Resumes: An Introduction
A resume, no matter how good, will not get you a job by itself. However, a good resume will attract the attention of the hiring manager and secure a job interview. The purpose of a resume is to disclose your accomplishments and qualifications to a potential employer. If the employer likes what she sees, she will contact you for a face to face meeting.
Think of your resume as a promotional brochure about you. You need to show a potential employer what you have accomplished and where your experience lies. Your strategy should be to emphasize the experience and skills that a particular employer is looking for.
Your resume is also an example of your communication and organizational skills. A well done resume is itself another reminder of what kind of valuable employee you would be. Likewise, a sloppily produced resume is a terrific way to get yourself taken out of the running before it even starts.
There is a lot of information available on resumes and resume writing--some of it contradictory, but most of it useful. Our advice is to find a good book on resumes and learn the fundamentals of resume writing. Try to stay with the most current material you can; resume advice follows trends. The Internet is home to plenty of free advice and information, but in most cases that information will be less detailed than a good resume guide.
Once your resume is complete, post your resume to MSN JobHunt
With so many different employment experiences possible, there is no single resume template that works for everyone. There are, however, generally accepted ways to arrange the information on your resume to present it in the best light.
The two styles that are discussed most often are the Chronological format and the Functional format. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to presenting your information. A third style, the Combination, is a compromise between the two and has become more popular in recent years. CareerBuilder gives you an overview of each format to help you decide which is best for you.
This is the most common resume style, and the one that employers prefer. In the Chronological format, the emphasis is placed on employment experience. The applicant's job history is presented in reverse chronological order, with the most recent jobs placed at the top of the list.
The Chronological resume is good if your recent job experience is relevant to the job you are applying for, and you want to stay on a similar career path. Potential employers can easily see what you have done, and how you have progressed and garnered experience.
Despite its popularity, there are some reasons why the Chronological format may not be right for you. If you are just entering the workforce from school, a resume like this may actually highlight your lack of experience. You may have held jobs recently that have no relevance to the position you're applying for. If you are re-entering the workforce after a substantial absence, this resume will highlight your recent inactivity. Any large gaps in your recent employment history will be evident, and you may be asked about them.
Likewise, a job history full of briefly held jobs might lead a potential employer to question your ability to remain employed. A long employment history at a single company will reveal your age to some extent, something you may not feel comfortable doing.
In this non-linear format, your skills and achievements are emphasized. Your employment history is summarized or avoided all together. Your skills and previous relevant experience (including educational experience) are presented at the beginning of your resume. They are organized so the employer can see how your skills relate to the job position you are applying for. (In a Chronological resume, employers may simply be looking at the jobs you have held previously to see if you have the experience they are looking for.) It may take more effort to write a Functional resume, but you are free to highlight your talents instead of your recent job experience.
The Functional resume can be particularly effective if you've held a
number of similar positions; it will allow you to highlight your skills
rather than itemize what might be a redundant looking job history.
But the Functional resume may also raise concerns in some employers' minds
as to whether you are withholding information. This doesn't mean that functional
resumes are ignored or that they can't be effective. But an employer looking
for a clear job history may be put off by the Functional format, especially
if you've used a Functional resume to hide your inexperience or a long
gap in your employment history.
If you don't have any problems with the reverse Chronological format, use it instead. If you still like the idea of the Functional format, you may want to make it more acceptable by combining it with the Chronological format and creating a Combination resume.
The Combination resume is simply a Functional resume with a brief employment history added. Skills and accomplishments are still listed first; the employment history follows. You need to reveal where you worked, when you worked, and what your job position was. This will allay an employer's worries about your experience, and it still allows you to emphasize your talents and how you would use them for the job you are applying for. While most employers might still prefer a Chronological resume, this is a good alternative to the Functional resume.
Resume Writing Tips
CareerBuilder offers this collection of wisdom for fine-tuning a resume into a winner:
Keep it concise.
Employers have lots to do, so don't make the mistake of asking them to read through an unnecessarily long resume. A long, wordy resume will put off someone who is already short on time. Resumes should be one page, if possible, and two if absolutely necessary to describe relevant work experience. A two page resume is no advantage if it's full of information that isn't reasonably applicable to the position you're applying for. Use the space only if you need it to fully disclose your accomplishments.
Make your words count.
Your use of language is extremely important; you need to sell yourself to an employer quickly and effeciently. Address your potential employer's needs with a clearly written, compelling resume.
