The Resume has only ONE purpose, which is to get interviews. These could be on the phone, but we do all we can to be seen in person. Resumes do not lead to jobs, they lead to interviews, and interviews lead to in depth discussions, and that, in turn, leads to offers.
The resume is an advertisement intended to inform and garner interest, to the point employers call you to proceed to the next step. I will tell you now, I recommend taking certain liberties, such as modifying job titles and other details to suit us. All of the effort is focused on generating the reader’s interest. You will generate several versions, including a much-improved “Regular” Version. It’s all part of best resume creation practices and what’s necessary in today’s job market.
My own personal favorite is a resume that begins with a powerful Summary Statement, that catches attention, sets the tone of the rest of the document, highlights you key strengths, and confirms attitude and skills that set you apart from the others.
Examples of before and after resumes follow – go there now!
This is the biggest point of discussion. EVERYONE has an OPINION!! Just ask around, someone will tell you what’s missing. Or, go on the Internet! There are thousands of free advice sites. What makes this different? When you finish this exercise you will understand what resumes are and what will be best in your specific case. We go back to the basic problem, which is, “I do not understand how to sell myself” So, let’s fix that right now, shall we? (and in the process save you hundreds of dollars you would have spent getting your resume “professionally” done!)
I couldn’t count the number of resumes that I have read that cram every bit of information about the applicant’s life into two pages and then they hope it works!
We are going to create a selection of powerful attractive and well-received resumes that will do two things:
MAXIMIZE your chance for an interview and
ELIMINATE any features that are currently inhibiting your being called for an Interview
What we are NOT going to do
We are not going to theorize, postulate, describe in endless details your choices and leave it up to you to figure it out.
The finished product from these exercises WORK and you will see why as we move forward.
The process has two components:
1. The Universal formula for successful resumes and;
2. Targeting for specific industry or use
To attract positive attention, to produce the conclusion in the reader’s mind that this is someone they would want to talk to. It will also answer fundamental questions about experience, education, geographic location and NOT raise issues (AT THIS TIME) that would concern a prospective employer.
We return to the analogy of the fact that this whole job hunting effort is a SALES PROBLEM. The problem is that many are not trained in sales in ANY way and many who are, seem to struggle when it comes to selling themselves.
Think of the resume as the BROCHURE that describes the product for sale (You!) This brochure will be “delivered” to as many prospective buyers as possible. (The plan for how to do this is the subject of the next lesson) One of the problems is that many others are sending their brochures as well.
The job of the company is to sort these into two piles, A and B. I know this will come as a surprise to some of you, but most companies throw out the B list, if not right away, then certainly when they have completed the hire. So the first task is to see that YOUR RESUME GETS ON THE “A” PILE.
We are going to use many of the results from the Achievement Summary by Category for this effort, so make sure that they are handy. (Click the following links to download these exercises, if you have not yet completed them: Achievement Inventory Form and Achievement Category)
A WORD ABOUT COVER LETTERS: only 30-40% of HR or recruiters read them at all. Don’t make the mistake of putting the “good stuff” in the cover letter and hoping the employer will remember or keep them together. We do not go into much depth about cover letters, simply because in the majority of cases, they are not read. But for those cases where you want to include one, I would suggest you make it simple. Here is my resume; I am applying for this particular job and thank you.
The only exception would be senior management, where you would target the cover letter to summarize the key points as to why you are an excellent candidate and restate skill groups that will re-appear in the resume
You are going to make two or three “Targeted” Resumes instead of “One Size Fits All”. It’s the difference between a shotgun and a rifle. The shotgun covers a wide area, does a lot of damage, has a limited range, and is often messy but effective. The rifle is focused, aimed, specific and goes a LOT further and when it hits the target, it is often deadly.
We will create two or three Rifle types and use them in the right instance. As an example, you may be a salesman, but in the last job, you were the Customer Service Manager. We will write a version for both and you can use them where appropriate.
Let’s Get Started
Decide what Version you will write. Collect the Achievement Summary sheets as you will need them.
The page begins with Name Address Contact Numbers and Email, preferably centered on the page.
Using nicknames like Chuck, Butch, Sandy or anything else that might convey a negative. I DO NOT CARE if EVERYONE calls you Butch, or if THEY will EVENTUALLY call you Butch, it does not belong on the resume.
Many people from other cultures have names that we would not readily recognize as male or female. In that case use Mr. or Mrs. or Ms.
If you have an email address that is less than formal or standard such as firstname.lastname@example.org GET ANOTHER ONE!! They’re FREE!!
