A Resume that Works (from Susan Ireland)  

If your resume has been circulating in the job market for more than a month and you haven't gotten requests for job interviews, the problem could be your resume. Here's a quick quiz to identify if your resume needs to be improved to produce results:

  1. Is your resume a generic, one-size-fits-all document that focuses on your past?
  2. Is your resume composed of job descriptions instead of achievement statements?
  3. Have you used a resume format that highlights your weaknesses and downplays your strengths?
  4. Are there any red flags (such as employment gaps, age discrimination, job hopping, or appearing overqualified) in your resume that would make an employer think twice about inviting you to an interview?

If you answered Yes to even one of these questions, read on to learn how you can remedy your resume problem.

Hit the Target
A targeted resume can get you considered by a hiring manager or search committee, while a general resume is apt to get lost in the pile of competing resumes. The key concept in writing a winning resume is to keep the focus on your job objective, which means you may need to tailor your resume each time you apply for a different job. Don't groan… revising your resume isn't that much work, and it's well worth your energy when you consider how much more effective your document will be in today's tough job market.

Triple the Value
Think of your resume as a piece of high-end real estate where every pixel counts. You can triple the value of your real estate by stating your experience as achievements instead of boring job descriptions. Here's how: In the one or two lines it would take to describe a task you performed, you can talk about an accomplishment that resulted when you performed that task. For example, contract negotiator Pearl Hancock wrote on her resume: "Successfully met strategic licensing agreements within timeframe and budget" instead of a job description such as "Oversaw completion of strategic licensing agreements."

A job description says only what you did. An achievement statement says 1) what you did; 2) that you're good at performing that task; and 3) that you're proud of the skills you used and enjoy using them. That's triple the value for the same experience.

To figure out what achievements are appropriate for your resume, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does my potential employer define success for the job I'm applying for? How do I measure up?
    Example: Juanita Garcia knows that as a real estate appraiser, her success will be determined partially by how well she understands state real estate law. To assure the employer that she excels at this, she wrote this achievement statement: "Developed a five-page guide on state appraising regulations, which became a standard reference at Carlson Real Estate."
  • What project am I proud of that demonstrates I have the skills for my job objective?
    Example: When Louis Pulski was looking for a research position, he found a job posting that required candidates to be "Skilled at providing accurate and prompt reference service through print and online services." To address this requirement, Louis wrote the following achievement statement: "Performed timely, in-depth searches for print and online information at the request of faculty, students, and the general public."
  • What is my prospective employer's bottom line (for example: money, attendance, retention, clean data), and when have I shown that I know how to address that bottom line?
    Example: Salesman Paul Crome knows that his prospective employer's bottom line is money. Therefore, he created strong achievement statements such as "Generated over $1 million in new business annually."
  • What technical or management skills do I have that indicate the level at which I perform?
    Example: Knowing that the employer wants a candidate with basic computer skills, Sheila Fromer exceeded the requirement by writing: "Proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Outlook; Netscape and Internet Explorer; SPSS for Windows, basic HTML coding." Is there any doubt that Sheila's a whiz on the computer?
  • What problem did I solve, how did I solve it, and what were the results?Example: On his resume, lawyer Chris Pathens referred to a problem he solved: "Drafted legal notices necessary to merge operations without jeopardizing company's multimillion-dollar distribution."

Format Does Matter
Chronological? Functional? What difference does it make which format you use for your resume? It's all about timing. With the right format, you can grab an employer's interest during his or her initial eight-second scan of your resume.

An employer gives only about eight seconds to a resume in the initial scan. During those few seconds he or she wants to see 1) who the job seeker is; 2) what the job seeker wants; and 3) why the job seeker should get an interview. If the employer can't grasp that information in a quick scan, he or she is apt to set the resume aside or, even worse, discard it.

The right resume format (either chronological or functional) organizes your information so that it passes an employer's eight-second test. So which format should you use? It depends on what type of career transition you're making. Here are guidelines for when to use each format.

Chronological Format
The most traditional format is the chronological resume. This format highlights your dates, places of employment, and job titles, presenting them as headings under which your accomplishments are written.

The chronological format can be most effective when:

  • You wish to remain in the same field or industry.
  • Your work history shows lateral or vertical career growth or an increase in job responsibility, making your job objective the next obvious step in your career path.
  • Your current or most recent position is one you are proud of and enjoy.
  • There are no gaps in your employment history.

The Functional Resume
The functional resume presents your work experience under skill headings, which gives you the freedom to prioritize your achievements by their relevance and impact rather than by chronology. The dates, names of employers, and job titles in your work history are listed concisely in a separate section, usually at the bottom of your resume.

The functional format can be most effective when:

  • You are changing to a new career.
  • You are preparing to re-enter the job market.
  • You need to focus on experience or skills from an earlier time in your work history.
  • Your unpaid or volunteer work is more relevant to your objective and should therefore be highlighted.
  • Your most recently held position is not impressive.
  • Your job titles do not accurately describe the level of responsibility you held.

