Question: “What are the key elements and rules of job-search resumes today?”
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Let me first talk about the function of job-search resumes. A resume is a key job-seeker selling/marketing tool that you develop, write, and polish to get your foot in the door — to get yourself a job interview. A resume is a statement of facts: education, skills, accomplishments, work history.
Things that do not belong on resumes: personal information, names of supervisors, and salary/wage information.
Finally, always proofread carefully; a resume should have no spelling errors or typos.
Okay, with that introduction, let’s look at the most important issues you need to deal with in creating or polishing a job-search resume today.
First, a resume should always be customized to the job and employer. There is simply no excuse not to create a different resume for each job opportunity you seek. Certainly, you should develop one strong resume that then serves as a kind of template for modifying as you apply to different positions. For example, for similar jobs that stress different strengths, you should adjust your resume for each job — to play up the skills each employer seeks based on the job description. I also recommend using some of the same words and phrases on your resume that the employer uses in the job description.
Second, your resume should have a section at the top that describes your key accomplishments and attributes… these sections are generally referred to as a “Qualifications Summary” or “Professional Profile.” Think of this section as the executive summary of your resume. If the hiring manager was only going to read this section, would it be enough to sell him/her on calling you for an interview? Use short, bulleted phrases — and no more than three or four — that highlight accomplishments that illustrate skills relevant to the job.
Third, quantify as many aspects of your experiences and accomplishments as possible. It’s much stronger to say “managed a 100-person staff” than “managed a staff” and “increased efficiency and productivity by 20 percent in first year” than “increased efficiency and productivity.” And if you increased sales or saved the company money, specific dollar amounts are much more impressive.
Fourth, focus descriptions of your experience on accomplishments, not job duties and responsibilities. A sharp focus is an extremely important resume element. Ask yourself, how did I make this job my own? What did I accomplish? If you received accolades, be sure to include those in your description (“received employee of the month four times over two-year period”).
Fifth, looks do matter, so make your resume attractive. Do not use a Word template; instead create your resume from scratch. Use traditional fonts/typefaces, such as Times New Roman, Tahoma, Verdana, Arial. Stick to typical font sizes (10-11 pt.) and use normal margins (about an inch on all sides). Don’t worry so much about going beyond one page — as long as you have quality material to showcase. Use bolding, underlining, and sizing to separate headings. Use bullets and phrases rather than paragraphs. Do not use personal pronouns (I, my, etc.).
Sixth, consider multiple versions of your resume. You should have a minimum of a traditional formatted print resume and a text resume. The traditional resume is important for networking and interviewing situations. The text resume is critical for online job-hunting. And if you have any sort of Web publishing skills, consider a Web-based resume.
For a quick resume refresher, read these articles: 15 Quick Tips for a Winning Resume and Polish Your Resume Like a Pro: 7 Tips Any Job-Seeker Can Use.
For more detailed resume resources, find lots more articles, tutorials, and samples, in this section of Quintessential Careers: Resume and CV Resources for Job-Seekers.
This article is part of a series from The Career Doctor’s Cures & Remedies to Quintessentially Perplexing Career and Job-Hunting Ailments. Read more.
See a list of all the most common college, career, and job questions — and Dr. Hansen’s solutions.
Who is the Career Doctor? Learn more, read his current career column, or browse the column archives when you visit the Career Doctor’s homepage.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is a nationally recognized career and job-search expert. He is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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