Next comes SUMMARY. This is an area in which no one agrees, but here is what WORKS. Write a good Summary FOR THIS VERSION. Alternatively, when you know the job you are applying for, make it close but NOT exactly related to the job at hand. Look at the examples closely. They try to highlight what you have added to the jobs, how you are, or our main skills that will be confirmed in the rest of the resume. You use lots of bold and underline for impact and effect. It sets the tone, grabs attention, and helps get you noticed. Review the before and after examples.
Progress So Far
The average person who reads resumes as part of their job spends approximately 15-20 seconds in the first reading. You have made no blunders so far, they know who you are, where you live and how to reach you, and when they read the Summary, were briefly encouraged. You have captured their attention for a brief moment and they will read on with a somewhat heightened interest, until something changes that. We will ensure they stay interested.
Now Comes Education or your most recent employment.
If your education is a positive addition to the job search, put it in here. If it is not related, incomplete or is made up of a long list of related industrial courses, put it last.
- In most cases, particularly if you are degreed, it is not essential to list a lot of courses taken
- Include the year only if you do not care if people know how old you are. We go back 22 before the graduation year to determine date of birth; it is usually accurate within a year of two. Remember, if you do not include the year we think you might be trying to HIDE your age!
- Do NOT use Funky fonts or ones that look like writing
- Do not waste space on blank areas or excessively large left and right margins
- Check for spelling mistakes. The most popular spelling error I see is “Manger” instead of “Manager” When we do spell check using the manger version, spell check passes right over it. It’s a perfectly good word, it is just out of place, and there are a lot more examples than you may think. Remember, a hiring manager concludes that this is your best example of the quality of work you do. If there are mistakes in this, there will be mistakes in the work you do on the job
- Do not list “Other Interests” that could raise questions, such as I run safaris to Africa on my holidays, any activity that could kill you or have you come in a cast. Also avoid anything political, such as I organized last year’s Gay and Lesbian pride parade. There is nothing wrong with having any of these in your life, let the employer discover these gradually, AFTER you are hired.
Most Recent Employment
Name of Company on the same line as Month and Years from and to (if still employed write present i.e. May 2006 to Present)
Brief description of what company does – this is critical to include – see notes to follow.
Your title – most recent position
Achievements in Bullet form See examples
This ought to take up 50% of the first page. There are some exceptions, for example, if the employment was less than 6 months, list two or three achievements. This is the next section the reader slows down for. They want to see you were successful at the last job and how. If you did all of the things they need done in their open job, you go right to the A list. If you did most of what they want done, they will keep reading, even hopeful now and maybe discover other skills they need in past jobs.
Just like a car brochure, you are listing and demonstration your best features AND you are not adding anything that will make them wary of buying. You want them to take a “test drive” which would be our first interview. You then go to our next to last job and do it again, only in a smaller percentage of space used.
|Percentage Guidelines for Space Usage of First Page|
|Name address etc||8%|
|Most recent job||40% to 50%|
|Second most recent job||25%|
|Third most recent||25%|
What NOT to Put on Your Resume
Reasons for leaving ANY job
Social Insurance Number
Age, race creed or religion
Nothing Funny or meant to amuse
Nothing to “Make it different and set me apart” unless you are in the advertising business
Motherhood statements (statements that could be true of ANYBODY who EVER did a job like yours)
Pictures of yourself
Never exceed three pages, two is much better
A resume to Change Careers or Go Back to an Old Line of Work:
The trick to this is to state your experience generically, and strip out all of the jargon. As an example, if you were in the chemical field for a number of years, then something happened to make you take a different road, even for three or four years and now you want to go back, then here is what you do.
Perhaps you went into Financial advice and management or insurance or stock broker work, you want to extract the skills and present them in their most positive light. See the before and after examples. In this case some of the achievements could be:
- Became certified in new areas of expertise
- Developed strong prospecting and closing skills with senior level contacts
- Mastered complex computer systems and used them to add to my effective close ratio
- Developed and implemented marketing plan focusing on three key target areas
- Developed a much stronger ability to identify the client’s true needs and formulate an approach that would satisfy those needs
None of these sound like insurance or investments do they? It is your intention to find words that position the experience so it sounds like it has added to our Chemical experience and has made us more valuable. You can also do this with job titles. I’m sure that there are many titles that are industry specific. If no one in the new industry or the old one will recognize them, just change them! Look closely at our examples to see how this works.
To Go to a New Industry
Here is where “trust me” has no power. Many people would approach this and say “I’ve been very successful in selling car parts and I know I can do a great job selling your software packages. Trust me, I am a great salesman.”
