The Quick and Dirty Guide to Resumes

It’s the biggest business card you’ll ever own and, more often than not, it may be the sole standard by which you get a callback from an employer. It’s your resume and its not just a retelling of what you have done, but a forecast of what you will do. With the Internet boom of the mid 1990s, the technology sector, as well as many other industries, was flush with venture capital dollars urging them to staff up and strike out to make their fortunes in what is now dubbed the “digital” economy. With the rollover to the new millennium that rabid hiring season went the way of the Dodo and business is now faced with having to be exceptionally choosy about new hires.

Thus, the competitive job seeker is faced with garnering every possible edge to land that dream job. Resumes, however, don’t need to be complex animals. They are living documents, subject to change with each new position and are far less structured than those obsolete models of the past. Also, the shorter the resume, the easier it is to follow. In most cases, a resume should be no more than a single page, two at the most. Remember, this is a resume, not a curriculum vita as used in the academic world. A six-page resume tells the hiring officer that he/she has a lot of reading ahead and it’s just too easy to skip to the next resume. Chances are, someone out there is just as skilled as you are and if the recruiter looks hard enough, they will find them, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot with a resume that reads like it should start with the phrase, “Before I left the womb, IâÂ?¦” Keep it simple and the next candidate hired will be you.

But there’s more to a resume than just keeping it short. The following are six tips for how to present yourself more ably to recruiters. Apply them to your resume creation process and you’ll find that you’ll get callbacks more often.

1. No single resume fits every situation. In a lot of job searches, especially for new or soon-to-be college grads, the advice has been simple: build a resume and pass it out to as many potential employers as possible. A lot of recruiters call this the “Dart Toss” and don’t give many of these candidates due consideration.

Example: A college grad might be seeking employment at the Textile Corporation in town, but the degree earned was in biology. However, as a student, both in high school and college, you interned with a large clothing manufacturer. Not all degrees dictate the future job, but if the resume is not tailored to the position desired, recruiters may give it a once over and toss it aside.

When creating a resume, make sure you are targeting the resume for that specific position. If the job seeker is looking for a position as a reporter and has a number of resumes that outline the proper experience, they might work for a number of employers in the same field, but not for all employers. Example: A resume targeted for a general news reporter position at a daily or monthly is not going to work for a trade magazine within the metallurgy field, despite the fact that both jobs are essentially communication-based.

2. The “Objective” line is unnecessary. In the job market of the past, resumes were set up in a rigid format when the resume was the only thing to be considered. These days, recruiters will know what a job candidate is looking for because it was spelled out in your cover letter. Always remember that your cover letter is the 60-second version of your resume.

3. Skills, Knowledge and Experience. In crafting a resume, where you are in the employment continuum is important – executives often need a different kind of resume than those who are mid-level managers. Students and recent college graduates also need a different kind of resume because of a lack of experience. It’s interesting that those just starting out and those who are at the pinnacle of their career generally warrant the same type of resume – the Skills resume. Here, the key is accomplishments and abilities rather than a litany of positions held.

Example: Ben has been in paper manufacturing for 20 years and is vying for a vice president position at a competitor. Rather than focusing on every job he did working up through the industry, his resume should focus on what he’s done using active verbs:
– Over 20 years experience in paper manufacturing management – Led design team that implemented key product generating $120 million in annual revenues
– Successfully managed employee corps of 300

The skills area, whether only a portion of the resume (as in the case of someone with a lot of practical experience) or the majority of the resume, will be key in telling the employer what a candidate CAN DO for them, rather than what they have done for others. This part of the resume ignites the mind of the prospective employer by showcasing talents that, in a typical job description, go unnoticed. For example, our executive, Ben, from above, may have been primarily in research and design but has a number of highly developed management skills that would be an asset to his employer and set him apart from other candidates. It’s also a good idea to set this situation off by competency areas, such as Management, Sales, Project Management, Forecasting, Marketing, Development, etc. This is especially helpful if an employer has let it known that they have certain competency areas that are important to the position. In this situation, you have to think like the recruiter or hiring representative. If a company is seeking a Sales Manager for the field sales team, it might be a good idea to break up skills and accomplishments into Field Sales Successes, Marketing, and Staff Management areas to really focus on your ability to be the next key player in that post.

4. Work History. Despite what the high school English teacher said, tenses are not always uniform. When describing a current position, it’s a good idea to use present tense. For previous jobs, use past tense. Example: Current – Supervise a quality control team of five Past – Supervised a quality control team of five with no turnover for six years Further, work history should be bulleted or broken into simple, short phrases. They do not need to be complete sentences but rather, they should reflect achievements and challenges overcome in the work area. If a management style possessed by a candidate saved the employer $5,000, this should be noted. Also, giving a general but brief description of the job is helpful. It lets employers know if they have similar positions in the company and gives them something to ask you about during the interview.

5. Education and Training. This should go last, along with other professional training and credentials. Education is not the key focus. School, degree program, degree type, GPA and dates attended are the only necessary information.

6. References Available Upon Request. A longtime staple of the resume world, this is an unnecessary addition to your resume. Remember that with resumes shorter is better, so lines like “References available upon request,” can be eliminated, the opportunity should be taken. You should have those references ready on a separate sheet, prepared for the job interview. Have a good mix of professional and personal references, perhaps four of each, with complete contact information. This is good to have prepared in advance because more and more corporations are having resume-bearing applicants fill out applications, even for senior positions. It’s frustrating to get to this stage and find that each of them must be contacted right now to get the information.

Remember, always be ready to review and revise your resume so that it is tailored like an expensive suit to the position you desire. In this, regardless of your sales experience, you are the sales expert on the unique product known as you, and only you really know you and how you should be shown to the public. Make sure this comes across in the resume.

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