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Write A Better Resume
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Write A Better Resume

How to write a better resume is probably one of the most often asked questions from job seekers along with how to answer interview questions effectively. Unfortunately, and even with all the information available on the subject, most job seekers struggle with writing a stand-out resume that will be noticed by employers.

Why? In some cases, because there is so much contradictory information on the subject, how can one tell which is valid to use effectively? Public employment agencies in the U.S. are 30 years behind the times in their recommendations for resume writing, and mostly, I believe, it’s because many people really don’t understand how to write a resume for a 21st century job search. So, let’s begin with a basic understanding of what a resume is and is not.

(This article is the 4th in a series of 7 fundamental steps every job seeker must take in order to prepare for a successful job search.)

For all intent and purpose a resume is a marketing tool, not a tell-all autobiography. It’s main purpose is to get you an interview...not a job! And please understand this very clearly, the one-size-fits-all resume is a thing of the past. In fact, you need to write variations of your resume for every interview opportunity in order to show that you fit the employers job description as closely as possible.

In order to write an effective resume, you must first identify your key skills, and define the job you seek clearly. You can no longer look for a job in this marketplace. You must look for the job, and I mean, you must be very specific about what you seek and what you have to offer that will persuade the employer to use their valuable time to grant you an interview.

Your resumes must also be prepare in three formats:

  1. as a word document (for mailing and sending by email)
  2. as a PDF file (for sending by email if requested), and
  3. as an ASCII file (a plain text file to submit using internet forms).

So, once you have identified your key skills and defined the job you seek, it’s time to prepare a master resume of ALL your education, training and experiences from which you can cut and paste into a resume more suited for distribution to a specific interview opportunity. Instead of having to recreate a new resume for every job offering, drafting one master resume will make the process much easier.

Your master resume must include

  • all your personal information
  • job-related preferences
  • relevant school experience (list names, dates, and contact information for schools you attended)
  • work experience (at least going back 10 to 15 years for your most significant paid work, volunteer work, or work in a family business. Emphasize things you think an employer might like to know about you.)
  • military experience (if any)
  • other training (list any source of formal or informal training you received outside of school, including workshops, seminars, apprenticeships and internships, that might support your job objective. Include dates attended, organization names, and contact information.)
  • related life experience (life experiences can support your ability to do a job. This is particularly important if you do not have much work experience related to the type of job you want. Remember to emphasize skills and accomplishments that might be of interest to a prospective employer)
  • key skills (from a previous exercise when you identified your key skills)
  • references (employers will ask for references at some point, so select people who are most familiar with your work.)

When completed, your master resume will serve as a data source for all your job search activities. Now, on to building resumes based on specific job opportunities,

David E. Perry, in his book, Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0, has written one of the best resume writing overviews I have ever read, so I’m going to use it here.

“A Standard Guerrilla Resume is a cross between a chronological resume and a functional resume...on steroids.

Like a functional resume, it highlights your best skills and achievements. Like a chronological resume, it presents your experience and education in order, from most recent to earliest.

...the Standard Guerrilla Resume will work for most people in most situations. This resume has all the information that experienced employment professional are looking for in a candidate. To wit, every Standard Guerrilla Resume includes the following five components:

  1. Objective or summary at the top, focused on either one job title or a narrow skill set. [Of course, you also need to put your contact information there as well, including your full name, telephone number and email address. I suggest strongly you get a separate email account for your job search that uses your full name, and not some cutesy address such as sexykitten or hotstud at whatever email service you use. You get the message, right?]
  2. Select accomplishments and/or special skills section. Think of this as an executive summary of the best, most relevant four or five bullet points about you, that map to the requirements for the position you want or would be most relevant to the employer(s) you’re targeting. If you have a strong mix of specific achievements and skills, you can include both sections. [Unfortunately, this is where most people lose it when writing their resume. They focus on job tasks, not accomplishments that result from carrying out their job tasks. Most employers know exactly what tasks are required for specific jobs, they don’t need to be reminded in your resume, AND since most people do this, you’ll look like everyone else. BUT, only you can describe your accomplishments. Now you’ll stand out because of your unique achievements separate from all the rest.]
  3. Experience or employment history section, detailing your relevant paid and unpaid work history as well as internships. This section should go back only about 10 to 15 years in detail; summarize earlier work.
  4. Education/training section, where you list your diplomas and degrees, relevant training, certifications, and so on.
  5. Additional information section, as needed at the end. Here you can include your computer skills, relevant hobbies, volunteer work, and so forth.”

Give yourself time here! Drafting your master resume, and building relevant job specific resumes is a thoughtful process. It shouldn’t take you a month to complete, but it may take a few days, and it’ll be well worth the effort to stand out above all the rest!

If you have trouble coming up with relevant language to describe your job skills, the Occupational Information Network is a great resource.

Happy and successful job hunting!

Street Talk

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