By Bill Radin ©1998 Innovative Consulting, Inc. Career Development Reports
In a perfect world, no one would need a resume.
The candidates most suited to a particular job would simply be summoned forth to interview, based on their reputation and word of mouth referral.
Employers would carefully make their hiring decisions based on the candidates’ verbal account of their past performance, without regard to any kind of written documentation.
And companies would grow and prosper, having selected only the best and brightest from a large pool of qualified talent.
Right. And now the reality:
Of course, many of the best candidates also have the best resumes; and sometimes, highly qualified candidates manage to surface through word-of-mouth referral. In fact, the referral method is the one I use to present talented people to my client companies.
But unless you can afford to rely on your “reputation,” or on the recommendation of a barracuda recruiter, you’ll need more than the right qualifications to get the job you want – you’ll need a dynamite resume.
In today’s competitive employment market, your resume has to stand out in order to get the attention of the decision maker and create a strong impression. And later on, when you meet the prospective employer face to face, a strong resume will act as a valuable tool during the interviewing process.
In addition to providing a factual representation of your background, your resume serves as an advertisement of your availability.
Although there’s no federal regulatory agency like the FDA or FCC to act as a watchdog, I consider it to be ethical common sense to honestly and clearly document your credentials. In other words, don’t make exaggerated claims about your past.
The best way to prepare a dynamite resume is not to change the facts – just make them more presentable. This can be accomplished in two ways:
Remember, your resume is written for the employer, not for you. Its main purpose, once in the hands of the reader, is to answer the following questions: How do you present yourself to others? What have you done in the past? And what are you likely to accomplish in the future?
To help you construct a better, more powerful resume, here are ten overall considerations in regard to your resume’s content and presentation:
Resume writing can be tricky, especially if you haven’t done it before. I suggest you write several drafts, and allow yourself the time to proofread for errors and ruminate over what you’ve written. Practice, after all, makes perfect. If you have a professional associate whose opinion you trust, by all means, listen to what he or she has to say. A simple critique can save you a great deal of time and money.
I worked with a candidate recently who had the most beautifully written resume I’ve ever seen. When I asked him about it, he said that he sharpened his skills by writing and rewriting his wife’s resume. After he got the hang of it, he worked on his own – and kept revising it on a monthly basis.
To get the most mileage out of your resume, you’ll want to emphasize certain aspects of your background. By doing so, you’ll present your qualifications in the most favorable light, and help give the employer a better understanding of your potential value to his or her organization.
You can build a stronger case for your candidacy, by highlighting the following areas of interest:
In a competitive market, employers are always on the lookout for traits that distinguish one candidate from another. Not long ago, I worked with an engineering manager who mentioned the fact that he was a three-time APBA national power boat champion on his resume. It came as no surprise that several employers warmed up to his resume immediately, and wanted to interview him.
Most employers find that a carefully worded statement of purpose will help them quickly evaluate your suitability for a given position. An objective statement can be particularly useful as a quick-screen device when viewed by a manager responsible for staffing several types of positions. (“Let’s see; accountants in this pile, programmers in that pile, plant managers in that pile…”)
While a stated objective gives you the advantage of targeting your employment goals, it can also work against you. A hiring manager lacking in imagination or who’s hard pressed for time will often overlook a resume with an objective that doesn’t conform to the exact specifications of a position opening. That means that if your objective reads “Vice President position with a progressive, growth-oriented company,” you may limit your options and not be considered for the job of regional manager for a struggling company in a mature market – a job you may enjoy and be well suited to.
If you’re pretty sure of the exact position you want in the field or industry you’re interested in, then state it in your objective. Otherwise, broaden your objective or leave it off the resume.
Your resume can be arranged in one of two basic formats: summary or chronological.
Although the information you furnish the reader may essentially be the same, there’s a big difference in the way the two resumes are constructed, and the type of impact each will have.
My experience has shown that the chronological resume brings the best results, since it’s the most explicit description of the quality and application of your skills within a specific time frame.
The summary resume, on the other hand, works well if you’ve changed jobs or careers often, and wish to downplay your work history and highlight your level of expertise.
If a prospective hiring manager is specifically interested in a steady, progressively advancing employment history (as most are), then the summary resume will very likely work against you, since the format will seem confusing, and might arouse suspicions as to your potential for longevity.
However, if the employer’s main concern is your technical or problem-solving ability, the summary resume will serve your needs just fine.
Either way, you should always follow the guidelines mentioned earlier regarding content and appearance.
So far, we’ve talked about ways to enhance or adjust the content of your resume. Now let’s look at what should be left out, or at least minimized.
Not long ago, we received a resume from a candidate who felt the need to put his bowling average on his vita. I guess he thought that kind of information might improve his chances of being interviewed. Would I show his resume to an employer? No way.
Remember, the greater the relevancy between your resume and the needs of the employer, the more seriously your candidacy will be considered.