Your resume is a summary of your qualifications. Think of it as an expanded business card. You use a business card to introduce yourself or to leave behind after you have had the opportunity to talk with someone. Just as you would never rely on a business card to sell a product or service you represent, you should never rely on your resume to get you a job.
Your resume is an introduction to prospective employers, and informs them about your education, work experience, abilities and accomplishments. Ultimately, its job is to prove to employers that they should take the time to interview you. Your goal is to appear on paper or in an electronic forum as someone who could meet their needs.
Many organizations receive hundreds of resumes every day. Most interviewers, therefore, spend only 30-45 seconds skimming the average resume. In that brief time, your resume will make either a positive or a negative impression on the employer. If your resume is scanned electronically, it must "hit home" by including the key words for which the software has been programmed to search.
An excellent resume clearly states your qualifications (in descending order of importance) for the position for which you are applying. You will need to spend many hours thinking, writing, and rewriting. There are no shortcuts to writing a good resume. Since at times it will form an employer's first impression of you, you want it to be an example of your best thought and effort.
Steps to Writing a Successful Resume
1. Define your objective. A resume will be most effective if it is focused. If you have determined a specific objective, include the job title or a brief statement describing the position desired. It is best to state your objective at the top of your resume. Some examples of objectives:
A position as a recreational therapist
A position in the field of therapeutic recreation providing an opportunity to design and implement progressive programs.
2. Choose the most appropriate format. Depending on the job for which you're applying, you will need to choose one of these two formats: chronological or functional. A chronological resume is an arrangement of your qualifying experiences and training listed in reverse chronological order. A chronological resume is most effective when you are applying for a position that is similar or directly related to work you have done previously.
A functional resume highlights your skills and lists your qualifications in their order of importance regardless of the time of occurrence. In a functional resume, you make use of the skills and duties from all of your work history (paid and/or volunteer), education and leisure activities that relate to and qualify you for the job objective. Use the functional format if you plan a career transition, or if you do not have specific paid work experience related to the job you want.
3. Write 10-20 skill statements that prove you can do the job you are targeting in your objective (or at least prove that you can learn how to do the job quickly). Regardless of which resume format you are using, you will attract employers by describing the skills you have that will produce the results they need. Ultimately, the results that you can produce are the only thing that interests an employer. The following are illustrations of skill statements that demonstrate quantified and specific results:
- Initiated a new training program for service technicians that increased their productivity by 33% and saved the company approximately $300,000 in non-recoverable labor expense.
- Restructured lesson plans and developed a parent participation strategy that resulted in a 79% success rate in a reading program for disadvantaged children.
- Designed and implemented a new team support, cooperation and motivational program that reduced employee turnover by more than 60% and increased efficiency.
As you can see, each skill statement starts with a skill name: initiated, restructured, and designed. These words connote action. The skill statement then describes how the skill was used and, most importantly, what result was achieved. Please note that while it is not always possible to quantify results, strive to give at least a subjective description of the results you produced.
Writing skill statements may take you two or more hours to complete. Keep in mind, however, that the work that you do in writing your skill statements will help you not only to write a good resume, but will also be valuable ininterviewing. You will be communicating the same strengths and experiences in interviews as you do in your resume.
4. Write a draft of your resume. Once you have written your skill statements, you are ready to begin a draft of your resume by placing those skills in the chosen format. For a chronological format, your skill statements will go into a section entitled something like "Work Experience" or "Professional Experience." For a functional resume, you can use headings such as "Professional Experience" or "Relevant Experience." Use the past tense for previous activities, experiences or acquired skills; use present tense to refer to ongoing or current activities.
If you are using a functional format you will also want to have a "Work History" section to provide the names of the companies for which you have worked, where they were located, the job titles you held, and the dates you worked at each company.
5. Develop a "Highlights of Qualifications" or "Summary of Qualifications" section to begin your resume. The purpose of this section is to gain the employer's attention by highlighting some of your key qualifications for the position. This section can include such things as total number of years of relevant experience; key accomplishments; special knowledges that you have (for example, knowledge about specific computer programs); and personal skills (such as hardworking, honest, flexible, loyal, etc.). Example:
JOB OBJECTIVE: Office Manager or Program Manager
SUMMARY OF QUALIFICATIONS
• Ten years of administrative and management experience. Responsibilities have included human resource functions, training, hiring/firing, employee supervision/evaluation; facilities management; scheduling, time cards, payroll; accounts receivable and accounts payable; purchasing and inventory control.
• Fast learner, detail-oriented, able to prioritize effectively with little or no supervision. Enjoy working in busy environment with multiple task demands. Creative and flexible in organizing and planning. Excellent monitoring and follow-up skills.
• Computer skills include Microsoft Office; Quattro Pro; ACT!; StaffTrak.
6. Place your name, address, phone, fax and e-mail information at the top of your resume. Use a phone number where you can be reached or where a message can be left. If you do not currently have an answering machine or voice mail, invest in some technology that will be there to answer when you are not. An employer may not call a second time. Keep the message on your answering machine brief and professional.
7. Place your educational information strategically. Generally, your education should be first under your "Highlights of Qualifications" section only if it is your most important qualification to date for the job for which you are applying or if possession of a requisite degree (or degrees) is a requirement for your job target. However, as your education recedes in time, it also recedes as a factor in your current qualifications.
In reverse chronological order, list the institutions you attended, their locations and dates of attendance or graduation. (If it has been more than 10 years since you received your last degree, you may not want to list dates.) It is not necessary for a college graduate to indicate the high school attended, unless there is some aspect of that experience that particularly supports your objective. Include degrees received, academic major(s) and/or areas of concentration.
Younger job applicants with limited work experience may also want to mention such things as special academic honors, student activities, etc.
8. Include other information only if it is relevant to your job target. Other factors that can be included are professional memberships, publications, special honors, qualifying licenses, interests, civic activities, etc. Remember, however, that you only want to include information that helps prove you can do the job. The resume is not a forum for telling your life story.
9. When editing your resume, remember that there is no perfect format, so choose the one that best represents you. Remember that there should be a reason for everything you include; after your objective, organize information in descending order of importance; use correct spelling (have someone proofread your final copy even if you are a good speller); do not abbreviate; avoid jargon, and, as a general rule, limit your resume to one or two pages.
10. Make your resume visually appealing. Highlight key information by using boldfaced type or CAPITALIZING or underlining it. (Underlining, bullets and bold-faced type should be avoided, however, if you know the resume will be electronically scanned as these confuse the scanner.) Bullets (large dots) are effective in drawing the employer's attention and eye to competencies, accomplishments and/ or achievements. Use white space for eye appeal and easy reading.
11. Use high quality paper (white, off-white, beige or gray bond) for resumes that you send or hand-deliver. (Obviously, if you fax a resume, the quality of the paper is irrelevant.) Also, use a high quality printing process.
Remember that your resume communicates more than just factual information about you and your work history. It also tells prospective employers about your ability to relate relevant information; your skills in organizing data; your grammar and spelling skills; and, your attention to detail. Take the necessary time to make sure that your resume is well written so that it sends a positive message on all counts to prospective employers!
© Article copyright by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck, www.ChristianCareerCenter.com. All rights reserved. The above information is intended for personal use only. No commercial use of this information is authorized without written permission.
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