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Putting Your Best Foot Forward: That All Important Resume

Call them resumes, or Curriculum Vitae. Either way they are the business calling cards of those looking for a job. The only people who carry resumes with them are job seekers. The unemployed use resumes because they do not think they have any other means of sharing important information. In this electronic age there are many ways to share information about yourself: a website; a blog; social networking sites such as Linkedin and Facebook to name just two; electronic job sites such as Workopolis also have a place for you to enter an electronic version of your resume. Many businesses now request that you apply online and include an electronic version of your resume. Other companies request a one-page summary rather than a formal resume.

That said: There are still plenty of companies that request you attach a resume to your job application or cover letter and mail or fax the application for employment.

There is one rule about resumes, cover letters, and applications:

The only good ones are the ones that work!

You ask ten people their opinion about your resume. You will get eighteen different opinions! Give up on asking for opinions from lay people. If you want an informed evaluation, hire someone who creates resumes as an occupation. Even professional resume writers cannot agree on what is the best format!

Evaluate your own written materials. Think like the professional who might be looking to hire as you evaluate. If given a stack of resumes, your intent, as a professional would be to eliminate as many as possible. That’s right. Eliminate. You hope if you eliminated all the bad ones, the perfect applicants would be the only ones left.

You spend a minute—tops!—looking at each resume. You spend twenty seconds looking for what you want. You eliminate the resume when you did not see what you are looking for within those twenty seconds. If you find what you want, you take another forty seconds looking for any other reason to eliminate it. You search for typos, poor grammar, and gaps in work histories. You look for too many words, not enough numbers, and anything else that justifies eliminating a particular resume.

Keep the following tips in mind when you create your resume or edit it.

Keep It Simple
The goal of the resume is to give the company a brief and compelling introduction to you. Therefore, the worst thing you can do with your resume is to make it too long or too complicated. A good suggested length is one to two pages. Some companies specify one page. You want your resume to be easy to read and to the point. Keep in mind that the person taking the first look at your resume will not necessarily know anything about the position or the industry. Therefore, it is best to be clear and concise. Using bullet points is a great way to highlight your experience and qualifications in an easy to read format.

Make it Look Clean
Resume formatting should be simple as well. Use a standard easy-to-read single font (Like Calibri or Times Roman 12). Avoid trying to make your resume look fancy. Focus on readability and consistency.

Make sure to create a Word document so that your resume can be easily viewed on any computer.

Tailor it for the Position
Always adjust your resume to position you are trying to secure. For example, if you are trying to get a job in the medical field, you should focus the resume on showing your qualifications and experience in the medical field. (See example!) Tailoring your resume also allows you to get rid of unnecessary information that might distract the company from the important items you want to be the focus.

Proofread Your Resume Multiple Times
There is nothing more unprofessional than submitting a resume filled with spelling or grammatical errors. Take the time to proofread your resume. Have others you trust take a look as well. Submitting an error-free resume shows potential employers that you are diligent and serious about the prospective position.

Don’t Bother Listing an Objective
The old rule of thumb with resumes was to include an objective. The purpose of the objective was to tell prospective employers the specific position that you wanted. However, this is not necessary. First, it is fairly obvious when you apply for a particular job that you are interested in that particular job. Secondly, the cover letter that many prospective employers require as part of the job application is a great place to discuss your career objectives.

Omit Non-Relevant Personal Data
While your family is important to you, it is probably not relevant to list information about them on your resume. Clear space for more pertinent information: job history and qualifications. Remember: Most people look at a resume for less than half a minute.

Make your case succinctly!! Less is more!

Give Specific Examples
Discussing specifics is always better than making general statements. For example: If you helped to increase sales by 25 percent at your previous job, don’t just say that you helped to increase sales. Include the actual number. This will help your prospective employer better understand the magnitude of your contribution.

Decide on the Most Appropriate Resume
There are different types of resumes. Most people will use the standard resume that lists your employment history in reverse chronological order. However, certain industries require a specialized type of resume. For example, those applying for a college professorship will want to list their published articles and books on their resume. Find out which type of resume is appropriate to the job you are applying for.

If you don’t have a great resume, getting the job of your dreams is almost impossible. It is crucial to put in the time and effort to make a compelling resume. This will pay off when your prospective employer is comparing your resume to the “Keep It Simple” one.

A good resume writer anticipates what the decision maker would be looking for and customizes the resume to highlight what will be sought. How do you know what the decision maker will be seeking? Easy! Talk to colleagues. Talk to people who hold this job for another company. If possible talk to people who will be your future colleagues if you get the job. Find out the following:
• What the job entails
• What skills will be required
• Problems on this job that the decision maker is hoping to find someone to solve

Think about how you can prove to the decision maker that you are the best person for this job because you can:
• Perform the duties the decision maker needs you to do.
• Work as part of a team with the people in that department.
• Perform the job in a way that saves the company more than you cost them.

Having done your homework you now know that magic SOMETHING the interviewer is looking for on that stack of resumes he has in front of him. Your job is to make that SOMETHING stand out in your resume by tailoring it to this job.

So, you see, that resume is not something which you perfect and make several copies of. Instead, it is a base which you customize for each job by finding out what the interviewer is seeking and tailoring your resume so that he finds it!

Do you have resume stories or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you!

Be the change you'd like to see in the world. Gandhi - Always, Gail

About glennon

Gail is a former teacher, a published writer, and a professional editor. She makes her home in Canada for the summer and Florida for the winter. She loves to write, to travel, and to meet new writers through her editing business. She is thrilled to play a small part in Richly Middle Class. Visit her website at http://www.gleditingandcopywriting.com.

4 comments

  1. It’s actually a great and helpful piece of information. I’m happy that you shared this useful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks for visiting RMC and taking the time to comment on “Putting Your Best Foot Forward”. If this article helps applicants get their resumes read and then moves applicants to the next step in the interview process I will be thrilled. I appreciate your comment.

      Gail

  2. Gail, great article and very helpful tips! Especially in today’s economy, you have to make yourself stand out and be noticed. For anyone who might not have the time to create or revise their resume, I highly recommend hiring a resume writer. It’s worth the investment.

    I hired one once when I was trying to get a job that was “more general” to my skills. The resume writer took my existing resume and rewrote it based on the job description of the job that I was applying for – now I can use it any time and customize it accordingly when need be. I was only charged $200 or so and it was worth every penny.

    Thanks, Heather
    Heather T recently posted…Putting Your Best Foot Forward: That All Important ResumeMy Profile

    • Hi Heather:

      Good to hear from you. Thanks for your comment. You are right. Having your resume set up and knowing how to modify it to fit specific job applications is the key. What people fail to remember about having a resume professionally done is that it is only as good as the information the writer is given. Writers can’t be expected to come up with the data. It is their job to organize it in a logical and aesthetically pleasing manner.

      Regards,
      Gail

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