strong communication and organizational skills; detail oriented, excellent writing and computer skills." For your resume's objective, you could write:
- Objective: Seeking a full-time executive assistant position that would allow me to take advantage of my communication, writing, and computer skills.
Then, in the body of your cover letter, you could mention that you are extremely organized and detail oriented, which would refer back to the other requirements that were listed in the ad.
Describing Your Educational Background
Within this section of your resume, you will want to list your educational experience, starting with the most recent degree or certificate earned (or about to be earned). This includes your high school or college information, but it should also list any apprenticeship training, on-the-job-training, and accredited workshops or professional training courses you've completed. For example, if you're a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (see www.microsoft.com/learning/mcp/officespecialist/requirements.asp), you will want to mention when and where you completed this training.
Each item listed in this section of your resume should include the name of the educational institution you attended, the date of completion, the degree or certificate earned, and the city and state where the institution is located.
While listing each institution you attended, you can also include any courses or extracurricular programs you believe would be of direct interest to the potential employer. Listing your major is also essential.
On your resume, the heading you use for this section could be:
- Academic Record
- Educational Background
If you're a recent graduate with an impressive GPA, this should be included with your educational background. If, however, your GPA isn't impressive and won't help to set you apart in a positive way, then it should be omitted.
Accreditation and Licenses
Any type of accreditation or license that directly applies to the job for which you're applying definitely should be added to your resume. This section can be used to showcase professional licenses you've earned in addition to, or in lieu of, a college degree. If you are currently in the process of earning a certificate or professional license, this should also be listed within this section of your resume, along with the expected completion date.
Some occupations require that, in addition to a traditional high school and/or college education, you also obtain some type of license, degree, or accreditation. For example, a real estate broker, notary public, lawyer, doctor, lifeguard, teacher, electrician, and plumber are all professions requiring special licenses, degrees, certifications, or accreditations. If you're applying for work in one of these fields, it's critical that your resume clearly states that you posses the necessary qualifications. Just as you include information about your educational background, you should list information about when and where you obtained your license, degree, certification, or accreditation.
Work or Employment Experience
Everyone has a collection of skills that make him or her better at a job. Some skills, such as computer literacy, are taught in school, whereas others are self-taught or are natural abilities. Spend a few minutes to create a list of the special skills you have that the potential employer might be interested in. Think about how each of the skills will make you do the job better. Also, list how you have successfully used each skill in the past.
Both on your resume and during an interview situation, be prepared to provide specific examples of how you have applied these skills. Certain skills, such as being bilingual or computer literate (with knowledge of specific software applications), are definitely worth listing on your resume.
Assuming you and the other applicants are qualified for the job, each applicant's personal skill set must set them apart from the competition and help an employer determine which person to hire. Within the Work/Employment Experience portion of your resume, the employment experience you list should be used to support the skills you have. This area of the resume can be used to demonstrate the real-world experience you have in using your skills.
Exhibit 1–2 is a short list containing examples of skill-related words you could list in your resume. See Appendix A for a more complete list of power words.
sheet of paper, list all of your previous work experience, including internships, after-school jobs, summer jobs, part-time jobs, full-time jobs, and all volunteer or charitable work done to date.
As you add each entry to your list, determine the specific dates of your employment (month and year), and make notes concerning each position, your responsibilities, and your major accomplishments. Later, how you convey this information within your resume will be critical, so try to describe each experience concisely, using action words.
"Look at your resume as a sales brochure: It's what you use to sell yourself to your potential employer. Make sure you list your most unique benefits and features."
—JUSTIN, TEAM LEADER
For now, write down anything and everything relevant about your work experience. When you create your resume, the heading you use for this section could be:
- Job History
- Work Experience
- Professional Experience
- Previous Employers
- Employment History
On your resume, refrain from including any references to past salary or your desired salary. If you're completing a job application and there's a question about your salary requirements, instead of answering with a specific or general dollar amount, write: negotiable.
When you are creating the Work/Employment Experience section of your resume, never include the reasons why you stopped working for an employer, switched jobs, or why you are currently looking for a new job.
If you're a member of a professional group or association that directly relates to the job you're applying for, you should list this information on a section of your resume. Be sure to list any special involvement you have had or titles held within each organization.
Listing too many professional organizations, however, might cause a potential employer to become concerned that these obligations will interfere with your regular work schedule. Thus, choose one or two of the organizations to mention on your resume.
Participating in one or more professional associations provides an incredible networking tool for obtaining career-related advice, discovering unadvertised job openings, and obtaining introductions into various companies through the use of personal contacts.
When describing your professional affiliations, however, be sure to exclude any organizations that may be considered controversial. Leave out references to religious and political organizations, or organizations with whose philosophies not everyone agrees.
Keep the references short for the professional affiliations you do list on your resume. For example, list the name of the organization (the local chapter name and location, if applicable), and a few words about your involvement with the association.