Well, it is just wasting everyone’s time, including yours. The hiring manager sees you as an outsider. Someone trying to “break in” He/she neither believes you or is willing to take the risk that you may be able to deliver. Why? Because you have not provided any evidence that you know my industry.
The rest of this transition to a new industry is a lot of work and can take two to three times longer to achieve, but it can be done. If you want it to be you who succeeds, then you better be prepared to work for it. Let’s stay with the above example. You are selling car parts to the industry and you want to sell software. First, you have to learn a lot about the industry in general. You should read industry magazines, go online to review companies, trends, changes, pricing, and attitudes. It may be possible for you to join an industry organization in the new field, find out who runs it, meet people, and go to the meetings and shows, VOLUNTEER for their committees. While all of this is going on you are still in your old job, but you are asking information questions at your current customers. What kind of software system do you use, what do you like about it? Are there any problems? As you collect this knowledge you become, appear and feel more like an insider. Now, what if you could find a software company who has as one of its main targets Inventory management and particularly at car parts wholesalers? Can you see how you have to sneak up on it? The power is in the conviction. If you are determined and have a vision, and will do the work, then it can be done.
Preparing your Resume for the Internet and a Database
There are 3 kinds of resumes: electronic version, paper version for scanning, and standardized forms which requires you to fill in the blanks, or an application form from an employer or company which matches resumes to jobs. Submitting a resume targeted to a specific job is recommended when organizations do not have a computer database. The managers can see more specifically your qualifications for their areas (e.g., machine design department vs. production unit). However, when a computer tracking system is used to generate data on people with certain qualifications, if you have 2 resumes on file (e.g., one for machine design, one for production), both may come up. Depending on the employer, that may work in your favor, or it may not. The answer will likely depend on your presentation. Do you appear to be one person with two strengths, rather than being two different people?
An electronic version of your resume is somewhat different from those prepared on paper. Some points:
- An employer can view the document one screen at a time, rather than glancing at the 1 or 2 pages to get a sense of your qualifications. Try to limit your information to 5 or 6 screens, with the first being the attention grabber.
- Name and Summary of Qualifications in point form is at the top of the first screen. You may also be able to get your name, address, phone, fax, e-mail at the bottom of the first screen. If not, that information will be at the top of the second screen, to be followed by your Job Objective. The order of your other headings can be similar to those on your paper resume. Keep the information in each section targeted to the job you want: leave off old or unrelated jobs and activities.
- You don’t want to get a message from an employer saying that your resume was unreadable. You may want to check with the computer databases you are considering listing your resume with, or the recent software and books, for more information about formatting. ASCII (text only) and HTML are currently being used. In some instances, the usual formatting techniques to create interest and readability, such as italicizing, bolding, underlining, may make your words illegible as some computer equipment cannot process those features. Bullets before points sometimes also cause problems. There may be several options you can choose from, some creating very attractive resumes that can be sent through e-mail.
- The best strategy you can employ to assure being found most often is this one! The last paragraph of the online resume should be titled KEYWORDS and be nothing but Keyword(comma)(space) Keyword etc. This creates a list of words that could be used to search for that are related to your work but may not have been used in the body of your resume. Imagine that I, the Internet searcher use only keywords to sort through all of the possible resumes. If you have used it in this paragraph, you will be on my “Found” list. It is as simple as that. Now, they won’t discover where the word actually is in your resume until they get to the bottom, but by then they have looked at you and that is the ultimate goal.
Points you need to consider when preparing a paper resume for scanning into an employer’s database:
- As part of the research you do about an organization, you may want to determine if you need to submit a resume for scanning.
- Supply a good laser quality document, on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper, white or very light-colored paper; use a sans serif font such as Arial, with point size 10 or larger; avoid embellishments such as parentheses, brackets, horizontal lines.
- As mentioned in #2 above, Italics, bolding, etc. may also prove problematic in some instances.
- If using a very basic formatting program, ensure that your headings are clearly seen by being featured at the left margin. By indenting your text under your heading, you will be able to show visually what belongs together.
- Employers looking at your resume want to easily find the keywords relating to their needs. Also, when your resume is stored in a database, an employer will use the computer to conduct a keyword search. Your resume will not be selected unless you have a “hit” with the minimum number of keywords requested. Your resume will not be near the top of the list unless you have all or most of the keywords they used.
- Interactive multimedia resumes are becoming more common with the advances in both hardware and software. If you choose this type, remember that some employers may not have the latest equipment to download your resume with sound and complex graphics quickly, or at all. But you could try-you may get noticed over other applicants.
- Always have a subject in your subject line when sending an e-mail resume to an employer. A precise reference to their job and your fit may spark their desire to read your resume rather than to hit the delete key.