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101 Great Resumes
By Ron Fry
Career PressCopyright © 2009 Ron Fry
All rights reserved.
The Elements of Your Resume
Resumes are dead, some will tell you. Don't need one, shouldn't make one, never send one.
Or you still need one, but not the one you're used to. Has to be scannable. E-mailable. Online. Even better, a multi-media presentation on your own Website!
Well ... no. Resumes are not dead. The process has changed in some very key ways—slapping together a quick list of your jobs and schools and, oh, yeah, some of that volunteer stuff and extracurricular clubs, is not going to fly anymore (presuming it ever did). Speaking of "key," who ever heard of "key words" a decade ago? But then, we weren't posting our resumes on Hotjobs.com, either.
There are more and more qualified people out there for most jobs than in recent memory. So what's really changed is the level of competition and the need, more than ever, to set yourself apart from all those other contenders.
Nope, still need a resume. Just one that's going to require more preparation, better writing, and a more professional, eye-catching presentation.
Exactly what is a resume?
Your resume is a written (or e-mailed, scannable, or electronic) document that is intended to convince an employer that his needs and your skills and qualifications are a perfect match. Which doesn't mean you will immediately be offered the job, just that you will get in the door for an interview.
Your resume should describe you and show what you can do by highlighting what you have already done. It should include your professional and volunteer experience, special skills, education, and accomplishments.
What shouldn't your resume be? Informal, lengthy, unfocused, lacking in pertinent detail, glib, highly personal, chatty, dishonest, or overblown. Oh, and it shouldn't be a mix of 14 different type styles (with liberal use of boldface, italics, and underlines) printed on canary yellow or purple neon paper.
Who needs a resume? You do. Whatever your age, sex, marital status, religious persuasion, or hair color. Whether you're graduating from high school, college, or grad school; moving in, up, or out of a career; "transitioning" from one career to another (or from the military to anything); or reentering the workforce after any substantial interruption.
Did I omit your situation? Sorry—but you need a resume, too.
Even if you're a student just applying for a summer job, internship, or part-time work, a well-prepared, well-written, well-designed resume will set you apart, show prospective employers you're serious, and present you in the manner you want to be perceived—professional, competent, and ready to work.
What will it do for me?
An excellent resume will not get you a job all on its own. But it does demonstrate that you take yourself and your career seriously—that you've put the necessary time and thought into communicating your qualifications, accomplishments, and goals.
A good resume helps you pique a prospective employer's interest and prevents you from achieving circular-file status. Whether you're making a "cold" call or have already developed a contact within the company, your resume is the personal calling card that will help you market your skills and experience ... and perhaps land you an interview.
In today's job market, networking is essential. Your friends, neighbors, relatives, and former co-workers are all significant contacts in the business world. Having a current resume comes in handy when Uncle James or Neighbor Nancy hears about a position right up your alley. Circulating your resume among your network increases your chances of landing gainful employment.
Your resume also serves as a self-assessment tool, an opportunity to complete a self-inventory and see where you've been and where you'd like to go. Creating your resume allows you to evaluate your career and set future goals.
What is an effective resume?
An effective resume must make a good first impression. Of course, appearance is important. Typos, grammatical mistakes, and dog-eared pages will not impress many prospective employers.
But content is even more crucial. The information in your resume needs to be well organized, easy to read, and results-oriented.
An effective resume should:
* Address the employers' needs. Employers hire people who can fill their specific needs. Communicate that you are that person. At this point, you shouldn't even be thinking about your needs, wants, or desires ... I guarantee you the employer isn't!
* Show employers how they will benefit. Stress your accomplishments and show employers you're an excellent prospect with talents to spare. Provide results-oriented data that proves you've handled previous jobs well and have consistently contributed to the success of every company, group, or club with which you've associated.
* Be clear and concise. Employers sort through piles of resumes daily and typically devote 30 seconds or less to each one. Make your presentation clear, concise, and easy to read.
* Be targeted. Your resume should communicate a well-defined objective tied to a specific career (even if you don't actually include a "Job Objective").
* Support your promises of performance with reasons why you are the best applicant. Clearly present your skills and qualifications.
* Be realistic. It should describe a person qualified and suited for the particular career it has targeted. Shy introverts should not try to present themselves as killer salespeople; anal-retentive accountants should not be seeking creative jobs at the trendiest ad boutique.
