Tips And Treats
Resume Making Tips
Writing a great resume does not necessarily mean you should follow the rules you hear through the grapevine. It does not have to be one page or follow a specific resume format.
Every resume is a one-of-a-kind marketing communication. It should be appropriate to your situation and do exactly what you want it to do.
Last Updated - 28th September 2005
PURPOSE OF A RESUME
- The resume is a tool with one specific purpose: to win an interview. If it does what the fantasy resume did, it works. If it doesn't, it isn't an effective resume. A resume is an advertisement, nothing more, nothing less.
- A great resume doesn't just tell them what you have done but makes the same assertion that all good ads do: If you buy this product, you will get these specific, direct benefits. It presents you in the best light. It convinces the employer that you have what it takes to be successful in this new position or career.
- It is so pleasing to the eye that the reader is enticed to pick it up and read it. It "whets the appetite," stimulates interest in meeting you and learning more about you. It inspires the prospective employer to pick up the phone and ask you to come in for an interview.
BASIC RESUME FORMATS
There are three basic types of resumes: Chronological, Functional, and "combined"
The chronological resume is the more traditional structure for a resume. The Experience section is the focus of the resume; each job (or the last several jobs) is described in some detail, and there is no major section of skills or accomplishments at the beginning of the resume. This structure is primarily used when you are staying in the same profession, in the same type of work, particularly in very conservative fields. It is also used in certain fields such as law and academia. It is recommended that the chronological resume always have an "Objective" or "Summary," to focus the reader.
The advantages: May appeal to older, more traditional readers and be best in very conservative fields. Makes it easier to understand what you did in what job. May help the name of the employer stand out more, if this is impressive. The disadvantage is that it is much more difficult to highlight what you do best. This format is rarely appropriate for someone making a career change.
The functional resume highlights your major skills and accomplishments from the very beginning. It helps the reader see clearly what you can do for them, rather than having to read through the job descriptions to find out. It helps target the resume into a new direction or field, by lifting up from all past jobs the key skills and qualifications to help prove you will be successful in this new direction or field. Actual company names and positions are in a subordinate position, with no description under each. There are many different types of formats for functional resumes. The functional resume is a must for career changers, but is very appropriate for generalists, for those with spotty or divergent careers, for those with a wide range of skills in their given profession, for students, for military officers, for homemakers returning to the job market, and for those who want to make slight shifts in their career direction.
Advantages: It will help you most in reaching for a new goal or direction. It is a very effective type of resume, and is highly recommended. The disadvantage is that it is hard for the employer to know exactly what you did in which job, which may be a problem for some conservative interviewers.
A combined resume includes elements of both the chronological and functional formats. It may be a shorter chronology of job descriptions preceded by a short "Skills and Accomplishments" section (or with a longer Summary including a skills list or a list of "qualifications"); or, it may be a standard functional resume with the accomplishments under headings of different jobs held.
There are obvious advantages to this combined approach: It maximizes the advantages of both kinds of resumes, avoiding potential negative effects of either type. One disadvantage is that it tends to be a longer resume. Another is that it can be repetitious: Accomplishments and skills may have to be repeated in both the "functional" section and the "chronological" job descriptions.
Whenever you send a CV to a potential employer you should always include a Covering Letter. There are no strict set rules of what to include, however there is a general formula, which you should always follow.
Avoid "writing" a cover letter
A cover letter has to be word-processed and not hand written. Make sure that it is printed on the same stationery as your resume. This reflects professionalism. Ensure that you include a header on your stationery with your name and address, preferably centered at the top of the page. You can also send a handwritten covering letter only if the company asks for it. Ensure that the handwriting is clear and legible.
Address it to the right addressee!
When drafting the cover letter, it should begin with the name of the recipient, title/designation, name and address. If you are unsure about the person's name or designation then it would be advisable to address the letter to the "Human Resources Department" or the department equivalent to it. If you are aware of the name of the person, then ensure that you have spelt the name right. If necessary, you may contact the organization to establish their credentials. This is particularly important for speculative inquires when the job hasn't been advertised and you are not sure who is in charge of recruitment.
Mention clearly the position you are applying for
The opening paragraph of the covering letter should clearly state what position you are applying for. It should reflect your interest and keenness in working with the organization you have applied to. If you have applied with reference to an advertisement in a publication then make a mention of it. If you are using the reference of a particular person then mention the name of the person who referred you. State a line or two as to why you are interested in working with the organization.
