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Resume Tips for Job Seekers

Before You Start Writing

Here are some important guidelines that will land your resume in the interview pile:

  • You should only go after positions that fit your experience, skills and interests.” It wastes everyone’s time when you compose and send in a resume for a job you aren’t qualified to do. Don’t apply for one you won’t enjoy either. Time is a very important commodity. It doesn’t make sense to squander it by either pursuing or taking a position that’s a poor match for your skills or personality.

  • Research a company before your prepare your resume and cover letter. Find out about the organization’s products, services, culture, community involvement, affirmative action program, plans for the future and buzz words. Then use your knowledge to compose a targeted resume and cover letter.

  • If you want to grab a recruiter’s attention in 10-30 seconds, tailor your resume to a specific position. Most job seekers agonize over creating one perfect resume that will be all things to all employers. When they get few responses, they are surprised and puzzled. They don’t understand that recruiters are ruthlessly efficient in looking for the best potential matches for their opening and doggedly determined to focus on achievements and experience that parallel what their company needs. Unless your resume concentrates on your relevant qualifications and eliminates other extraneous information, you are wasting their time and sabotaging your chance for an interview.

  • To do yourself justice, formulate a clear picture of the job description, pull accomplishments from your background that mesh with it and choose a chronological, functional or hybrid format which showcases your achievements to their greatest advantage. A chronological resume is structured by job title and generally puts the last job first. This format is excellent for individuals who have few gaps in their employment, haven’t job hopped and want to stay in the same career. A functional format concentrates on activities, rather than jobs and has a lot more flexibility than its chronological counterpart. Because it often doesn’t list job titles and have dates marching smartly down the page, recruiters often dislike it. The hybrid format generally starts with an function/activities section, then lists jobs and dates under a separate section called Employment History. It’s a good compromise between the other two formats.

  • There is no best format for college students. Your experience, personality and audience will determine which one is best for you. You may even use different formats depending on the jobs you are pursuing.

  • Keep both humans and computer readers in mind when you are creating the text  and format of your resume. Your hard copy should be a high rag content paper with an easily read type font, a good deal of white space, no typos, and a number of key or buzz words that indicate you are familiar with the job and its environment. Your electronic copy should use a type font with serifs in regular or bold letters, lots of white space, no typos, no italics, no underlines and a keyword summary. If you are sending your resume via e-mail, it’s safer to use a text format than rely on the reader having word processing software that matches yours. Pasting your resume to your e-mail can make it easier to access and print than sending an attached file.

  • When you are considering places to send your resume, take advantage of your college career center and networking contacts. About 80-90% of jobs are filled through people who know people. Scanning newspaper and internet ads can also be useful, but you are a lot more likely to hear of an opening through a personal referral.

  • Before you start writing your resume, put together an accomplishments history. This document should include a detailed outline of all your achievements, whether you’ve been paid for them or not. Then, when you have a specific job in mind, you can select the most relevant items from your history and combine them to form a targeted resume.

Resume Components

  •  For years job seekers have put their name, address and phone number at the top of their resume. It was a simple no-brainer. In the last few years, telling recruiters where they can find you has become much more complicated. Depending upon where you are most easily reached, you may also want to include your cell phone and fax numbers and your e-mail address. Whatever you decide to use, be sure all the pages of your cover letter and resume have your name and fastest contact point prominently displayed at the top.

  • Your objective comes next. It should be as specific as possible. Saying you want ABC job with XYZ company helps the recruiter know exactly what you want. Many people will tell you a specific objective cuts your chances of being considered for other positions. This is bogus advice. If you want to go after more than one job, compose and send more than one resume. When it comes to being selected for an interview, you need to focus on and qualify for the job the recruiter is working at that moment.

  • The professional qualifications brief or summary usually follows the objective. If you are doing a keyword summary, you’ll be listing the buzz words and phrases human and computer screeners want to see. Of course, you’ll need to show in your experience section why you deserve to claim this expertise.

    Example for a Human Resources professional:
              Compensation and Benefits, Organizational Development, Technical Training,       Recruiting, Change Management, Affirmative Action, OSHA Requirements, Mentoring Programs

    A professional qualifications brief can include experience, skills, personality traits and philosophical statements that illustrate who you are and what you have to offer. These summary statements should be a unique personal description which relates to the job you want. Bland qualifications briefs that talk very generally about being a results-oriented, hands-on, people person waste resume space and recruiter time.

    Example for an International Business Professional:
  • Extensive understanding of global socioeconomics.

  • A transcultural individual who is comfortable with people and settings around the world.

  • Skilled at bringing a diversity of people together to pursue a common goal.

  • Willing to relocate abroad.

Your experience section generally comes next. You can frame it according to jobs or activities/functions. If you choose a chronological format, you’ll list your most important and relevant achievements under each job title. If you work by function, you’ll put each accomplishment under its corresponding functional title such as Project Management, Accounting/ Finance Experience, or Installing Computer Networks. Rather than describing your responsibilities, which does little to set you apart from your competition, spotlight the specific contributions you’ve made in the position or activity.

Example:

Use:  Developed and coordinated the first annual Basketball Hoopathon, which raised $10,000 for the local family shelter.

Instead of:  Responsible for raising money for charity.

  • Start your accomplishment statements with action verbs. They have a lot more sizzle than “duties included.”

  • Quantify whenever you can. Talk about amount of money earned or saved, percent of improvement, day or hour reductions per process, and number of employees or participants you managed, coached or trained.

  • Sprinkle jargonal terms favored by your career or industry liberally throughout. Using the right buzz words is like speaking French in Paris. It captures your reader’s attention and elicits her respect.

  • Include your volunteer or extra-curricular activities in this section, if you have little paid experience or your non-paid work is relevant to the position you seek.  As meshing these activities can be confusing in a strict chronological format, you may choose to list your activities by name and leave out the dates, or go with a functional format.

  • Speaking of dates: they can be your friends or enemies. If you are worried about how they fit together in your resume, use number of years or months instead, or delete them.

  • Your education goes either below your experience or above it, depending upon which you think is more important. For many recent college graduates, their education is more relevant to their job objective than their stints at Burger King or Kroger. If, however, your paid or unpaid positions reflect what you can do for a potential employer better than your degree in Anthropology, slip education under your experience section.

  • As noted above, you may discuss professional organization and community activities in your experience. Or you may choose to put them in an Activities/ Organizations group below either education or experience. Be sure to list your awards, offices and memberships, putting the most important, prestigious ones toward the top.

  • Finally, don’t list salary history or requirements, reasons for leaving, or references in the body of your resume. Put them on a separate page. 


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