* Be honest. Many of you may be tempted to make that one short-term job—from which you were fired—effectively "disappear" from your resume by "adjusting" time spent at a previous and/or subsequent job. Or you will shamelessly inflate a low-level position into a fancier sounding title with greater responsibilities. The truth will out. Be careful.
* Organize your job search. A good resume helps you focus on your accomplishments and career goals. It also helps organize your thoughts for potential job interviews. Once you've taken stock of yourself, and realized all you've achieved and what you have to contribute, you will enter the job interview and networking process with much more confidence.
When should I start preparing?
Many professionals who have prepared a variety of different resumes during their careers make it a habit to keep at least a generic resume up-to-date, so that it always reflects their current job title and responsibilities, educational level, job-related skills, key awards and honors, publications, memberships, and activities. At the very least, they make sure pertinent data is kept in appropriate files for inclusion on any updated resume. Whenever they need a "new" resume, it's a relatively simple matter of updating an already existing format.
Students and those of you leaving the military or reentering the workforce after a substantial interruption need far more time to prepare, write, format, and proof (and proof and proof) the series of targeted resumes you will need.
Series? You mean, more than uno? Yes, sorry, but every specific position for which you're applying requires a different resume. Maybe not radically different— a professional-looking format can often be utilized for a wide variety of job descriptions. But what you include and omit, what you emphasize and ignore, even some of the words you use will indeed be different.
So give yourself the time to really think about what you're doing and make sure the result—a professional resume perfectly targeted to the job you seek— has been worth your expected effort. Allow a month to collect and summarize all the data you need, then another month to prepare whatever number of resumes you need. Needless to say, as your job search progresses, you may find yourself creating new resumes for new opportunities. These, of course, will not take much time at all.
What if you aren't 100 percent sold on any single profession or even a particular industry? Can't really say what the heck you want to be when you grow up? Or are contemplating a career change but are unsure of its exact direction or parameters?
Take the time to think before you plunge into the job-search process, let alone the resume-preparation process, to crystallize your objectives and solidify your goals. Tackle the nuts and bolts of preparing your resume(s) only after you've made the key decisions about the direction of your career.
The information you need
At this stage, don't worry about having your records perfectly arranged and categorized. Don't even worry about having your entries in the right order. There are no extra points awarded for organization right now. Your immediate goal should be to get your accomplishments and experience on a few pieces of paper—the forms I've included on pages 17 to 24. In the next chapter, you'll learn how to manage this trove of information and how to highlight the qualifications and accomplishments that will be most meaningful to each prospective employer.
But there is a lot of information to organize, so the first step is to designate a single location in which to store all your records. Losing important transcripts, citations, or letters will simply lengthen the process and, in some cases, inhibit your ability to construct a perfect resume. I suggest creating a separate file folder for each major segment of information (with the appropriate filled-out summary form included, of course) using the following categories:
1. Work and volunteer experience
Review all of your work experience, whether it's babysitting for the neighbors or overseeing a multi-million dollar marketing budget for a Fortune 100 company. Remember, every job counts, whether it was part-time or full-time, paid, or unpaid.
You will need the following information for each job. (Although it eventually may be recorded, utilized, and/or presented differently, you'll need the same information for any volunteer activities—again, paid or unpaid.)
* Name, address, telephone number, fax number, and e-mail address of company.
* Name, title, and e-mail address of your direct supervisor.
* Exact dates worked (or involved).
* Approximate number of hours per week.
* Specific duties and responsibilities.
* Specific skills utilized.
* Specific accomplishments.
* Copies of awards.
* Letter(s) of recommendation.
Write a brief description of your responsibilities at each job, but don't go into too much detail—just summarize what you did in each position. For example, if you're a salesperson looking to move into sales management with a new company, your prospective employer will be interested in knowing:
* How many people you supervised.
* If you managed a budget and, if so, its size.
* The amount of revenue for which you were directly (and indirectly) responsible.
* The size of your sales territory.
This information will give employers a clear idea of the kind and scope of responsibilities you can handle. Consequently, it's especially important to consider those responsibilities that are most applicable to your chosen field or targeted position.
After summarizing your responsibilities, list your accomplishments in specific terms.