Highlight relevant skills
The second paragraph should include your skill sets and work experience in brief. Highlight skills that are relevant to the post you are applying for. However, avoid duplicating your resume. You can make a mention of any additional experiences and responsibilities pertinent to the job.
End on a positive note
End the cover letter on a positive note. Mention that you look forward to hearing from them and sign off on a formal note. Use words like "Sincerely, faithfully," etc. to sign off. Type your name below the subscription, but leave enough space between the two to accommodate your signature.
Most resumes are not much more than a collection of "evidence," various facts about your past. By evidence, we mean all the mandatory information you must include on your resume: work history with descriptions, dates, education, affiliations, list of software mastered, etc. If you put this toward the top of your resume, anyone reading it will feel like they are reading an income tax form. Let's face it, this stuff is boring no matter how extraordinary you are. All this evidence is best placed in the second half of the resume. Put the hot stuff in the beginning, and all this less exciting information afterward.
A great resume is all one big assertions section. In other words, every single word, even the basic facts about your history, are crafted to have the desired effect, to get them to pick up the phone and call you. The decisions you make on what information to emphasize and what to de-emphasize should be based on considering every word of your resume to be an important part of the assertions section. The evidence includes some or all of the following:
- List jobs in reverse chronological order. Don't go into detail on the jobs early in your career; focus on the most recent and/or relevant jobs. (Summarize a number of the earliest jobs in one line or very short paragraph, or list only the bare facts with no position description.) Decide which is, overall, more impressive - your job titles or the names of the firms you worked for - then consistently begin with the more impressive of the two, perhaps using boldface type.
- You may want to describe the firm in a phrase in parentheses if this will impress the reader. Put dates in italics at the end of the job, to de-emphasize them; don't include months, unless the job was held less than a year. Include military service, internships, and major volunteer roles if desired; because the section is labeled "Experience." It does not mean that you were paid.
- Other headings: "Professional History," "Professional Experience"--not "Employment" or "Work History," both of which sound more lower-level.
- List education in reverse chronological order, degrees or licenses first, followed by certificates and advanced training. Set degrees apart so they are easily seen. Put in boldface whatever will be most impressive. Don't include any details about college except your major and distinctions or awards you have won, unless you are still in college or just recently graduated. Include grade-point average only if over 3.4. List selected course work if this will help convince the reader of your qualifications for the targeted job.
- Do include advanced training, but be selective with the information, summarizing the information and including only what will be impressive for the reader.
- No degree received yet? If you are working on an uncompleted degree, include the degree and afterwards, in parentheses, the expected date of completion: B.S. (expected 200_).
- If you didn't finish college, start with a phrase describing the field studied, then the school, then the dates (the fact that there was no degree may be missed).
- Other headings might be "Education and Training," "Education and Licenses," "Legal Education / Undergraduate Education" (for attorneys).
If the only awards received were in school, put these under the Education section. Mention what the award was for if you can (or just "for outstanding accomplishment" or "outstanding performance"). This section is almost a must, if you have received awards. If you have received commendations or praise from some very senior source, you could call this section, "Awards and Commendations." In that case, go ahead and quote the source.
Include only those that are current, relevant and impressive. Include leadership roles if appropriate. This is a good section for communicating your status as a member of a minority targeted for special consideration by employers, or for showing your membership in an association that would enhance your appeal as a prospective employee.
This section can be combined with "Civic / Community Leadership" as "Professional and Community Memberships."
CIVIC / COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP
This is good to include if the leadership roles or accomplishments are related to the job target and can show skills acquired, for example, a loan officer hoping to become a financial investment counselor who was Financial Manager of a community organization charged with investing its funds. Any Board of Directors membership or "chairmanship" would be good to include. Be careful with political affiliations, as they could be a plus or minus with an employer or company.
Include only if published. Summarize if there are many.
COMMENTS FROM SUPERVISORS
Include only if very exceptional. Heavily edit for key phrases.
Advantages: Personal interests can indicate a skill or area or knowledge that is related to the goal, such as photography for someone in public relations, or carpentry and woodworking for someone in construction management. This section can show well-roundedness, good physical health, or knowledge of a subject related to the goal. It can also create common ground or spark conversation in an interview.