Red Flags
Most employers don't like to take hiring risks, especially in today's litigious society where employment laws are loosely interpreted. Any one of the following red flags on a resume spells "risk" for an employer and could cause him or her to toss a resume:

  • Gaps in employment
  • Dates that trigger age discrimination
  • Job hopping
  • Appearing overqualified

The solutions to these problems vary, depending on the situation. Here are some suggestions for resolving your red flag.

Gaps in Employment
All employment gaps must be filled so as not to make the prospective employer wonder if you had or have a serious problem such as substance abuse, incarceration, chronic illness, or just plain laziness. In the Work History section of your resume, explain any employment gaps by inserting a "job title" (full-time parent, volunteer, student, independent study, travel abroad) that is relevant to your job objective, or at least says something positive about your character. For example, aspiring receptionist Sophia Ricardo was unemployed for 15 years while she raised a family. In her Work History section, she listed the relevant volunteer positions she held during that time.

Dates that Trigger Age Discrimination
Here's a great way to understand how the dates on your resume create an impression of your age. It's called the EPT formula (Experience Plus Twenty): Subtract the earliest work history date on your resume from today's date (years only, not months). Add that number of years to 20 (used as a ballpark figure for how old you probably were when you started working) to get a total of "x," meaning that you are at least x years old. For example, a resume written in 2004 with a work history that starts in 1990 tells the reader that the job seeker is at least 34 years old (14 years of experience + 20 = 34).

A well-crafted resume uses dates to lead the employer to deduce that you are within the ideal age range for the position you are seeking, regardless of your actual age. For example, Lillian Smith is older than the "ideal" candidate the employer is hoping to hire for an administrative assistant position. Knowing that, she did not put dates next to her degrees under Education and she went back only 15 years in her Work History, indicating that she is at least 35 years old, an age she believes the employer will deem appropriate.

Job Hopping
On average, workers change jobs once every two to three years. In many industries, employers find this rate of job change acceptable. Less than two years between jobs raises the question, "If I hire this person, how quickly will he leave me for his next opportunity?"

If you have short terms of employment in your history, here are some ways to put a prospective employer's mind at ease. One or more of these suggestions might work for you:

  • Use a functional format. This format takes the spotlight off your Work History section by placing it at the bottom of the resume, thereby shining the light on the skill headings in the body of the resume.
  • Present similar short-term jobs under one job title, such as:
    Information Analyst assignments: XYZ Inc., ABC Corp., and JFK Co., 2002-2004

This technique works in both the chronological and functional formats.

  • If you're a new grad, include wording such as "concurrent with education" in the heading of your Employment section. This technique may be used in either a chronological or functional format.
  • If you worked as a temp, state the employment agency as your employer, or call yourself a contractor and create a list of selected companies where you worked. For example:
    Information Analyst, ABC Temp Agency, 2001-2003
    or Information Analyst Contractor, 2001-2003
    Selected clients: DEF Corp., HIJ Inc., and KLM Co.

If you're worried that something on your resume might make you look overqualified for your job objective, consider placing that information in an inconspicuous place on your resume, or leave it off completely. For instance, if you're applying for an entry-level job as a pastry chef, you might not put your Ph.D. in Chemistry on your resume for fear that the employer would assume you want too much salary or would become bored in an entry-level position.

The Wrap-Up
Now that you've targeted your resume for your job objective, filled it with achievement statements, and resolved any red flags that might have caused a hiring manager to toss your resume, you're ready to give your document the ultimate test: sending it to an employer. If you're snail-mailing your hardcopy resume, take the following steps:

  1. Put your resume and cover letter in a 9x11 envelope. Sending it flat in a large envelope will allow it to arrive without creases that sometimes crack the print.
  2. Don't staple your documents-you can paper-clip them together if you wish. Unstapled sheets are easy for the recipient to slip into a copy machine.
  3. Neatly hand-address the envelope or create a sticky label for the envelope.

Drop your packet in the mailbox, go home, and put your feet up-you've done a great job and deserve a rest! Your next step is to plan what you'll wear to your job interview.


3 komentar: to “ A Resume that Works (from Susan Ireland)

  • Job Ireland
    11:15 PM  

    Susan is always right to the point!!!

  • Susan Ireland
    7:33 AM  

    I came across this article when searching through Google. As I am the author of the article, I was a little surprised to find it posted here. I don't believe I gave permission for it to be reproduced. I see that you credited Job-Hunt.org, to whom I have granted permission.

    At any rate, I'm OK with you having the article on your blog. I only ask that you please link to my site, susanireland.com (http://susanireland.com), so that job seekers can find more advice and sample resumes and letters.

    Thank you, and I wish you the best with your blog.

    Susan Ireland

  • ardinoto
    4:36 AM  

    Susan, I have added your links within this post. Thank you so much for giving me a chance to publish this articles.

    Your articles are always awesome !

    Thanks again