No one ever said writing a resume is easy. In fact, it may be one of the most difficult and least understood aspects of any job search – but also one of the most important. While even the greatest resume won’t land you a job, it is one of the best tools for getting an interview.
Unfortunately, many resumes are ineffective because job hunters don’t understand their purpose and objective. They end up writing a bland account of their background and skills that is poorly organized or too long. A resume stands out from the rest when it focuses on accomplishments rather than duties and responsibilities. The best resumes use action verbs to describe achievements and quantify accomplishments whenever possible – dollars saved, widgets produced, clients served, number of employees supervised.
Each resume you send should be tailored for that particular job. The shotgun approach of sending the same resume to every company is not nearly as effective as taking the time to customize your resume. When your resume is tailored for a specific position, it indicates to the prospective employer that you are thorough and particular in selecting companies to contact, which increases your odds of receiving a response.
There are three standard types of resumes: chronological, which begins with your most current job and works backward; functional, which lists your accomplishments under functional headings, such as sales or finance; and a hybrid, which is basically a functional resume with a job history. Generally, human resource personnel prefer the chronological format, but you may find a different format is better suited for your particular job experience or objectives.
If you’re unsure about what to include in a resume, ask to see your friends’ and colleagues’ resumes. Determine what you feel is effective and what isn’t.
Once you have created a draft of your resume, ask friends or relatives to proofread and critique it. Sloppiness, misspellings and typos are the quickest ways to ensure that your resume ends up in the “cylindrical file.”
In today’s competitive job market, your resume must stand out from the crowd. If you’re lucky, your resume will receive a 30-second scan, which means it must catch the reviewer’s attention immediately. While you may be uncomfortable trying to sell yourself, you have to convince prospective employers that you are worth considering. Tell employers what you can do for them. Be as specific as possible. Always keep the employer’s needs, rather than your own, in mind.
Given the sheer volume of resumes they receive each week, many companies use high-tech scanning systems to screen resumes. These software programs look for key words that match the job description. But whether your resume is being read by a machine or a person, it is important to customize it to a particular job listing using some of the same words or phrases that appear in the ad. Use boldface type or bullets to highlight key points.
Many people write their own resumes, but if you decide that you need help, find I someone who has a good reputation or has been certified by the Professional Association of Resume Writers. For a referral in your area, go to parw.com or call 800-822-7279.
Resumes should always be accompanied by a cover letter, even when it’s not requested. A good cover letter is just as important as the resume itself because it serves the vital function of catching the reader’s attention. If a prospective employer likes your cover letter, chances are your resume will be reviewed.
Your cover letter should not repeat the contents of your resume; rather, it should be a succinct one-page letter stating your interest in the job and the value you would bring to the company. Highlight your qualifications that relate to requirements stated in the ad.
Your cover letter and resume may be one of hundreds that an employer reviews, so it must be eye-catching and easy to read. Since employers are swamped with resumes during the first ten days after an ad appears, it’s possible your resume may get lost in the shuffle. Some experts suggest sending a second copy of your cover letter and resume two weeks after your first response to an ad, which may improve the odds of your resume getting a second look.
The importance of a written thank-you cannot be stressed enough. Many employers readily admit that they only consider candidates who follow up an interview with a thank-you letter. An email is better than nothing, but a letter or note will make the best impression.
Its purpose is to demonstrate your level of interest, desire and commitment – and to separate you from the many other applicants who are vying for the same position. A good thank-you letter should be concise, thanking the interviewer for the opportunity to interview and reiterating your interest and enthusiasm for the position and the company.
The letter should come across as sincere and personal, not a form letter. If you forgot to mention something in the interview that you feel is important, or if you want to correct a first impression, state it in your thank-you letter. Anything you can do to be remembered by an employer will go a long way in helping you land the job you want.