Disadvantages: Personal interests are usually irrelevant to the job goal and purpose of the resume, and they may be meaningless or an interview turn-off ("TV and Reading," "Fund raising for the Hell's Angels").
You probably should not include a personal interests section. Your reason for including it is most likely that you want to tell them about you. But, as you know, this is an ad. If this section would powerfully move the employer to understand why you would be the best candidate, include it; otherwise, forget about it.
May also be called "Interests and Hobbies," or just "Interests."
You may put "References available upon request" at the end of your resume, if you wish. This is a standard close (centered at bottom in italics), but is not necessary: It is usually assumed. Do not include actual names of references. You can bring a separate sheet of references to the interview, to be given to the employer upon request. The resume is visually enticing, a work of art. Simple clean structure. Very easy to read. Symmetrical. Balanced. Uncrowded. As much white space between sections of writing as possible; sections of writing that are no longer than six lines, and shorter if possible.
- There are absolutely no errors. No typographical errors. No spelling errors. No grammar, syntax, or punctuation errors. No errors of fact.
- All the basic, expected information is included. A resume must have the following key information: your name, address, phone number, and your e-mail address at the top of the first page, a listing of jobs held, in reverse chronological order, educational degrees including the highest degree received, in reverse chronological order. Additional, targeted information will of course accompany this. Much of the information people commonly put on a resume can be omitted, but these basics are mandatory.
- Jobs listed include a title, the name of the firm, the city and state of the firm, and the years. Jobs earlier in a career can be summarized, or omitted if prior to the highest degree, and extra part-time jobs can be omitted. If no educational degrees have been completed, it is still expected to include some mention of education (professional study or training, partial study toward a degree, etc.) acquired after high school.
- It is targeted. A resume should be targeted to your goal, to the ideal next step in your career. First you should get clear what your job goal is, what the ideal position or positions would be. Then you should figure out what key skills, areas of expertise or body of experience the employer will be looking for in the candidate. Gear the resume structure and content around this target, proving these key qualifications. If you have no clear goal, take the skills (or knowledge) you most enjoy or would like to use or develop in your next career step and build the resume around those.
- Strengths are highlighted / weaknesses de-emphasized. Focus on whatever is strongest and most impressive. Make careful and strategic choices as to how to organize, order, and convey your skills and background. Consider: whether to include the information at all, placement in overall structure of the resume, location on the page itself or within a section, ordering of information, more impressive ways of phrasing the information, use of design elements (such as boldface to highlight, italics to minimize, ample surrounding space to draw the eye to certain things).
- It has focus. A resume needs an initial focus to help the reader understand immediately. Don't make the reader go through through the whole resume to figure out what your profession is and what you can do. Think of the resume as an essay with a title and a summative opening sentence. An initial focus may be as simple as the name of your profession ("Commercial Real Estate Agent," "Resume Writer") centered under the name and address; it may be in the form of an Objective; it may be in the form of a Summary Statement or, better, a Summary Statement beginning with a phrase identifying your profession.
- Use power words. For every skill, accomplishment, or job described, use the most active impressive verb you can think of (which is also accurate). Begin the sentence with this verb, except when you must vary the sentence structure to avoid repetitious writing.
- Show you are results-oriented. Wherever possible, prove that you have the desired qualifications through clear strong statement of accomplishments, rather than a statement of potentials, talents, or responsibilities. Indicate results of work done, and quantify these accomplishment whenever appropriate. For example: "Initiated and directed complete automation of the Personnel Department, resulting in time-cost savings of over 25%." Additionally, preface skill and experience statements with the adjectives "proven" and "demonstrated" to create this results-orientation.
- Writing is concise and to the point. Keep sentences as short and direct as possible. Eliminate any extraneous information and any repetitions. Don't use three examples when one will suffice. Say what you want to say in the most direct way possible, rather than trying to impress with bigger words or more complex sentences. For example: "coordinated eight city-wide fund-raising events, raising 250% more than expected goal" rather than "was involved in the coordination of six fund- raising dinners and two fund-raising walkathons which attracted participants throughout St. Louis and were so extremely successful that they raised $5,000 (well beyond the $2,000 goal)."
