Writing 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.