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Job Seeker Resources - Resume Writing Tips

Writing an effective resume can be challenging and time consuming. However, failing to put together the right one can be the kiss of death when seeking a new job. Think of recruiters as 'gate keepers' in an organization, and you need to get past that gatekeeper. You may bring excellent skills to the table, but if your resume doesn't command that first 'call back' from the organization, you'll never be able to show it. Most recruiter's first glance at a resume is for 30 seconds or less, and the information you have in your Objective / Summary section, your Education / Training and the duties and responsibilities in your last two employment positions are the main things they will look at first. If they like what they see, they will read the resume more closely.

In general, resumes should focus on a few basic building blocks. First we'll describe those, and then go over some additional details. Your resume should always include :

- A summary or objective statement
- Your work experience
- Relevant education and training
- A 'tools' section for any technology based professionals
- A listing of your clearance level and status if applicable

In general, a resume should only cover the last 10-15 years of experience and can be anywhere from 1-4 pages. While you don't want to write a book, if you are an experienced professional, you don't want to leave out relevant information that a recruiter or hiring manager might be interested in. The old myth that a resume needs to be only one page is just not true.

Let's go over some more details about various sections of a resume.

The objective or summary statement
- This section should be a brief (1 - 5 sentences) section at the top of your resume that clearly states what your main strengths and objectives are. Keep in mind that tailoring a resume to a specific job you are targeting is the best way to approach things. You should list your main skill sets that apply to the position you are applying for and state that you wish to utilize them in the targeted field.

Your work experience
- Job Seekers often make the mistake of not focusing enough on the last 10 years of experience. The last two positions you have had (unless they have been very short-term) should be the largest blocks of your experience section. You want to have detailed descriptions of the duties and responsibilites you had as well as how you utilized these skills to accomplish goals. These accomplishments should also be stated considering how they relate to the job you are seeking.

- For technology professionals, you always want to state technical acronyms or 'buzzwords' IN THE BODY OF YOUR RESUME. Having reviewed thousands and thousands of resumes throughout the years, this is the one mistake that always hurts job seekers. If you are a Java programmer, make sure your position description STATES the word Java!! Don't leave the recruiter guessing. Also, don't be afraid to repeat the use of acronyms, especially if they are directly related to the position you are seeking. If I'm a recruiter looking for a Java programmer, I am happy when I see a resume that has the word Java in it 10 times! It means the candidate worked a lot with Java! If you are a candidate looking for a Java development job, you want your resume to POP OFF the page to the recruiter saying 'Now this is a Java developer'. Anything less and you're likely to be passed over.

- If you really want to impress a prospective employer, play the 'Match' game. To do this, tailor your resume for prospective position, while keeping your resume true to your accomplishments. This way the recruiter can forward the resume to the manager with a note like 'This one looks like a great fit!'.

Relevant education and training
- You should always have an education and training section of your resume. Always list the type of degree you have vs leaving a recruiter guessing. It's OK if your degree isn't in the exact skills area as your experience / objective, as long as you can show how you make up the difference. Perhaps you have a lot of hands-on experience or relevant training. This will often be sufficient for employers looking for a certain background. If you have training classes to list, make sure they are relevant to the type of position you are seeking.

A 'tools' section is mandatory for technology based professionals
- For technology professionals, recruiters always want to see a hardware / software - tools section. This is where a candidate should have a section where they list the tools they work with. Most candidate break them into logical categories like Languages, Operating Systems, Databases, Software Packages, etc. It is always best to list the tools you are most proficient with first, and then down from there. Also, if you have tool you have only used academically, please note that in parenthesis. If a recruiter sees a tool on a resume and then calls to find out you only used it in a class, she may feel the resume isn't reflective of the skills you have. Also, as mentioned in the work experience section above, make sure to re-list the relevent acronyms.

Here are some excellent tips from Yana Parker's The DamnGoodResume

- What should the resume content be about? It's not just about past jobs! It's about YOU, and how you performed and what you accomplished in those past jobs--especially those accomplishments that are most relevant to the work you want to do next. A good resume predicts how you might perform in that desired future job.

- How do you decide whether to use a Chronological resume or a Functional one? The Chronological format is widely preferred by employers, and works well if you're staying in the same field (especially if you've been upwardly-mobile). Only use a Functional format if you're changing fields, and you're sure a skills-oriented format would show off your transferable skills to better advantage; and be sure to include a clear chronological work history!

- What do you do if you have gaps in your work experience? You could start by looking at it differently. General Rule: Tell what you WERE doing, as gracefully as possible--rather than leave a gap. If you were doing anything valuable (even if unpaid) during those so-called "gaps" you could just insert THAT into the work-history section of your resume to fill the hole. Here are some examples:

1993-95 Full-time parent -- or
1992-94 Maternity leave and family management -- or
Travel and study -- or Full-time student -- or
Parenting plus community service

- What's the fastest way to improve a resume? Remove everything that starts with "responsibilities included" and replace it with on-the-job accomplishments. (See the next tip for one way to write them.)

- What's the best way to impress an employer? Fill your resume with "PAR" statements. PAR stands for Problem-Action-Results; in other words, first you state the problem that existed in your workplace, then you describe what you did about it, and finally you point out the beneficial results.

Here's an example: "Transformed a disorganized, inefficient warehouse into a smooth-running operation by totally redesigning the layout; this saved the company thousands of dollars in recovered stock."

Another example: "Improved an engineering company's obsolete filing system by developing a simple but sophisticated functional-coding system. This saved time and money by recovering valuable, previously lost, project records."

- What if your job title doesn't reflect your actual level of responsibility? When you list it on the resume, either replace it with a more appropriate job title (say "Office Manager" instead of "Administrative Assistant" if that's more realistic) OR use their job title AND your fairer one together, i.e. "Administrative Assistant (Office Manager)"

- How can you avoid age discrimination? If you're over 40 or 50 or 60, remember that you don't have to present your entire work history! You can simply label THAT part of your resume "Recent Work History" or "Relevant Work History" and then describe only the last 10 or 15 years of your experience. Below your 10-15 year work history, you could add a paragraph headed "Prior relevant experience" and simply refer to any additional important (but ancient) jobs without mentioning dates.

- How far back should you go in your Work History? Far enough; and not too far! About 10 or 15 years is usually enough - unless your "juiciest" work experience is from farther back.

- What about fancy-schmancy paper? Employers tell me they HATE parchment paper and pretentious brochure-folded resume "presentations." They think they're phony, and toss them right out. Use plain white or ivory, in a quality appropriate for your job objective. Never use colored paper unless there's a very good reason for it (like, you're an artist) because if it gets photo-copied the results will be murky.

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