Sunday, December 6, 2009

5 Steps to a Great Resume

7 seconds. Just 7 seconds. Recent studies have shown that is all the time you have to make an impression (good or bad) on a potential employer. Knowing this, it becomes apparent just how important a good resume is. Unfortunately, many job seekers don’t realize this fact - to their own peril. During my 6 plus years of writing resumes professionally for I have seen a lot of mistakes, misspellings, missteps and miscues along the way. I can help you before you make some of them, too. There are 5 basic mistakes that every job-seeker should avoid.

The first, and most important, is also the easiest to fix: poor writing. Things like typos, misspellings, verb tenses mixed and sentences butchered. A potential employer will not struggle to get through your resume. He will simply toss it into the “circular file.” Your resume must be easy to read; 7 seconds, remember?

Second, you need to use an easy-to-scan format; something one can glance over and have key details stand out. You should limit the amount of fancy formatting you do. Just because you can manipulate all of Microsoft Word’s functions doesn’t mean you have to show it here. Keep it clean and simple. What you should have are the four standard sections: Objective, Summary, Work History and Education. Put enough detail in to sell yourself but no more.

Third, and this is closely related to formatting, do not over write. This is a trap all amateur writers fall into. The best authors know less is more, and what works for books works for resumes too. Too often I have read resumes that have huge paragraphs of text explaining every single detail about their current job or even the company they currently work for. Employers and recruiters are not going to wade through volumes of text when they have another 100 or so resumes to get through. They need to know quickly and easily what you have done and what you can do. Most often a short bulleted list accomplishes this best.

Fourth, you need to tell potential employers what you are capable of doing. Often when a client sends me their resume for a professional evaluation, I see the job specs. Those could apply to anyone who has held that particular job. It is not singling them out as different, better and more capable than the rest. List your achievements, what you have done above and beyond, not just the job requirements.

Fifth, there is more than one type of resume. While just about every job seeker writing their own resume tries to make their professional life fit a chronological format, it simply is not the way to go for many people. A skills-based resume allows one to focus on abilities and potential, rather that just past achievements. An education-based resume allows employers to see your training in detail; this is especially useful for recent graduates. There really is a resume fit for every person. Experiment a little bit, and find the style that fits you best.

Follow these five rules to avoid the mistakes of you job-seeking ancestors. A well-written resume is your first and best chance to make a good impression on potential employers. Make yours count. Remember, 7 seconds goes by awfully fast.

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