How to write a winning resume
The purpose of a resume is to get you to the next step in your job search: getting an interview. A lot of the preparation you do to write your resume will help you target your job search efforts more effectively. The better your job search strategy and resume are, the more successful you will be in securing interviews and the right job for you.
Before you begin the actual writing of your resume, here are a few pre-job search tips:
• Before you begin sending out your resume, check out what your online presence (Facebook, Google, etc.) and your credit report might tell a potential employer – either remove unflattering/incorrect content or photos, or plan to explain them. Employers do check.
• Create an e-mail address that is simple with your name in it – use this for job applications. Do not use an e-mail address from your current job or studmuffin, gramma, babycake16, etc.
• Do research on potential employers, know their reputation (Chamber and BBB), their products/services, and what skills they desire from the job application and description; you may avoid some unpleasant situations by screening your employer first.
In the ‘old days’ people had a standard resume document that didn’t change much, but today’s resume will change somewhat for every job application – fortunately, computers help with that process. Be sure to keep copies (digital on a flash drive and paper) of each version of your resume, in case you need to revise one quickly for that perfect opportunity. Though there are some specific employment fields that require different types of resumes, most employers prefer a one-page resume that highlights exactly the skills they want, called a functional resume. The old-style chronological resume was a listing of each separate job, time frame, and duties; this information is often provided on a separate job application if it is desired.
Here are some suggested steps you can take to create your basic resume document:
• Pull together all of your previous job information, awards, school transcripts/diplomas, training certificates, performance reviews. Review this information looking for skills and information you want to highlight. Compare this information to your target job announcement and find skills that match.
• There are good books and online resources with lots of resume advice, choose one or two that are written within the last year, so you don’t get too many conflicting or old ideas. Resume templates are available online at Microsoft.com, or create your own format. Pick one that is a well-organized design, simple, with an easy-to-read font. Print in black type on plain white paper, no fancy stationery, no color, no photos, and no ink-intensive blocks (they will be copied.) You may also need a separate ‘text only’ resume for online applications or scanning. Always put all your contact information (name, mailing address, e-mail, phone, cell) at the top.
• Use the same words from the job announcement to grab attention quickly, no jargon or uncommon abbreviations. Use action verbs and highlight transferable skills that employers want, such as team-building, problem solving, and computer literacy. Leave out details that create differences or are not related to this job. Do not include hobbies, age, familial status, race, religion, unless there is a hiring preference in this particular job. Do not include a statement regarding references, these are provided on the job application.
• If you are a career-changer, have little job experience, or have long periods of unemployment, use this time to build current skills for your desired jobs through volunteering, courses, or other means. Don’t underestimate the value of life and job skills obtained through being a student or a parent (time management, organization, problem-solving.)
• Because it is difficult to spot your own mistakes, always have another person with good grammar/spelling/detail-eye to review your resume for typos and clarity, prior to printing or sending. Look at it from across the table to see if it looks cramped or easy-to-read. Double-check to make sure you have matched the job description wording as much as possible.
Here are some final tips:
• Once you decide to apply for a job, follow instructions exactly. If they want a cover letter and an application and a resume and sent via U.S. mail: Don’t do more or less. People who don’t follow instructions are often screened out as a first step.
• Practice your interviewing skills and answers to common interview questions with a supportive friend; this will help you feel more prepared.
• Keep copies of everything you’ve used to create your resume in a binder or file, and bring to the interview to show, if asked.
• Bring copies of reference letters, just in case you are asked for them.
• Bring paper/pen and a list of a few questions to ask about the organization, the position, future plans, or current events related to the job; this shows that you have done your research about the job and are a serious candidate.
A one-page, well-written, organized resume demonstrates that you can use the desired job skills for your potential employer, before they even meet you.You’ve been looking for a job, and you’ve decided that you aren’t picky. In fact, you’re willing to try anything just to be employed. After all, you’ve always been a good employee. You’re smart and learn things quickly. You work hard and have always been reliable.
You’ve even put together a good resume that covers your employment history and shows that you can handle a lot of different jobs. So why aren’t you getting any response to all those resumes you sent out?
Truth is, your resume might be hurting you. Even in this tough job market, you might help yourself considerably if you get picky about the jobs you seek. Then focus your resume on the job you want.
Dave Beach, program service evaluator for the Arizona Workforce Connection, says job applicants should indicate a job preference to show they have a solid idea of what kind of job they want, and why.
“It’s very important they have some idea of what they want to do,” Beach said.
“That’s one of the questions they will be asked,” he said. “Why do you want this job?”
Beach said job applicants need to focus on some kind of work and should have an objective in mind.
He agrees that many job seekers need a job and are willing to take anything, will try anything. He said he understands that.
“But they have to understand the employer’s perspective,” Beach said.
Today’s prospective employer has a lot of applicants to pick from. He or she is seeing a lot of resumes. And even if the job seeker isn’t picky, the employer probably is.
Beach said that a generic resume probably isn’t doing much to catch the employer’s attention. In fact, it may be working against you. Today’s job seeker must be focused on the job he or she is going after. That way, the applicant can prepare a targeted resume.
The targeted resume will help convince the employer that the applicant really knows what the job is about and is interested in this specific job.
A targeted resume will give a job seeker a leg up. It may even help land a job that an applicant isn’t yet qualified for. Employers know that someone with an aptitude for a particular job may only need some training to handle another job.
Beach said a good starting point for applicants is to take the General Aptitude Testing Battery (GATB). It will help applicants learn what they really are interested in.
“That can be very helpful,” Beach said. He said applicants should find out the types of jobs they have an aptitude for. An applicant might find out he or she has an aptitude for five different job descriptions.
“Then they need five different resumes,” Beach explained. “You can revise a resume fairly easily to fit a job.”
The Arizona Workforce Connection through the Arizona Department of Economic Security has the test and classes that will help an applicant do a self-assessment and then focus his or her job search.
What follows the self-assessment will be a strong resume, a focused cover letter and a reference list. Beach said applicants who follow these steps won’t be looking for very long. “They find jobs,” he said.
In addition to the aptitude test, the Arizona Workforce Connection offers one-hour classes that are very helpful to a job applicant in developing critical job-seeking skills. Classes offered are in resume writing, job readiness and job interview preparation.
The GATB is available free, along with other job-hunting resources, through Arizona Workforce Connection at the Arizona Department of Economic Security located at 1500 E. Cherry St. Ste. F in Cottonwood.
Call (928) 634-3337