Why There's No Such Thing.
As a Single Perfect Resume
Companies rightfully expect to
receive information that's tailored specifically to their hiring
The perfect resume. Job hunters
pursue it as avidly as Ponce de Leon sought the Fountain of Youth. A
single resume format that works in every situation, however, is as
elusive to find as the youthful elixir.
Career counselors and corporate
recruiters alike agree that one resume can't possibly present your
skills and experience effectively to every potential employer.
Company interviewers want to know specifically what you can offer
that distinguishes you from every other applicant. If your resume
isn't tailored to their needs, it isn't likely that you'll grab
their attention and earn an interview.
Look at the job search process from a
recruiter's point of view. Suppose you place a help-wanted ad for a
vice president of international marketing with a heavy background in
developing high-tech products and services for the European market.
What would you do with a resume that touts superb marketing
experience, but doesn't mention expertise in the European or
high-tech markets? Perhaps you'd give that person a chance. But what
if you have six other resumes that more closely meet your needs? The
superb marketer might have the skills to handle the job, but she'll
never get a chance to prove it-even ·if she does have some
applicable experience that didn't make it onto her resume.
Before you groan too loudly at the
thought of writing multiple resumes, consider your alternative.
Richard Bolles, author of the best-selling "What Color Is Your
Parachute?" says that the average company hires just one job
candidate for every 1,470 resumes it receives. To be sure, the
majority of those resumes are poorly written, badly photocopied and
often not applicable to the open position. But the odds still aren't
To avoid the round file (and a
mailbox full of rejection letters) consider the following
Before you begin writing your
resume, be sure you have some key pieces of information: an
accomplishments history of all your important paid, volunteer,
hobby, educational and other achievements, and a job description
for the position you're seeking. Then you can draw parallels
between the two. Pull from your accomplishments summary only the
items that speak directly to your objective. Omit the rest.
Use the resume format that best
represents your background. There are two kinds: chronological
and functional. Chronological resumes give the most recent job
first and discuss your positions in reverse order. They are most
useful when experience is stable . (no job hopping or breaks in
employment) and increasingly responsible. Potential employers in
technical and conservative fields usually prefer this format.
Functional resumes concentrate on accomplishments rather than
specific jobs. In some functional resumes, job titles are
omitted altogether. This less traditional format works best for
career changers and people whose work histories have employment
gaps. It can also be effective in putting the specifics an
employer wants right at the top of the resume.
You've probably considered having a
professional service write your resume. Don't do it! They will
produce one "perfect" version (we know its chances for success,
don't we?) which, unfortunately, will sound very similar to the
"perfect" ones they're writing for all their other clients. It's
human nature to fall in love with certain phrases (bottom line,
results-oriented, people person) and use them repeatedly.
Potential employers read hundreds of resumes for one job. To
make the interview pile, yours must be tailored to and reflect
your own fresh perspective, and not rely on a bunch of jargon.
With access to a computer, adapting
your resume to the specific interests of each potential employer
need not be time consuming. Changing the objective and
emphasizing different areas of your experience by rearranging
their order may suffice.
Begin your resume with your name,
address and phone number. If calls at work are a problem, refer
people to your answering machine or service. Then check once or
twice a day for messages. Don't expect people to call you after
State your objective as clearly and
specifically as possible. You can even name the company and the
job title if you know it. For example, Account Supervisor for
Acme Creative Co. ·
Remember that a resume is a summary
of career highlights. It's not your life story. You should be
able to fit your key achievements on one or two
Prioritize everything. Obviously
your name and objective should always be at the top. Move the
other facts around according to what's most important. For
instance, if a position requires an M.B.A. or law degree, put
your education and credentials before experience. If career
achievements are more critical, list experience first.
If you include a summary of your
qualifications, be' sure it's unique and speaks directly to your
objective. Catch phrases, such as results-oriented manager and
take-charge executive, are so common they've become
·meaningless. If you can't think of anything original, leave out
Use action verbs to describe your
skills and accomplishments. They provide a lot more sizzle than
"responsibilities," "duties included" or a first person
narrative ("I handled ... ").
Emphasize your special contributions
rather than just reiterate a job description. You want your
resume to stand out from the other 200 resumes the employer is
Quantify your achievements if you
can. Numbers usually describe the scope of your activities
better than words.
Name-drop a little if you're not
revealing confidential information. Mentioning specific
customers or listing the states or countries in your territory,
or the departments with whom you served as liaison, can add
Don't separate volunteer and paid
experience. In some instances, volunteer work may be an
important component of your background, especially if community
involvement or a wide array of contacts are job requirements.
Use jargon selectively. If you've
noticed certain buzzwords in your networking, include them in
your resume. Just be sure your jargon matches that of your
Be neat and error free. One typo can
Don't list salaries or reasons for
leaving. It's much better to discuss these in person. Putting
them in a resume puts you at a distinct disadvantage.
Education may or may not be an
important qualification for your position. Often your noncredit
professional development courses may be more impressive than
your for-credit credentials. Think about the job you're pursuing
and tailor your education section accordingly. If your degree
field doesn't match your career, just say, "B.S., Penn State,"
and omit your major.
Personal data is tricky. If you
really think being single is in your favor, mention it.
Otherwise leave it out. It's possible a fellow gourmet cook or
avid baseball card collector may be the decision maker
screening your resume. When he sees you share his passion,
you'll probably get an inter view. But he may see your
inclusion of this information as a lack of professionalism. It's
a risk you may not want to take.