Resume Tips

The most important tool in your Job Search is your resume. Take the time to develop the best possible resume to get your foot in the door and beat out the competition. To be successful in this competition your resume must stand out from the others.

A Job Search is very similar to a beauty pageant, the only difference being it's not about beauty, it's about proving you're the best candidate. And make no mistake about it, a Job Search is a contest with several elimination rounds before you make it to the finals. Always keep in mind that in any kind of competition you must have the best equipment to win. You can't advance to the next round with a poorly written resume that fails to portray how really good you are.

Your resume will have approximately 30 seconds to audition in the first round of eliminations. That's a fact. The decision maker must be able to immediately know "who you are, what you have to offer, and where you're headed."

Most companies and recruiters receive hundreds of resumes for a position, and each resume will receive about 30 seconds of review during the initial elimination process. Your resume will have 30 seconds to convince someone to advance you to the second round of the beauty pageant. You will be chosen or rejected for an interview entirely on the basis of your resume, and cover letter. Because of this, they must be outstanding.

Your resume is not your autobiography, it's your marketing brochure. No one is going to read a ten page resume in 15 seconds.

Keep it brief and concise. No more than 2 pages maximum, but a one page resume speaks volumes.

Make your resume easy to read and straight to the point.

Use bullet points instead of long paragraphs.

Cover only what's important.

Proof to edit petty stuff, and then proof again and again. Petty stuff makes you look . . . petty!

Use Keywords that provide a "hook". Keywords will be remembered. A Keyword is worth a thousand words - save the essay for the interview.

Don't use micro-print that is too small for an old guy who forgot his glasses. A 12 point font is best.

Using a typewriter? That means you don't know diddly about computers. Ever heard of Kinko's?

What's the most important thing to put on a resume? Your phone number!

Don't have an answering machine? You may only get one call.

Don't call an employer and say something stupid like, "What do I do?, send a resume or something?"

Don't fax your resume from your company's fax machine. Tacky. Besides that, the company fax machine may spit out a confirmation copy after you've gone home.

RESUME TIPS - Do's and Don'ts of Resume Writing

If you're looking for a job, the search starts with developing a winning resume. Here are a few tips on how to construct a good resume that will be noticed and unlock new doors for you.

Do's

  • Make sure your resume is easy to read. Use concise, unambiguous sentences and avoid over-writing or flowery prose.
  • Know you audience - use the vocabulary and speak the language of your targeted field.
  • Keep the overall length of your resume short. Depending upon your experience, one or two pages is ideal.
  • Stress your past accomplishments and the skills you used to get the desired results.
  • Focus on information that's relevant to your own career goals. If you're making career change, stress what skills are transferable to support your new career objectives.
  • Begin accomplishment statements with action verbs instead of pronouns like I, we, or even the company.
  • Neatness counts. A poorly structured, badly typed resume is a reflection of the applicant.
  • Remember that your resume is your life's story thus far. Make sure your resume is current and up to date, and that it accurately portrays who you really are.
  • Remember that your resume is a Marketing document. Use it to sell yourself.
  • Quality counts. Print your resume on fine quality paper and mail it to the employer, even if you have faxed it or E-mailed it. Take the extra effort to making a lasting impression.

Don'ts

  • Your salary history or reasons for leaving a previous job should never be included on a resume.
  • If you're considering enclosing a photograph of yourself, don't! You may bear a striking resemblance to someone the reader doesn't like.
  • Don't include personal references on your resume. A potential employer is interested in references only after they are seriously considering hiring you. At that time, you may be asked to provide reference information.
  • Don't stretch the truth! Misinformation or untruthful statements will inevitably come back to haunt you.
  • Avoid references to hobbies, activities and memberships that are not business-related or haven't any application to your current career goals or job objectives.
  • Don't ever think that your resume is the only one that the employer will receive for a particular job. The employer will probably receive hundreds of other resumes as well. Make your resume stand out from the crowd.
  • Don't send resumes on colored paper or artsy-craftsy paper - they make poor copies and they give the wrong impression.
  • Don't make handwritten corrections to a typed resume. Take the time to send a letter perfect resume.
  • Don't forget to include a cover letter. And make sure your cover letter doesn't repeat the information on your resume. Use a cover letter to discuss your interests in the specific job and what you have to offer.
  • Don't ever, ever send a resume that doesn't have your name, current address and correct phone number. Several unemployed dummies are still wondering why no one has ever called!
  • Don't think the employer will call back if no one answers the phone the first time they call. Get an answering machine, for sure.
  • Last, but certainly not least, don't have any unreasonable expectations of what a resume can do. Employers do not hire resumes.

Ten More Resume "Don'ts"

by Peter Newfield

Resumes are a necessity for almost every job on the planet -- accountant, teacher, CEO or municipal employee. But unless you carefully and objectively examine your resume before sending it out, recycling bins across America may be filling up with those ill-planned documents.

