Creative Job Search
On-line Job Search Guide

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Resume Writing

Much preparation goes into an excellent resume. You do not simply begin by writing. First you have to establish clear goals for your job search. Then you must identify and articulate your skills that match your goals. You need to gather supporting materials and summarize your past employment related experiences. Finally, you will write, rewrite and edit until the resume is perfect. Once done, you will want to continuously work at keeping your perfect resume up-to-date. As you grow, your resume should grow with you; its development should mirror your personal and professional development.

Your resume should be an honest presentation of your best.

Do not overwhelm employers by providing more information than necessary. Do not try to be everything to everyone. The greatest challenge will not be deciding what to put into your resume but what to leave out. An attention-getting resume must be targeted, concise, and must clearly identify your qualifications. Focus on your skills and accomplishments with specific attention to tangible results. At this point you may be overwhelmed and ready to give up. Do not give up yet. The truth is that this same preparation is required for all your job search. Until you have taken these steps, you are not ready to approach prospective employers. Since it has to be done anyway, there is no better time than the present. Of course, if you are already engaged in these activities you are that much closer to a finished product.

Skill Identification

Employers want to know what you can do, not just where you have worked. If you cannot clearly state at least 20 skills directly associated with your job goal, you are not ready to begin your job search.

Take the time to work on developing a list of your skills. As you develop your list, identify examples of places where you have used your skills. Employment related skills do not always come from employment. They may originate from education, volunteer work, personal interests and life experiences. Be very specific when describing your skills. Also be sure to state your skills in a positive light. Avoid any language that may reduce their value. Always be honest and positive.

When drafting your resume, clearly identify your skills. There are several formats that can be used, but always your skills need to stand out. Whenever possible, state your skills as expert skills, to avoid being perceived as a generalist. As an example, if you have word processing skills state which word processors you have used. All resumes today need to be skill-based resumes. Whatever style or format you use, your resume must clearly articulate the skills you bring to the job.

Goal Setting

An important element in resume preparation is establishing clear goals or objectives. You should not approach your job search, or write a resume, with the goal of just "anything." It is critical that you target your resume to a specific occupational goal. The content of your resume should point to that goal. Without this focus your resume will be mediocre at best. If you have already established specific goals then you are prepared to write your resume. If not, you are encouraged to first spend some time establishing your goals.

As you write your resume you should keep your goal in view. This will help you decide what to include, what to leave out and will help target your resume. Great resumes are ones in which every piece of information points to a clear occupational objective. One strategy is to write your goal on a separate piece of paper and weigh each item in your resume against your goal. If it is not clear how the item relates to your goal, then strongly consider eliminating it.

The Language of Resumes

Resumes must be skill-based and clearly target a specific occupation.

Resumes must be skill-based and clearly target a specific occupation. Beyond this there are many ways to present these skills. You may use narrative, bullets, lists of key words, highlights or other presentation styles. The resume must have impact and flair. What you say is important, but how you say it is just as important. An excellent strategy is to use action verbs to accentuate your qualifications. It is one thing to say that you have a particular skill; it is another to proclaim that you have excelled in its performance. Phrases such as "Mastered three word processing programs: WordPerfect, Microsoft Word and AmiPro" or "Successfully increased regional sales by 1.2 million" have impact. Notice the use of quantitative measures to strengthen the statement. Look for similar measures to complement your resume.

Resumes are not literary; they are promotional. The rules of grammar are modified from formal writing. Complete sentences are not necessary. Avoid the use of "I," as the subject of the resume is assumed to be the person named in the heading of the resume. Avoid long narratives and use lots of bullets and key phrases. Someone looking at the resume should be able to figure out the content without reading the details. The resume should draw the reader's attention and create a desire to know more. The goal is to win an interview. It is at the interview that the job is won.

The resume is like a preview of coming attractions; you want to save the best for the presentation. Therefore, it is best if the resume creates questions in the mind of the reader. These questions should not cast doubt on your qualifications or integrity, but create a desire to know more about you. "Profitably managed up to $500,000 accounts receivable, reducing delinquent accounts from 22.7% to 10.4%" is just such a statement. It leaves the reader asking the question, "How?" and should prompt an interview to find out more about you.

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This page was last updated on April 17, 1997
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