A resumé is the most powerful document in your job search arsenal. A good resume can unlock doors to an array of professional opportunities. While writing the ideal resume can be a significant challenge for many of us, you can simplify the process by incorporating the following steps:
1. Decide whether your resumé should be chronological or functional. A chronological resume emphasizes your work history, with your most recent position listed first while a functional resume focuses on your skills and experience. Opt for a chronological resume if you have a consistent work history. Conversely, if there are significant gaps in your employment, a functional resume may be a better choice.
2. Focus on accomplishments, not job responsibilities. This is perhaps the biggest mistake I see on resumes. Your resumé should not consist of a list of your duties and responsibilities. It should tell potential employers what you have accomplished. For example, don’t just say you were responsible for managing a $10 million budget, discuss how you were able to cut expenses by 10 percent and save a million dollars. This makes a far more powerful statement about what you can bring to an organization.
3. Use specific examples to demonstrate your accomplishments. For instance, if you are a salesperson, describe the time you persuaded a reluctant customer to buy your product. If you are a training specialist, discuss the online training courses you developed that significantly reduced educational expenses. If you are a marketing manager, describe the promotional strategy you developed that increased company sales.
4. Create a keyword-rich resume. You can do this by reading job descriptions and company information, and then making a list of the keywords used by the employer. For example, if an organization is seeking candidates who are “results-oriented” and “dependable”, you should include these terms on your resumé. Likewise, if a position seeks a person with “HTML programming” experience, you should include this phrase.
5. Pay attention to resume length. Generally speaking, new entrants to the workforce should have a one-page resume, seasoned professionals can have a two-page resume and senior executives can use a resume that is three or four pages long. Academic resumes, also known as a curriculum vita, can be longer. However, never make your resumé any longer than necessary.
6. Use a career summary, not a career objective. A career summary tells employers what you have to offer while a career objective tells them what you want. It is better to communicate the value you bring to an organization. Besides, your cover letter will communicate your career objective. Remember, your career summary should be a brief statement about the skills and credentials that qualify you for a particular position.
7. Tailor your resumé for a particular job opening. Do not create a single, all-purpose resumé to submit for every job opening. Rather, think of your resumé as a template that you will modify based on the requirements of a particular opening. Don’t worry, you just have to make minor tweaks for different openings in the same field.
8. Develop multiple resumes. If you will be applying for jobs in different occupational areas (e.g., marketing and human resources), you need to create more than one resume. This also applies if you will be seeking opportunities in the same occupation, but in different industries (e.g., manufacturing and education). The resumes will not be vastly different, but they will need to reflect the differences in job expectations and keyword usage.
9. Include well-written and accurate content. Your resume is a reflection of your professionalism. Poor grammar and misspelled words will diminish your perceived expertise and credibility. Even worse is using inaccurate or untrue information. Most of the time, fallacious resume information will not help you get a job and it may come back to haunt you.
10. Proofread, proofread and proofread again. Yes, read your completed resume at least three times. Then have a friend or colleague proofread it for you. They will find errors you missed even if you have reviewed it multiple times.