The single most important thing you can do to attract the attention of a potential employer is to submit a resume that gets attention and sets you apart from the rest of the crowd of applicants. Your resume presents the sum total of your skills, accomplishments, work history, and education, in an encapsulated form that is easy to read.
Unless you have excellent writing skills and are proficient in word processing and text formatting, you should have a professional resume service prepare your resume for you. This is very important, and well worth the cost. There is no better way to guarantee that you will NOT be considered for a job than to submit a resume that is poorly written or difficult to read—or, worse yet, a resume that contains errors or improper information. But if you are a good writer and believe you have what it takes to create a good resume, here are a few tips for success.
Before you can begin writing your resume, you need to organize your thoughts. Using blank paper or a notebook, start making notes about what you want your resume to contain. Your resume should answer these three basic questions for prospective employers:
- What job do you want?
- Where and how well have you done it before?
- What qualifies you to do it?
The answers to these questions are the elements of a good resume. Answering them as completely as possible will not only give you the material you need to build a strong resume, but will also prepare you for networking and interviewing when your fantastic resume generates interest in you.
Making Yourself Unique
Employment ads requesting resumes usually result in an employer being swamped with submissions. Try to remember this when preparing your resume, and focus on writing a resume that will stand out from the crowd. Keep these guidelines in mind while writing your resume:
- Play up the positives and leave out the negatives. Don’t say why you left a job or what your personal feelings were about a job; such information can be discussed during an interview. Your resume should divulge only the positive information that will get you that interview.
- Be straightforward and to the point, without padding or flowery language. An employer can instantly tell if you are simply fluffing up your resume artificially to try to impress them. Use a direct, professional, business-like tone and clear, concise language. A professional resume should never sound friendly or ‘hip’ unless you’re applying for a job as a disc jockey.
- Use action verbs: developed, created, managed, produced, maintained, implemented, sold, trained, organized, supervised, planned….. (etc.) These types of words automatically portray you as an assertive, goal-oriented person who has accomplished great things.
- Leave out information that doesn’t relate to the job. Never include personal information, such as your age, race, marital status, salary issues, or health.
- Embellish your accomplishments within reason. Don’t lie or make anything up. If an employer checks into something in your resume and discovers it isn’t true, you can kiss that job goodbye.
What Job Do You Want?
The first thing you should tell a potential employer with your resume is exactly what type of position you are looking for. This is your objective. An objective is particularly important if you are submitting a blind resume, rather than answering an ad for a specific job; managers and personnel staff need to know how to route your resume. If your objective is too vague, they might just file it away. If it is too specific, you may limit your opportunities. You can change your objective for different markets, if you have a broad range of abilities or interests.
When writing your objective, keep it concise and to the point, but be sure it fully describes the career you envision yourself excelling in. If your stated objective is too nebulous or general, you may come across as uncertain or not very committed to a goal. If it is too specific, you may seem narrow-minded or inflexible. It can be a fine line to walk, but be sure that your objective states what you are looking for without being too specific or too general.
Where and How Well Have You Done This Job Before?
The next part of your resume describes your work experience. Since a large part of a prospective employer’s assessment of you comes from your past jobs, you should describe only the parts of your jobs that will help sell you and showcase your value. Think about your stated objective; if your past jobs included duties that aren’t relevant to that objective, or duties that you don’t want to have again, don’t mention them. But if you have work experience of any sort that relates to your objective, this is the place to play up that experience.
Work experience shouldn’t go back more than 10 years or so on a resume; but if going back 10 years only provides you with one or two jobs, you may want to go back far enough to have three jobs listed. Begin with your current or most recent job, and work backward. For each job, think about what you did for your employer to make the company better. Consider these questions:
- Did you develop an idea that, when implemented, saved the company money? If so, how much?
- Did you increase productivity or efficiency? By what percentage?
- Did you create standards that are still used there?
- Were you selected for key training or appointments?
- Were you given commendations/achievement awards?
- Were you promoted due to your contributions?
Be sure to include anything in your past work experience that relates positively to the job you are seeking.
What Qualifies You to Do This Job?
The final part of your resume should describe the education and accomplishments that make you qualified to do this job well. When writing this section, try to think of yourself from a prospective employer’s point of view: Why should they hire you? This section should make an employer want to look at the rest of your resume.
Your education section should list any secondary or graduate schools you attended, the dates you were there, and any degrees you earned. If you have not earned a college degree, you should still list any post-secondary schooling you have had. If you served in the military, be sure to include that, making special note of any courses or training you had while you were enlisted. Under no circumstances should you list a high school diploma on a resume, unless you’re applying for a job flipping burgers.
After you’ve described your educational pursuits, you should end your resume by spotlighting any accreditations, certifications, training, or particular skills that make you the best person for an employer to select. Such items can include conferences or seminars you attended, particularly if you were a presenter or featured speaker. List any published articles or awards you have been given for your work. Make special note of any licenses, certifications, or honors you have been given as a result of your hard work. This section can include a variety of information:
- Special classes taken that relate to your objective
- Military service information (branch, discharge date, type of discharge, special training)
- Memberships (current or past) that pertain to your stated objective
- Awards or honors you received in school or in a job
- Certifications or licenses, dates you received them, and the organization that issued them
- Training seminars or conferences you attended
- Articles or papers you have published
- Presentations you have given or classes you have taught
- Special skills/abilities pertaining to your stated objective
- A listing of software and/or hardware knowledge
List all the items that will make you sound wonderful. But be careful not to lie, and don’t exaggerate too much. You may be asked for proof of anything you claim on your resume.
Finally, one of the most important things you can do before submitting your resume anywhere is READ IT. Be sure that it says exactly what you want it to say about you that will grab an employer’s attention and compel him to give you a call. Check carefully for spelling errors, typos, wording problems, or anything that will make your resume seem the least bit unprofessional. After all, your resume is simply you, on paper. If the paper representation of you is perfect, then a potential employer will think you are perfect for the job.
The best length for a resume is one page, but two pages are acceptable for most positions. Some academic, management, and advanced corporate positions often require submission of a curriculum vitae, or CV, which is a detailed resume outlining every facet of a person’s work history and accomplishments.
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