In a perfect world, you wouldnít need a resume -- youíd be out sailing the Mediterranean, exploring the outer galaxy or basking in the Cozumel sun, cold drink in hand.
But since the world isnít perfect and almost everyone needs a job, you have to create a winning resume that stands out from the crowd. Gone are the days when an acceptable resume featured flush-left, block-style type that began with your high school education and included your hobbies, health, age and marital status. Just as the employment market has changed, so have resumes, evolving from a one-size-fits-all standard.
Whether youíre a candidate for the position of CEO, district sales manager or staff accountant, your resume must highlight your skills, accomplishments, and work experience in a way that distinguishes you from the thousands of other candidates flooding company mail boxes, fax machines and e-mail addresses. A good resume presents a thumbnail sketch of your past experience. A winning resume grabs the readerís attention and increases your chances of being called in for an interview. Of course, after that, the rest is up to you.
Add Value to Stand Out from the Crowd
Great resumes entice hiring managers, gripping them with the following components:
a brief summary of your qualifications, strengths, and skills
selected accomplishments and your most relevant industry expertise
work experience chronologically (with titles and dates)
computer and related technical skills
college and post-graduate education
Mention previous military information, but donít include as detailed a description as you would for more recent civilian positions.
Be Concise, but Powerful
Employers want to know, plain and simple, where youíve been and what you can do for them. But at this early stage of the game, your work experience is just a piece of paper without any personality or pizzazz. If you donít blow your own horn, who will? Of course, every bit of information on your resume must be truthful, or you can kiss the job good-bye if any discrepancies arise during the interview or reference-checking stage.
"The facts need to jump off the page; companies and job titles in bold followed by a brief list of notable accomplishments," says Jim Scott, vice president of human resources for Staples Inc.
Personnel directors, recruiters, and small business owners are besieged with resumes whenever they place an ad for a particular position. Donít bore them to death or present a laundry list of every job youíve held since being a camp counselor-in-training 30 years ago. To make a great impression, your resume should highlight your past 10 to 12 years of relevant work experience, then summarize any previous positions.
Your written profile should look attractive, as well. Make it easy to read, pleasant on the eyes, and not more than two typed pages. No neon green or bound booklets, please. Put yourself in the place of the beleaguered person sifting through hundreds of resumes each morning. If he or she canít read it, it will be tossed.
You may be an interesting person, but no one wants to review your life story unless itís been featured in Newsweek or on "Hard Copy." So adhere to the two-page rule. Also, donít include photographs, letters of reference from family members and old high school teachers, or cute notations like "loves kayaking" or "Married with three children and one puppy." Isnít finding a new job serious business? Then be serious.
Once you have a winning resume in hand, start a personal marketing campaign. The traditional method of answering ads in daily and weekly newspapers and special interest publications is a good start, but consider broadening your search from there. Contact company recruiters directly be researching those in the geographic regions youíre targeting, then write a personalized cover letter to the person in charge of human resources at each firm.
When resumes arrive on Jim Scottsí desk, he says he looks for "progressively increasing responsibility with ample time to season in each job. Too many companies can spell trouble."
For more exposure, you can jump onto the electronic bandwagon and have your resume posted with one of the many Internet-based services.
When searching electronically, companies look for key words on resumes to locate candidates who match a positionís qualifications. So be sure to state your most relevant skills and accomplishments using concise language. If a companyís computer is programmed to search for the word "finance" in a resume database, for example, and your resume states that you "managed financial accounts and services," you wonít match up.
Consider a Pro
Given such obstacles, not everyone is capable of writing a great resume. It can be hard to be objective about yourself. Even harder, still, to use the right buzzwords to add value and marketability to your work history. If you realize that youíve been procrastinating or sweat profusely whenever you sit in front of a computer screen to compile your career into two life-changing pages, itís probably time to seek professional resume writing assistance. Many services are available to help you write, edit or fine-tune your resume. Simply check the classified ads of national publications, regional journals, telephone directories and electronic directories for a service that meets your needs. Look for those that have been certified by the Professional Association of Resume Writers or the National Resume Writers Association.
Whether you write your resume yourself or seek help from the pros, make sure this key document accurately reflects all you have to offer. Your interview schedule will fill up as a result.