These resume writing related tips — choosing the best resume style, tips for highlighting career accomplishments, and more — have been gathered from numerous sources throughout Quintessential Careers and organized here for your convenience.
Updating one’s resume as the first step in job-hunting is often a knee-jerk reaction and may not be the best initial approach, according to Debra Feldman, specialist in cyber-savvy strategic job-search consultations, in the Q&A interviewshe did with Quintessential Careers. “This reaction just leads to an updated version of a document that may not adequately represent all that a person can offer a potential employer,” Feldman says. “It would be far better if each person spent the first phase of the job search figuring out just what he or she wants to do and uniquely has to offer. Then the next step would be to determine what types of businesses might best utilize such talents, and using that industry’s jargon, prepare a resume reflecting this match of skills and abilities to potential employer’s needs. The best way to get an interview — and only the interview itself can lead to something bigger, a job offer — is to tailor a resume for each specific company where you know that you can make a difference. This technique will separate you from the other candidates. Yes, you will give up more generalized opportunities, but who likes to buy generic brands over the name brand, given the same price?”
“Strictly traditional chronological resumes no longer meet the needs of employers,” observed resume writer Deb Dib in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Employers want problem-solvers who can immediately and profitably react to the almost instantaneous changes in the marketplace. An achievement-oriented resume, one that showcases the applicant’s relevant achievements in a CAR (Challenge/Action/Result) format and places them in a position of prominence above the traditional job chronology, should prove the applicant’s value to the employer and secure an interview.”
The Career Planning & Placement Center at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb IL, offer its students a small selection of Resume Templates in both Word and .pdf formats. As with any resume resource, we don’t agree with every aspect of the way these resumes are set up, but NIU’s Career Planning & Placement Center based the templates on feedback from its constituents, so they’re solidly grounded in research. Templates can also be a great way to get started for anyone who’s never done a resume before.
Resumes are subjective documents to be sure. Even if you follow the best advice from career experts, your resume is subject to the individual tastes of employers — which may differ from the experts’ advice. What’s the best way to tailor a resume to a hiring manager’s preferences? Call up and ask how he or she likes resumes. The advice career expert Dale Dauten offered some years back remains valid today. He tells the story of calling a human resources office to ask what kind of resume the person who screens resumes likes to see. “Really short. No baloney. Crisp,” is what the HR person told him. Anyone making such a call will be armed with the perfect information for targeting that particular employer. If you’re not comfortable talking to the hiring manager, ask an assistant or secretary — who will likely have a good handle on the boss’s preferences.
One of the big myths about job-hunting is that the more general you are about what you want to do, the more opportunities you will have, noted career development therapist Janet Scarborough in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “In fact, it is just the opposite. Simply clarifying a specific career goal and adding a focused positioning to your resume does wonders to increase marketability for many people. Hiring managers will not take the time to determine for you what a good match should be with your interests, values, and abilities” Scarborough observes.
“Increasingly, almost all transactions related to the early stages of the hiring process have now migrated to the Web,” says Gerry Crispen, co-author of CareerXroads: The 2002 Directory to Job, Resume and Career Management Sites on the Web (available in our Career Bookstore). As reported by Reuters, Crispen advises any applicant to apply online, largely because of the time factor. By the time you send your hard-copy resume through the mail, an employer is likely to have already processed hundreds of electronic resumes zapped into cyberspace in response to the same opening.
“Job seekers should always remember that the employer has little or no interest in what the job seeker wants from a job,” cautioned resume writer Deb Dib in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “They want to know what the job seeker can do for them; what bottom-line impact will they have, and how soon can they expect that impact. All personal marketing materials must be written with that vision. The biggest mistake jobseekers make is to focus their resume on themselves by using a boring objective and strictly chronological listing of jobs. A great resume focuses on the job seeker’s targeted market and uses a defined strategy to show the applicant’s value to the employer.”
Here’s a tip for following up an e-mailed resume submission to a company’s Web site. In their syndicated column, Kate Wendleton and Dale Dauten advise mailing a hard-copy version of your resume and cover letter as a follow up to an online submission through the employer’s site. “As it nears the time to actually make the decision about whom to interview,” Dauten writes, “paper has the advantages: Managers can easily take a stack of resumes to lunch or on a bus; they can circle items of interest or make notes right on the resume; the person leading the hiring can sit with colleagues and look together at the candidates’ qualifications; and finally, many hiring managers will use resumes in interviews.” Dauten adds that mailing a paper version ensures that the resume will arrive looking the way you intended, “while having both versions circulating can only improve your chances of your resume ending up in front of the right pair of eyes.”