Before mailing your next resume, check the ten resume "don'ts" below:

  1. Appearances Count -- Don't try to save money by printing your resume on cheap copy paper instead of good quality stock. Check for typos, grammatical errors and coffee stains. Use the spell check and grammar check features on your word processor and ask a friend to review the resume to find mistakes you might have missed.
  2. Does Size Matter? -- If your career warrants a two-page resume, then go ahead and create a document that reflects the full range of your experience and accomplishments. Don't reduce the type size to such a degree that your resume becomes difficult to read.
  3. Truth or Consequences -- Don't fudge over dates or titles on your resume to hide the fact that you have been unemployed, that you switched jobs too frequently or that you held low-level positions. If a prospective employer conducts a background check and discovers that you lied, you can kiss the job good-bye.
  4. State Your Case -- If you are seeking a job in a field in which you have no prior experience, don't use the chronological format for your resume. By using a functional or skills-oriented format, you can present your relevant experience and skills up front.
  5. Put Your Best Foot Forward -- Don't simply copy the job description jargon from your company's HR manual. To show that you are more qualified than the competition for the positions you are seeking, you need to do more than simply list your job responsibilities. Present specific accomplishments and achievements: percentages increased, accounts expanded, awards won, etc.
  6. No Excuses -- Don't include the reasons you are no longer working at each job listed on your resume. The phrases "Company sold," "Boss was an idiot" and "Left to make more money" have no place on your resume.
  7. What Have You Done Lately? -- While it is certainly acceptable to have a two-page resume, don't list every single job you've ever held. Personnel managers are most interested in your experience from the last 10 years, so focus on your most recent and most relevant career experience.
  8. Target Your Audience -- Don't mail out your resume to every ad in the Sunday newspaper. If you are not even remotely qualified for a position, don't apply. Read the ads, determine if you have the right credentials and save the wear and tear on your printer.
  9. No Extra Papers, Please -- When you send out your resume, don't include copies of transcripts, letters of recommendation or awards, unless you are specifically asked to do so. If you are called in for an interview, you may bring these extra materials along in your briefcase for show-and-tell.
  10. Don't Get Personal -- Personal information does not belong on a resume in the United States. Don't include information on your marital status, age, race, family or hobbies.

Action Verbs Can Make a Big Difference

When describing your accomplishments, the use of action verbs can make the difference between a statement that attracts attention and one that seems commonplace and ordinary.

achieved, added, broadened, consolidated, coordinated, created, developed, designed, eliminated, established, evaluated, expanded, generated, identified, increased, initiated, invented, maintained, managed, negotiated, organized, performed, planned, purchased, reduced, saved, simplified, streamlined, strengthened, supervised, trained, transformed, utilized, certified, worked, wrote.

Brief Is Better

See if you can fit it all on a single page (especially recent graduates and those early in their careers), but don't exceed two pages. Remember, few executives enjoy the task of reading piles of resumes, let alone the thick, voluminous monsters that get mailed out every day.

Resume Bloopers

We advise job seekers to carefully proofread resumes and cover letters before sending them to prospective employers. We've seen some interesting bloopers over the years.

  • "I am loyal to my employer....Please feel free to call me at my office."
  • "Finished 15th in my graduating class of 25."
  • "Will graduate early next year, or the year after."
  • "I'm a highly skilled and experienced word processer."
  • "Oversight of entire department."
  • "Reason for leaving - I'm suing my employer."
  • "Reason for leaving - my ex-husband."
  • "Reason for leaving - too much work."
  • "Reason for leaving - I couldn't get along with the other workers."
  • "Proven ability to track down and correct misteaks."
  • "Have had little success in finding a new and challenging position."
  • "Qualifications: I'm very qualified for this position."
  • "I'm fully bilingual in English and Spanish, but I can't write Spanish."

Things To Include On Your Resume

  • Awards
  • Organizations which you are a member of
  • Optional Categories

Awards

Be sure to list awards that relate to the kind of job you're seeking, like Pulitzer Prizes, Oscars, or honorary doctorates. Leave out, however, references to having won the league bowling, chess, or karate championship. While these achievements may bolster your ego, they make unwise assumptions about the interviewer. In addition, they have nothing to do with the task at hand -- winning an interview.

Organizations that you are a member of

You may safely list the ones that show achievement or professional standing, such as the National Association of Certified Public Accountants, or the Tool & Die Maker's Guild. You can also indicate your leadership abilities as an officer or official in a strictly non-controversial association, like the PTA or Junior Achievement. But stay away from listing political, religious, and potentially controversial groups, because they simply don't belong on resumes.