· Avoid large paragraphs (over six or seven lines). Resumes are often scanned by hiring managers. If you provide small, digestible pieces of information you stand a better chance of having your resume actually read.Make the most of your experience.
· Use action verbs such as "developed," "managed," and "designed" to emphasize your accomplishments.
· Don't use declarative sentences like "I developed the..." or "I assisted in..."; leave out the "I."
· Avoid passive constructions, such as "was responsible for managing." It's not only more efficient to say "Managed," it's stronger and more active.
· Don't be vague. Describe things that can be measured objectively. Telling someone that you "improved warehouse efficiency" doesn't say much. Telling them that you "cut requisition costs by 20%, saving the company $3800 for the fiscal year" does. Employers will feel more comfortable hiring you if they can verify your accomplishments.Don't neglect appearance.
· Be honest. There is a difference between making the most of your experience and exaggerating or falsifying it. A falsified resume can be easily spotted by an employer (if not immediately then during the interview process), and if it doesn't prevent you from getting the job, it can cost you the job later on.
· Check your resume for proper grammar and correct spelling-evidence of good communication skills and attention to detail. Nothing can ruin your chances of getting a job faster than submitting resume filled with (easily preventable) mistakes.
· Make your resume easy on the eyes. Use normal margins (1" on the top and bottom, 1.25" on the sides) and don't cram your text onto the page. Allow for some breathing room between the different sections. Avoid unusual or exotic font styles; use simple fonts with a professional look.Target. Target. Target.
· Use standard, non-textured, fine-grained paper in white or ivory. Keep in mind that textured and dark colored paper may not copy well when the employer makes copies to pass around to other participants in the hiring process.
· If you need to copy your resume, make sure your copies are clean and clear. Even the best looking resume can be ruined by a poor copier. Use only copiers maintained for professional copying.
Eliminate superfluous details
Unnecessary details can take up a lot of valuable space on your resume.
· Don't mention personal characteristics such as age, height, and marital status. This is information that employers may not legally solicit from you, and they would probably be more comfortable if you don't volunteer it yourself.
· List your hobbies and interests only if you can relate them to the position you're applying for. If you need room to describe your work experience, avoid this altogether.
· The phrase "References available upon request" should be left off if you need room to describe your work experience. Most employers assume you have references they may contact, and will request them if there's a need to do so.
· Avoid the "Objective" statement--your objective should be clearly articulated in your cover letter. If you do include an objective, be specific. Vague statements, such as "Looking to utilize my marketing skills" or "seeking a rewarding position" add nothing to a resume and may in fact make you appear insincere.
An electronic resume is simply your resume in a format that can be sent over e-mail or the Internet. The advantage to having an electronic resume is simple--you can respond via e-mail or the Web to job openings posted all over the world. No faxing or mailing necessary.
If your resume is on a computer or floppy diskette, you already have
it in electronic format; that's not to say, however, that it's in the most
useful format. While it's true that most e-mail systems can accommodate
document attachments--be they in Word, WordPerfect, Quark or otherwise--it
won't be true that every person or organization to whom you'd like to send
such a document is willing or able to receive it in that format. Plain
text (also called ASCII Text or MS-DOS Text and recognized by its three
letter file extension:.txt), however, is universally accessible and, in
many cases, required.
To make your electronic resume universally accessible, follow these steps:
· Using a standard word processing application, compose a resume as you normally would. Note that plain text format is very basic--it does not recognize formatting such as bullets, bold facing or italicized text. Consider using asterisks (*), plus symbols (+) and capital letters to achieve similar effects. In any case, make sure your resume is legible in the absence of these formatting features.When sending an electronic resume, remember to:
· If the word processing application permits, set your margins at 0 and 65 characters (This means that your longest line, including spaces, exceeds 65 characters before wrapping to a new line.) This makes your resume easier to read and, just as importantly, safe to print.
· Using the "Save" command (or, if you're converting a document from another format, the "Save As..." command), save your document as an ASCII or MS-DOS Text document. Remember to append the .txt extension on to the file name, e.g. "resume.txt"
· Include a cover letter and be sure to note where you found the ad.Return to Prof. Peabody's Homepage
· Send the resume and cover letter in one file. You can do this by writing or pasting your cover letter in the space before your resume. You can also send your cover letter as an e-mail message with your electronic resume as a file attachment.
· Use the job title and/or job reference number as the subject of your message. Cite any relevant job numbers noted in the ad.
· Follow up with an e-mail or phone call a week or so after you submit it.
Once your resume is complete, post your resume to MSN JobHunt.