- Vary long sentences (if these are really necessary) with short punchy sentences. Use phrases rather than full sentences when phrases are possible, and start sentences with verbs, eliminating pronouns ("I", "he" or "she"). Vary words: Don't repeat a "power" verb or adjective in the same paragraph. Use commas to clarify meaning and make reading easier. Remain consistent in writing decisions such as use of abbreviations and capitalizations.
- Make it look great. Use a laser printer or an ink jet printer that produces high- quality results. A laser is best because the ink won't run if it gets wet. It should look typeset. Do not compromise. If you do, your resume will look pathetic next to ones that have a perfect appearance. Use a standard conservative typeface (font) in 11 or 12 point. Don't make them squint to read it. Use off-white, ivory or bright white 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper, in the highest quality affordable. If you are applying for a senior-level position, use Crane's 100% rag paper and make sure the water-mark is facing the right way. Use absolutely clean paper without smudges, without staples and with a generous border. Don't have your resume look like you squeezed too much on the page.
- Shorter is ususally better. Everyone freely gives advice on resume length. Most of these self-declared experts say a resume should always be one page. That makes no more sense than it does to say an ad or a poem should automatically be one page. Your resume can be 500 pages long if you can keep the reader's undivided attention and interest that long, and at the same time create a psychological excitement that leads prospective employers to pick up the phone and call you when they finish your weighty tome. Don't blindly follow rules! Do what works. Sometimes it is appropriate to have a three pager. But unless your life has been filled with a wide assortment of extraordinary achievements, make it shorter. One page is best if you can cram it all into one page. Most Fortune 500 C.E.O.s have a one- or two-page resume. It could be said that, the larger your accomplishments, the easier to communicate them in few words. Look to others in your profession to see if there is an established agreement about resume length in your field. The only useful rule is to not write one more word than you need to get them to pick up the phone and call you. Don't bore them with the details. Leave them wanting more. Remember, this is an ad to market you, not your life history.
- Length of consulting resumes. In a consulting resume, you are expected to shovel it as deep as you possibly can. If you are selling your own consulting services, make it sizzle, just like any other resume, but include a little more detail, such as a list of well-known clients, powerful quotes from former clients about how fantastic you are, etc. If you are seeking a job with a consulting firm that will be packaging you along with others as part of a proposal, get out your biggest shovel and go to town. Include everything except the name of your goldfish: A full list of publications, skills, assignments, other experience, and every bit of educational crapola that you can manage to make sound related to your work. The philosophy here is: more is better.
- Watch your verb tense. Use either the first person ("I") or the third person (''he," "she") point of view,but use whichever you choose consistently. Verb tenses are based on accurate reporting: If the accomplishment is completed, it should be past tense. If the task is still underway, it should be present tense. If the skill has been used in the past and will continue to be used, use present tense ("conduct presentations on member recruitment to professional and trade associations"). A way of "smoothing out" transitions is to use the past continuous ("have conducted more than 20 presentations...").
- Break it up. A good rule is to have no more than six lines of writing in any one writing "block" or paragraph (summary, skill section, accomplishment statement, job description, etc.). If any more than this is necessary, start a new section or a new paragraph.
- Experience before education...usually. Experience sections should come first, before education, in most every case. This is because you have more qualifications developed from your experience than from your education. The exceptions would be 1) if you have just received or are completing a degree in a new professional field, if this new degree study proves stronger qualifications than does your work experience, 2) if you are a lawyer, with the peculiar professional tradition of listing your law degrees first, 3) if you are an undergraduate student, or 4) if you have just completed a particularly impressive degree from a particularly impressive school, even if you are staying in the same field, for example, an MBA from Harvard.
- Telephone number that will be answered. Be sure the phone number on the resume will, without exception, be answered by a person or an answering machine Monday through Friday 8-5pm. You do not want to lose the prize interview merely because there was no answer to your phone, and the caller gave up. Include the area code of the telephone number. If you don't have an answering machine, get one. Include e-mail and fax numbers, if you have them.
- Try not to include anything on the resume that could turn the employer off, anything that is controversial (political, etc.) or could be taken in a negative light.
Put the most important information on the first line of a writing "block" or paragraph. The first line is read the most.
- Use bold caps for your name on page one. Put your name at the top of page two on a two-page resume. Put section headings, skill headings, titles or companies (if impressive), degrees, and school name (if impressive), in boldface.