Optional Categories

These may include career objectives, summary of qualifications, and such personal details as date of birth, marital status, military record, and health. Let's take a separate look at each of these:

  • Objectives: This can be an excellent topic to include if you happen to possess a clear idea of what they are. But general or vague objectives are best omitted. Remember, your objectives can be honed specifically to the job for which you are applying in your cover letter. Your career objectives must be worded precisely if they are to be included in your resume. They should be clearly stated and consistent with your accomplishments and demonstrated skills, as documented on your resume. Bear in mind the difference between career and job objectives. A career objective is just that... a long-range plan that may or may not relate directly to the job for which you are applying. A job objective, on the other hand, is oriented quite specifically to the opening you wish to fill. We recommend using the term "objective" by itself, which would be appropriate for most situations.
  • Summary of Qualifications: A detailed resume that includes a wealth of professional experience can employ this effectively. The summary may be inserted in addition to, or instead of, a statement of objectives; or the two can be combined ("qualifications and objectives"). At its best, a summary will entice the reader to read further; at its worst, it has the opposite effect. A summary is most helpful if the applicant has had an extremely diversified background, including (for instance) teaching and industry, or if the resume extends beyond a single page.
  • Personal Data: If your personal details are "Mom-and-apple pie" and straight as the proverbial arrow, they may lend an air of respectability to your image. However, any non-essential information that you offer is more likely to work against you. Let's face it, prejudices do exist (for example) toward single women, unmarried men over a certain age, and older jobseekers, and why should anyone advertise that they're divorced? Your date of birth may only serve to persuade potential employers that you are too young or too old for a given job before they've even met you. Your military record may be worth mentioning if it includes some sort of relevant job training or experience (technical, organization). And finally, who on earth would admit in writing to poor physical (or mental) health? Omit any reference to health.

Also Leave Out...

  • Reasons for having left a job -- they won't enhance your image, and you may create a negative impression.
  • Former (or desired) salary -- you need to know as much as possible about the job in order to avoid asking for too little or too much. Don't risk putting yourself out of the running before you've even begun.
  • Hobbies and memberships in social, fraternal, or religious organizations -- potential employers don't need this information, and you never know what may turn them off.
  • Reasons for not having served in the military.
  • The label "Resume" or "Vitae" -- if the briefest glance does not clearly identify your resume as such, the label will not help.
  • The banal "References available on request"; this is taken for granted.

Visual Impact

Vary type style; use bold type or italics to emphasize key words and subject headings. If possible, select an off-white paper to help your resume stand out in a stack. Do not send out photocopies; spend a few dollars to have your resume professionally printed or word-processed...the difference is well worth the cost. Make sure the resume is letter-perfect. Errors, typos, stains, abbreviations (etc., e.g., i.e.), technical jargon, and hip or buzz words are strictly taboo. Get your final draft critiqued and proofread by someone reliable.

Cover Letter Tutorial

The cover letter can be thought of as the sales pitch.

  • Keep it brief - 3 or 4 short paragraphs.
  • The writing must be concise.

General Tips

  • Emphasize the 2 or 3 strongest reasons why you are the best candidate.
  • Do not restate your resume.
  • Draw parallels with previous work experience.
  • Demonstrate interest or knowledge about the firm or industry.

Paragraph Construction

  • Never begin a paragraph with "I".
  • No sentence should be longer than 12 words.
  • Use proper English and avoid slang or abbreviations.
  • Use action verbs such as "designed" or "implemented"
  • Use the active voice whenever possible.
  • Personalize each letter.

Before you begin writing

  • Answer the question the employer is asking: "Why should I hire you?"
  • Respond to the need of the company and the person who is hiring for the position.

Answer the following questions

  • How do I get my message across?
  • What do I want to communicate to the reader?
  • Construct a "grabber" at the beginning and a "closer" at the end.
  • Be honest and factual.
  • Do not make your problems someone else's problems.

Writing the Cover Letter

  • Place name, address, and phone number at the top and center of the letter.
  • Include your personal email address, do not include your company email address.
  • Do not include your work phone number.

Paper and Envelopes

  • Use the best quality paper you can find.
  • Paper and envelopes should match resume.
  • Color should be conservative such as white or ivory.

Printers

  • Laser printing provides high quality output as high as 1200 dpi (dots per inch).
  • Inkjet is an inexpensive solution which provides near laser quality (300dpi).
  • Dot matrix is dated and does not provide adequate quality for a resume.

Editing Tips

  • When printing copies, check print quality for bleed, jagged or crooked edges and overall readability.
  • After running a spell checker, visually edit the cover letter.
  • Then give it to three friends or family members to review and edit.
  • If possible, have a hiring manager who works in your area of interest to review the cover letter for content and structure.

Cover Letter Summary

  • Always mail a cover letter with a resume.
  • The cover letter is your direct sales pitch to that specific employer.
  • One page maximum.
  • Proof! Proof! Proof!

For more information on how to build a successful cover letter click on Cover Letters

Good Luck!