What did you do on that job, project, or team, and what were the specific results? Did you increase profits? Cut expenses? Beat projections? Stay on or under budget?
Did you solve a problem? Exceed a goal? Improve product performance? Improve productivity or efficiency?
Here's an example: In just two years, Anne revolutionized the production function at her company's manufacturing plant. Even while understaffed, she managed to exceed production schedules and objectives and turn out a nearly defect-free product. These are major accomplishments that deserved to be a prominent part of her resume. Here's how she concisely expressed them:
Exceeded production schedules while manufacturing a 99.5% defect-free product.
Surpassed objectives by 25% while 15% understaffed.
If you're having trouble identifying specific individual accomplishments, consider departmental- or even company-wide projects in which you participated. Did your group supply the financial statistics that helped determine whether a key project should proceed? Did you serve on the team that evaluated your company's current computer system? Perhaps you found upgrading the systems would provide needed services and the company wouldn't have to buy a whole new system. That's something to brag about, in specific terms.
Also consider any work-related award that might reflect your accomplishments. Did you win an achievement award for writing the "New Employee Orientation Handbook"? Why? Was it because supervisors found that new employees who read the book had a better understanding of where they fit in and how they could contribute to the company's goals and targets? That's an accomplishment! Don't leave it out!
A final, brief note on listing both responsibilities and accomplishments: As you begin to jot things down, don't begin your entries with "Responsible for." Instead, use "action" words, such as designed, created, directed, handled, achieved, supervised, coordinated, or implemented for greater impact. (See p. 40 for a great list of power words.)
Just because you weren't paid to do something doesn't mean you didn't gain valuable experience that should be included on your resume. You may be so used to equating "work" with "pay" that you are discounting key accomplishments merely because they were part of your volunteer activities. Did you manage the budget and purchasing for an organization's fund-raising supper, recruit volunteers for the library book sale, or organize a musical program for the senior center? Organize a charitable car wash, direct other volunteers in a clean-up effort or paint posters and signs? Just because you didn't receive a paycheck for performing these functions doesn't mean they don't count!
The less actual work experience you have, the more "work" your volunteer experience has to do on your resume. If you have little or no paid work experience, or if you've been out of the job market and are preparing to reenter, you have no choice but to "translate" your volunteer activities into "work experience." List responsibilities, accomplishments, honors, and awards just as if they were "real" jobs. And quantify results wherever possible. Don't create entries that are misleading or untrue, but be sure to take credit for what you actually did.
For example, did your campaign drive for the women's symphony unit increase membership? How much? Did you serve on the committee that designed a community program for developing good parenting skills?
Here's how you would feature these achievements:
Recommended and organized membership drive for new women's symphony unit; increased membership 35%.
Designed, coordinated and presented "Developing Good Parenting Skills" program to fill a community need. Program has evolved into 150 volunteers and nearly 500 participants and earned state and county Division of Child and Family Services (Welfare) awards.
Don't discount any contribution you may have made, even if you weren't in a leadership role. Employers want to hire productive people. Your volunteer service will show that you're an active person and enhance the chances of your resume landing in the "possible candidate" pile rather than the circular file.
For all but recent graduates, the educational listing will usually be fairly brief. You'll want to include the name and location of each school you attended, date of graduation, and your degree or major area of study. If you didn't graduate, note the years you attended the school and the type of courses you completed. For example:
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 20 credit hours in Aeronautical Engineering (1998-2000)
Courses in Elementary Education University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2000-2002
If you're a recent high school, trade school or college graduate, you may want to list a few of the courses you completed, especially if you have little or no work or volunteer experience. But don't go too far afield. Just list those that apply to the position or field you're considering.
You may also need to play up your school activities and extracurricular accomplishments. Were you president of the chess club or drum major for the band? Maybe you performed an audit to fulfill a class requirement. Whatever the case, include such information on your resume, and be specific about your accomplishments. For example:
Led high school marching band to regional championship; won award for outstanding direction as drum major.
Recommended new schedule for Big Ten chess tournament, which reduced travel time and lost school hours.
Performed audit of company with 500 employees to fulfill class requirement; recommended new computerized bookkeeping software, which reduced data-entry time and provided more detailed reports.
Excerpted from 101 Great Resumes by Ron Fry. Copyright © 2009 Ron Fry. Excerpted by permission of Career Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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