Writing an Effective Resume Is A Key Step in Your Career Path
Controversy and resumes go hand-in-hand. Should your resume be one page or
two? Should your experience or education be listed first? Should you use the
functional or chronological format? There's so much contradictory advice on how
to write a resume, it's no wonder that executives often procrastinate before
writing new ones.
Job hunting is hard enough without having to jump through a resume "obstacle
course." In many cases, computer databases and voice-mail have depersonalized
the screening process and limited access to hiring managers.
Senior-level candidates face additional challenges. Many are rejected for
being overqualified or too old, or they can't find jobs that pay as well as
their prior positions. This leads to low self-esteem -- a curse for job hunters.
In the business world, meek candidates are eaten alive by the competition.
Ironically, though, many executive job seekers lose their aggressiveness when it
could most help them. Their phone calls, interviews and follow-up contacts may
go well, but they often stall at the first step -- writing an effective resume.
If you're having trouble beginning your resume, review the following 10
steps. Then use the advice to make employers curious enough to call.
1. Reassess your job skills. If you held your last position longer
than five years, spend time reviewing your skills and career goals before
writing a new resume, says Eva Gabbe, a counselor with the career and training
center at California State University in Sacramento.
You may not want to highlight your usual skills, especially if you're
changing careers. Taking diagnostic tests will help you evaluate whether you're
qualified and suited for other fields. Ask your local college or university if
you can use its self-assessment resources. Remember, it's never too late to
update professional skills, especially in computer technology. Moreover, many
employers are impressed by candidates who continue their education.
2. Seek rewarding work. You may want to consider a position that
connects with a personal passion. Too many people stay in boring jobs because
they have mortgages, college expenses and other bills to pay, says Ms. Gabbe.
But career happiness has often-overlooked emotional and physical benefits.
Decide what you can cut back on or delay financially so you can pursue a job
you'll enjoy without worrying about the pay.
3. Target each position. Each resume you send should be customized to
that specific job and employer. Use an objective or profile to keep the resume
focused. If you lack time or motivation to customize your resume, don't send it.
4. Focus on experience. The experience section of a resume sets an
executive resume apart from others, say Ms. Gabbe and Susan Moore, chapter
liaison for the Sacramento Professional Network Job Club. Review your job
history and select the skills needed to tailor your resume to an individual
employer. Quantify whenever possible. The fact that you saved your company $2
million will attract attention. If you're concerned about age discrimination,
highlight your achievements but don't include the dates you were employed, which
could reveal your age.
5. Speak out. Modesty isn't an admirable trait in a job search. No one
can explain your accomplishments as well as you. Candidates are often too shy to
supply quantitative data that support their assertions, says Ms. Gabbe. They
often end up with resumes that are too short and sparse, which prompts readers
to doubt their qualifications.
6. Choose wisely. Beware of including too much information on your
resume. One candidate hurt her prospects by mentioning membership in the local
parent-teacher association on her resume, says Ms. Gabbe. "This woman could be
eliminated from consideration because of an employer's fear that her children's
issues might interfere with her work," she says.
7. Be honest. Don't inflate data or lie on a resume, since untruths
can be easily checked with a call to former employers. Candidates who are caught
lying are disqualified, so the risk is never worth it.
8. Create a pleasing format. If a resume's appearance isn't engaging,
readers may never get to the content. The first 20 seconds of resume review are
critical to your success. If your resume is cluttered or disorganized, it won't
A resume is a snapshot of an individual, says Ms. Moore. Neat and orderly
resumes project the impression that you're organized. She recommends a one- to
one-and-a-half-page resume, if it's well-supported.
"I don't care if you're the President. If it's longer than two pages, I won't
read it," says Ms. Moore. "I don't want the employer to know everything about me
on paper because I don't want them to prejudge me. I want the chance to explain
myself in person."
9. Proofread. Mistakes on a resume can be deadly. A single error will
outshadow the facts about you and leave a lasting, negative impression with
employers. Therefore, it's vital that you, and someone who knows you, proofread
your resume before it's sent out.
10. Know your resume. If you don't write your document, take an active
role in its development, since whatever it includes could be the basis of an
interview question. Be prepared to back up every statement with additional
information. Only include positions that you can discuss positively. Never
include negative experiences, no matter how impressive they may be. Review the
final document carefully, since some professional resume-writers use outdated
phrases that won't reflect your true personality.
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