How To Write A Better Resume
Which word is more scarier to you? If someone yelled “fire!” or if someone whispered, “resume”? To most people, hearing the word “resume” induces panic attacks and beads of sweat across the forehead.
Writing a resume is hard work. You must write your resume correctly; it must be perfect! Any blunders in your resume could cost you the job. The entire resume-writing process can be confusing. We’ve all asked ourselves these questions: “Which information goes in?” “Which stays out?” “How exactly should I format my resume?”
If you jumped into a pile of books and articles on how to write the perfect resume, you’d drown in words, sentences and advice that all sound the same. So what in the world will make your resume leap out of the pile and scream out, “Grab me! I am the person you want to hire!”
Writing a resume is an art and a science. We need to know a successful formula of words, sentences and phrases to convey our selling points. The following tips are shortcuts to write a stellar resume for whatever sort of job you desire.
FORMAT WITH CAUTION
Your professional history will strongly dictate your resume format. We must choose one of three basic resume types: chronological, functional or combination.
THE CHRONOLOGICAL RESUME – This is the most common type of resume, the one that comes to mind when the word is mentioned. A chronological resume is appropriate if you’ve had steady work experience with little to no breaks, have kept each of your jobs for long periods of time, or have industry-related experience that shows your working toward a specific goal. The Chronological Resume is comprised of:
Objective (which we’ll discuss in a few paragraphs)
Employment history (starting from your most recent job)
Optional section (for things such as military experience or any special skills/interests
that may pertain to the job at hand)
THE FUNCTIONAL RESUME – A variation of the chronological resume, a functional resume intends to highlight skills found outside of work experience; it’s useful if you’re in the process of changing careers, have little to no work experience or have held several, seemingly unrelated jobs. This sort of resume is comprised of:
Qualifications summary (a bulleted list of achievements or interests that qualify you
for the job for which you’re applying).
THE COMBINATION RESUME – A combination resume is what it sounds like: a combination of the chronological and functional formats. It tends to be slightly more useful than the functional resume, as that format sometimes makes an employer suspicious that you’re hiding something (such as a lack of experience). The combination resume is comprised of:
Education (especially if it’s a particularly strong area for you)
Employment history (in reverse order as the chronological resume)
RETHINK YOUR OBJECTIVE
Many books and articles extol the virtues of an objective; it is, after all, a great way to position yourself within a job and show an employer what you want and how willing you are to get it. A lot of job-seekers have been ditching the objective in favor of a qualifications summary, and employers seem to be responding well. The reason for this is simple: objectives are, by nature, focused heavily on you and not the employer. Your potential employer, while certainly interested in what you want, is far more concerned with your qualifications and what you can do for the company.
The idea isn’t all bad, though. It just needs a little tweaking. Instead of an objective, try creating a positioning statement.; it functions on the same way as an objective but puts the focus on you. Take a look at these examples:
Objective: To become an associate editor of children’s books at a major publishing house.
Positioning Statement: Children’s book editor with 10 years of experience in publishing.
These are loose examples, of course, but you get the idea; put the focus on you and the employer will take notice.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL
Be specific about what exactly you’ve done. Your former job responsibilities and achievements are excellent selling points in your resume. Avoid being vague, unless you want your resume to read like everyone else’s. Think about your previous jobs: what exactly did you do and how does that qualify you for a new position? For instance, don’t write that you “assisted the senior editor with a number of editorial duties.” Instead, write “contributed to editorial copy and content editing, cover design and overall concept of several major projects.” Detailing your specific job duties and accomplishments show the employer what you’re capable of and what he or she can expect from you as an employee.
SHOW THEM WHAT YOU CAN DO
It’s tempting to outline your responsibilities to save some space and not appear overly conceited, but remember — you’re here to sell to yourself. You have one shot to make an impression. Chances are good that the employer will already know a bit about the duties of your last job (especially if it’s linked to this job), so they need to read about what you’ve accomplished as opposed to what you did. Anyone could go through the motions of a nine-to-five day, but what did you actually achieve? What were the results of your work? Don’t be modest with this; if a book you edited hit the best-seller list, then by all means, let the employer know. Never withhold important information about your achievements.
WORD IT WELL
The words you use in your resume are just as important as the results you’ve achieved or the jobs you’ve held. Make sure you use lively, engaging words and always avoid the passive voice; it reads in a boring, trite manner. Always write in active voice so you sound more formal and direct. Stay concise — are you using more words that necessary? Would a great action verb effectively replace a whole sentence? Are there any obvious clichés, like “great customer service skills”? Strive to say things in the most interesting manner possible, and make sure you spell all words correctly. There’s nothing worse than a typo on a resume, as it leaves the impression that “if this person doesn’t care enough to spellcheck their resume,” the employer thinks, “then how in the world will they care enough to do this job well?”
PERFECT THE PRESENTATION
Resume presentation is another crucial aspect to the resume-writing process. How your resume looks will serve as the employer’s first impression of you; if it looks bad, or amateurish, your resume may not get a second glance. Make sure the visual formatting is correct (consult a resume guide book for samples of formatting) and always leave lots of white space; this makes it easier for an employer to skim through your resume and find the information they need. Use an easily readable font, such as Arial or Times New Roman; print it on high-quality white stock (no photocopies!); and send it in a white or manila envelope with a printed mailing label. And always, always, always remember to include your contact information, even your email address; it’ll be hard to land that new position if the employer can’t even get in touch with you.