Many interviewers, especially those who have served in the military themselves, have a great respect for applicants who have served in the military and have been honorably discharged. The military is known for teaching skills like self-discipline and leadership, which all employers look for in applicants.
In addition to listing details about your military service on your resume, mention any specialized training you received while serving. Be sure to include when you served, your rank, and the branch in which you served. You should also mention any special skills you gained or decorations you earned while serving.
If you are a new worker, your resume must fit on a single page. Thus, there's no need to waste valuable space listing actual references on your resume. You will have ample opportunity to share personal or professional references with a potential employer when completing an employment application and during your job interviews.
It is common practice, however, to include a line at the bottom of your resume that says: References available upon request. You should only add this if you have the space. Don't delete other useful information to make room for this statement.
"Make sure to alert your references to the fact that they might be receiving calls from potential employers. Nothing's worse than an ambivalent or ill-prepared reference. You want to put your best foot forward and show the potential employer how great you really are!"
—CHRISTINE, CONTRACT REVIEWER
Adding Personal Information to Your Resume
As a job seeker, you are not legally obligated to disclose personal information, such as your age, sex, sexual orientation, race, marital status, family size, or handicaps; so whether or not you choose to include a personal information section on your resume is totally voluntary.
Whether or not you choose to discuss such information during a job interview is also your decision. Be aware that an employer cannot lawfully ask about any of these personal topics, and you are within your rights to refuse to discuss these matters with an interviewer.
Putting It All Together: Organizing and Prioritizing Your Information
Now that you've gathered and written down all of the raw information to potentially add to your resume, go through each piece of information on your pad and separate the items into categories based on where each will be included on your resume. For example, information that will go in the Work/Employment Experience section should be separated from information to be included in the Educational Background section.
Once you've organized each piece of information into sections, review your information and write the letter "A" or the number "1" next to the most important pieces of information. This is information you are certain needs to appear on your resume.
Continue by writing the letter "B" or the number "2" next to pieces of information that you would like to include on your resume but are not absolutely critical. When this is done, review your notes again, this time placing a "C" or the number "3" next to items that are less important but could convey information about you.
During the next review of your notes, write an "X" next to items that don't belong anywhere on your resume. These pieces of information may still be useful, for example, when writing your cover letters or preparing other materials to submit or discuss with a potential employer during an interview.
After you have prioritized each piece of information that needs to appear somewhere on your resume, you will need to rewrite the information to fit within the resume format you select. For a traditional resume, write consciously and use action words that add impact and emphasis to key points. At the same time, keep your sentences short (under 15 or 20 words each), and determine if bulleted points could communicate information more efficiently.
"Don't wait until the last minute and throw your resume together. A good and effective resume takes time to assemble. Remember, your resume is your number one marketing tool; therefore, careful thought is the most important means to your success that you have at your disposal."
—CHRISTIE, HUMAN RELATIONS SPECIALIST
The rest of this book explains, in detail, how to take this gathered information and use it to create a great resume that showcases you as the best candidate for the job.
Now that you understand what a resume is, it's also important to understand what it's not. Your resume is just one of the tools used to land a new job. This document often provides you with your initial introduction to a potential employer (if you submit a resume in response to an ad, for example). When combined with a well-written cover letter, your resume package can help a potential employer make an educated judgment about whether or not it's worth the time to invite you for an interview to learn more about your skills, experience, and qualifications.
Your resume needs to convey professionalism; show you're an ambitious, hard, and dedicated worker; and also summarize your skills and qualifications. This document will offer an overview of who you are and provide the opportunity to proceed to the next step in the selection process.
Before an employer makes a job offer, you will probably have to:
- Submit a cover letter with your resume
- Provide recommendations from past employers and/or educators
- Complete an employment application
- Participate in one or more job interviews
- Write well-written thank-you notes after your in-person meetings with potential employers
- Pass a drug test (typically required only by very large companies or employers where drug use would be especially problematic, such as law enforcement or government)
- Have a background or credit check (at the employer's expense)
Your resume is just one of the things an employer considers when choosing whether or not to hire you, but it's extremely important.
Now that you know what type of information needs to be included on your resume, other chapters of this book will help you create a powerful and well-written resume that gets the attention of readers.
The use of charts, graphs, and other graphic elements do not belong on a resume. Although these visual aids can be used during a job interview, the majority of the time, they're simply not appropriate for use in a job-search situation.
Welcome to Job Seeking in theTwentyt-First Century
In the old days, when people were hired by a company, they were expected to remain employed by that company for their entire career, until retirement when they would receive a gold watch. Well, the days of gold watches are gone. These days, employees need to look out for themselves, while employers are constantly looking at the bottom line and consider new employees a financial investment and an impersonal commodity. Thus, during your career, you will probably change jobs and employers multiple times.
Thanks to technological advancements, upwards of 70% of all employers now use the Internet or applicant-tracking software for recruitment, which eliminates even more of the person-to-person contact between a company and an applicant during the hiring process. Applicants who understand how today's technology is being used by HR professionals and recruiters are certainly at an advantage.
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