Career counselor Michelle Watson notes that “employers are seeking success stories.” In the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers, Watson observed that “resumes are now focusing not only on “regular” job descriptions, but also include concrete, measurable accomplishments. Physical portfolios, long thought of as tools for artists, will become commonplace as candidates strive to show their talents, not just talk about them.”
- Join clubs and organizations. Doing so makes you seem well-rounded and socially adept.
- Take on leadership roles. Volunteer for lead positions because most employers seek leadership skills.
- Organize an event. You show initiative, innovation, and organizational skills when you do so.
- Do a meaningful internship. Gunhus asserts that an internship is the BEST way to help yourself after graduation.
Read our review of the book.
Avoid small, stupid mistakes on application letters and resumes, advised Phil Hey, professor of English and writing at Briar Cliff College, in the Q&A interview he did with Quintessential Careers. “People have no idea how visible and powerful such mistakes can be, but often one mistake will take a candidate out of the running. Over-relying on spell checkers is a common source of such errors. Candidates have to learn to use their own skills, and they should have several good proofreaders as friends.”
- You can make new contacts — so important since the majority of jobs come from networking.
- You can develop new skills, including the so-called “soft skills,” such as teamwork and awareness of diversity.
- You can hone your ability to manage time.
- You can learn to influence others without possessing and exerting power, which Rehberg cites as an important skill in the less hierarchical workplace of today.
- And finally, the bottom line consists of great experience to list on your resume, especially important if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while.
“A job seeker in any economy must brand herself or himself as does any good marketer of a product,” noted resume writer Deb Dib in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Personal career management today and in the future will mean creating a brand awareness, of becoming known in one’s industry for certain innate qualities and quantifiable achievements that drive efficiency, innovation, and/or profits. Resumes and other personal marketing documents must be kept up to date, business, industry and/or technical knowledge must always be expanded, and networking must always be happening. Looking out for new opportunities must become second nature.”
Kemba Dunham recently noted in The Wall Street Journal that some job applicants are willing to try anything to find employment. Instead of mailing out resumes, one creative job seeker in New York printed his resume on two poster boards. Sandwiched between the displays, he stood on a Manhattan corner and handed out 1,000 paper resumes. And his off-the-wall stunt paid off, landing 45 interviews and 20 job offers. A less successful resume gimmick involved a graphic designer who applied to a Web site for pet owners by wrapping her resume in a dog collar and inscribing her name on a bone-shaped ID tag. Also placing a coffee stain on her cover letter to Starbucks, she hoped her mailing would stand out from the rest. Both gimmicks generated responses, but no job.
There are three common mistakes that most job-seekers make, according to author Jeffrey Fox. Fox lists the three errors in the Q&A interview he did with Quintessential Careers: “Mistake #1 is using one resume for every company when all companies are different. Mistake #2 is to substitute networking for doing company research. Networking is fine, but job-seekers overly depend on this strategy. Mistake #3 is starting with the human resource or personnel department of a company. The human resource people are not the hirers (unless one is looking for a job in personnel); they are gatekeepers. The human resources people look for reasons to reject. In the book, Don’t Send A Resume, several short chapters help job-seekers navigate the job seeking process, avoiding the common mistakes. Basically, every job-seeker is unique and special, and should market herself or himself in a special way.”
Read our review of the book.
A recent survey of 416 U.S. recruiters by Manchester Inc., a staffing firm based in Jacksonville, FL, found that 82 percent of respondents prefer to receive resumes by e-mail, reports Bari Faye Siegel in Collegejournal.com. Of those preferring e-mailed resumes, 44 percent prefer to receive resumes as attached Word documents. Some recruiters say that understanding how to attach documents to e-mail is key to showing you grasp current technology. One tip: Recruiters receive dozens of attached resumes with the file name resume.doc, so personalize yours. Example: SallyJonesResume.doc.
Listing jobs on one’s resume in a functional format versus the traditional chronological format is a current trend, according to college career counselor Ellen Bourhis Nolan. In the Q&A interview Nolan did with Quintessential Careers, she noted that a functional format allows experiences related to the job the candidate is applying for to be viewed first.
“To avoid problems with this format,” Nolan cautions, “make sure your resume is in a very reader-friendly format. Have everything laid out so it is easy to skim, especially dates. I feel confusing layouts may be why some employers do not like this format — because it is more difficult to determine a clear employment history and whether the job-hunter has had a satisfactory job history. If the history is laid out clearly, with dates standing out to one side of one margin or the other and employers can skim down them readily, employers will not mind this format as much, if at all. Give your resume the once-over and decide if information is easy to pick out. If it is, then you have written a good resume. If it isn’t, try a different format, such as using bold or underlining or italics to get certain information to stand out.”