- Spell out numbers under and including ten; use the numerical form for numbers over and including 11 (as a general rule), unless they are the first words in a sentence. Spell out abbreviations unless they are unquestionably obvious.
- If you are not sure what sort of job you are looking for, you will most likely wind up in something that turns out to be just a "job." In a "job" you exchange your life for money. It is possible to choose a career that will fit you so well that you do it because you like to go to work.
WHAT NOT TO PUT ON A RESUME
- The word "Resume" at the top of the resume
- Fluffy rambling "objective" statements
- Salary information
- Full addresses of former employers
- Reasons for leaving jobs
- A "Personal" section, or personal statistics (except in special cases)
- Names of supervisors
QUESTIONS A PRO WOULD ASK YOU
- What key qualifications will the employer be looking for?
- What qualifications will be most important to them that you possess?
- Which of these are your greatest strengths?
- What are the highlights of your career to date that should be emphasized?
- What should be de-emphasized?
- What things about you and your background make you stand out?
- What are your strongest areas of skill and expertise? Knowledge? Experience?
- What are some other skills you possess--perhaps more auxiliary skills?
- What are characteristics you possess that make you a strong candidate? (Things like "innovative, hard-working, strong interpersonal skills, ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously under tight deadlines")
- What are the three or four things you feel have been your greatest accomplishments?
- What was produced as a result of your greatest accomplishments?
- Can you quantify the results you produced in numerical or other specific terms?
- What were the two or three accomplishments of that particular job?
- What were the key skills you used in that job? What did you do in each of those skill areas?
- What sorts of results are particularly impressive to people in your field?
- What results have you produced in these areas?
- What are the "buzz words" that people in your field expect you to use in lieu of a secret club handshake, which should be included in your resume?
Superb Cover Letter Writing Tips
- Research the organization and the job to understand the firm's needs and priorities. This helps a lot in deciding the main points for the cover letter.
- The approach should be simple, avoiding jargons and technical terms. Avoid dramatic style or flowery language.
- Use a white executive bond paper of A4 size and use word processor with eligible font.
- Don't confuse the reader with your covering letter. Keep the letter clear, simple and concise. Limit your letter to not more than one page. Be assertive and adopt a confident tone throughout the covering letter.
- Direct your letter to a specific person; try your best to research the contact person in charge, and address the person in a polite manner by last name preceded by Mr. or Ms. (Dear Mr/Ms.X). This is particularly important for speculative inquires when the job hasn't been advertised and you are not sure who is in charge of recruitment. If all your attempts fail, top your letter with "to the HR Manager/Personnel Manager" or equivalent, and address the person as 'Dear Sir or Madam'. Avoid using "To whom it may concern".
- Be brief and to the point, keeping a professional business tone to your letter. Briefly mention why you are interested in this company in specific. Research some information about the company and its activities.
- Limit your paragraphs to a maximum of four to five lines. Use the covering letter to show your suitability for the post; how you match the skills and experience the employer is looking for.
If you are applying to a specific job advertisement make sure this is clear in the letter, most commonly this should form part of the opening paragraph. Avoid repeating what is in your resume but rather refer to it for more details.
- If you are making a speculative application, you need to research the company beforehand to make sure that they have jobs that will suit you. Make sure that your letter is clear about what you want - a full-time job, a part time job, or work experience.
- Always use Action verbs and end in a positive note. Instead of writing "I hope you will find", say "I am confident that my experience will add"
- Sign your letter. You signature is very important at the bottom of the letter. Never forget to put your signature.
- Make sure of the correct spelling of name and title of the recipient. And check the spellings and grammar. You may also have a friend or colleague proof-read your letter for possible errors. Be aware, one single mistake could prove to be brutal.
- Tailor your letter to the recipient. Do not have a ready-made cover letter for all potential employers.
- As funny as it may sound, ensure that you do not put an ABC's cover letter in an XYZ's envelope!
- If you are sending your resume and covering letter through e-mail, check your letter and attachment for viruses.
- Follow up on your letter and call your recipient on the day you specified.
- Keep in mind that a well-written cover letter not only enhances, but also augments your resume. It gives you an edge over others. The interview call and offer letter will not be far behind!
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