- A job candidate with skills (quality) who is a…
- corporate fit (value) tucked into a …
- professional image (package).
Initially you acquire the interview by focusing careful attention to developing your resume. It’s important to remember that a resume never buys a job. It merely buys an appointment for an interview. By handling the interview as a champion, you will get a job offer. Think of your resume as a product description. You are the product! Once you entice the employer (buyer), you are halfway there. A professional resume writer can easily convey your skills in an accurate assessment appropriate to the position you are applying for. Once you’ve accomplished that, the interview stage is potentially easier than wading through the sea of good and bad resumes.
Echoing a sentiment that we certainly agree with, resume writer JoAnn Nix recently gave the following advice in an interview on the Guru.com Web site: “A resume should be accomplishment-oriented, not responsibility-driven. The biggest mistake that I see in the resumes people send me is that they list responsibilities. That doesn’t grab anybody’s attention. People aren’t interested in your responsibilities. They already know the general responsibilities of a position so they don’t want to know what you do from day to day. They want to know that you’re a mover and a shaker: How you contribute to the organization, how you show initiative, that you can be a key player. That’s what they want to see.
Asked to share a job-hunting secret that is not widely known, Maureen Crawford Hentz says: “Give your resume to people. Don’t ask THEM for positions, but instead ask them to pass on your resume to anyone they hear is looking for a great candidate.” Maureen is an independent career and HR consultant and regular contributor to QuintZine.
According to Phil Hey, professor of English and writing at Briar Cliff College, the most common mistake students make on their resumes and cover letters is a failure to give evidence of achievement — proof that their actions had positive, recognized results. In the Q&A interview Hey did with Quintessential Careers, he noted, “Employers don’t want a dead history of education and job descriptions; they want some outcomes that show that the applicant really can produce on the job.”
Your e-mail address is a must on your resume, but what if the e-mail name you’ve chosen (especially if you use a free, Web-based service like Hotmail or Yahoo) doesn’t sound too professional — something like SexyMama@domainname.com? Most experts agree you should change your e-mail handle to something more professional for your resume.
Avoid expressions like “Responsibilities included,” “Duties included,” and “Responsible for” on your resume. Why? Because describing your job responsibilities is tantamount to reciting a job description, which in turn tells the prospective employer that you did the bare minimum in the job. “Duties” and “responsibilities” comprise job-description language. Instead, focus on language that spotlights accomplishments and achievements. How did you take initiative in the job? What did you do on the job that was different or better than anyone else holding that job? It’s not always easy to describe the value you added for your former employers, but doing so is a lot more effective than listing responsibilities and duties.
Studies show resumes are taken more seriously if they’re on heavy paper. That doesn’t mean print your resume on cardboard, but look for 24 or 28 lb. paper. See more great resume tips at Quintessential Careers’ Resume Tutorial.
Most career experts say that the line on your resume that reads “References available upon request” is highly optional because it’s understood. But the line can serve one good purpose when it’s the very last line of your resume — to signal just that finality to the reader. It’s a handy way of saying “The End” at the conclusion of your resume, says Susan Britton Whitcomb in Resume Magic (available in our Resume Books Bookstore). Now, if you’re trying to conserve space on your resume, the “References available upon request” line is one of the first things you can let go.
It’s that age-old job-hunting conundrum: How can you gain the “real-world” experience employers are looking for when they won’t give you a job that would enable you to get the experience? College students can ward off this dilemma by working in internships or co-ops while in school. Employers are looking for college grads who not only have the academic knowledge, but also have some real-world experience. If you don’t have experience directly in your preferred career field but have work, volunteer, and/or extracurricular experience, you can develop a functional resume focusing on some of your key technical and transferable skills.
Worried about confidentiality when you post your resume online? There certainly is validity to wanting to be discreet about job-hunting when you are currently employed. You wouldn’t want your current employer to do a search for a position and get your resume from one of these job sites. The good news is that many job boards now offer you a confidentiality option — thus your resume is still out there getting viewed, but you control who actually knows it is your resume. A few other job sites even allow you to block your resume from going to certain companies, thus allowing no chance that your current employer will see your resume.
If you were not able to gain work experience while attending college, you may need to present your college experience creatively. Review your years of school to see if you can develop a list of experiences — they do not need to be paid experiences — where you have used, developed, and honed skills. For example, have you done any class projects, major research studies, or reports? You will also probably want to develop a functional resume. Read Should You Consider a Functional Resume? to get more tips and advice.
Find even more resume tips in Critical Resume Tips: Key Resume Writing Advice — #2.
Check out all of our Quick and Quintessential Strategic Resume Tips.