A resume is a valuable document – think of it much like insurance certificates, tax receipts or a will. It is a document which may begin your next few years of opportunity or may fail to begin that process for you. A wise person, from the CEO to the new graduate, should have a current version saved on a hard drive and on a separate medium at all times.
At least once a year this document should be reviewed with additional positions, responsibilities, achievements, skills, and education incorporated into it. Whether by sudden downsizing or the unexpected appearance of a terrific opportunity, having a current resume on hand removes much unneeded stress from the process of seeking new employment.
The first time you make contact with a future employer is generally through a resume submission. Interviewing well is the key to getting the position you desire, but without a good resume you’ll never get to impress them in person. Remember, the purpose of your resume and covering letter is to present yourself in such a way that prospective employers will want to meet you.
Hiring managers typically have to wade through hundreds of resumes sent in response to an open position and typically spend less than 30 seconds reviewing each resume. Recruiters faced with dozens of resumes are often looking for reasons to quickly exclude candidates from current and future searches. In this environment, it is vital for you to communicate clearly and effectively how you and your skills will benefit your next employer. While your resume should be comprehensive, it should function just as an overview which is clear, professional, on-target and easy to read.
The following are some rules of thumb that you can use to ensure that your resume makes an impact:
- If your work history cannot be summarized in 3 pages, you need to do some editing. If you are a CTO, a potential employer does not necessarily need to know all of the details of your positions as a programmer 15 years ago.
- Do not use nouns or pronouns. “Developed a system” rather than “I developed a system.”
- Use a standard font in 10-12 point sizes for text and 11-14 point sizes for headings with wide margins for scanning. Do not use exotic fonts, ALLCAPS, graphics, photographs, headers, footers, tables or any other extravagant formats. Simple is better -and much easier to scan into a database.
- Focus the content on the information needs of the reader. Highlight boldfaced titles, subtitles and key words. Use indentations and bullets to guide the reader's eye. Use language which is clear, specific and professional.
- Do not include personal information such as age, height, weight, race, marital status, or social insurance number. It is illegal for companies to ask for such information and indicates poor judgment to send such sensitive information electronically.
- Include your full name and address, telephone number, and a private email address. Hiring managers assume they can leave messages on all contact information on a resume. If you cannot speak at work, do not include that number. Be sure to check daily for messages on all contact numbers and emails in your resume.
- If applicable, include a technical summary to list your relevant technical expertise. Ensure that all key technical terms in the summary also appear in the body of the resume.
- List your educational and professional qualifications and accreditations. Make sure to include all dates.
- Describe your work experience in reverse chronological order. State the date, position and company name and location. A website link is a good idea.
- The first bullet should state the size and nature of the company and the position to which you reported, followed by bullets stating your responsibilities and achievements.
- Expand upon your last two positions in greater detail. Include promotions and the dates they occurred.
- Document your strengths with concrete results. Be specific. "Helped increase profits by 70% through the implementation of a new web-based order tracking system." rather than "Helped grow the company's profitability”.
- Briefly outline your leisure interests.
- Indicate a willingness to have references checked – “References available upon request” is the common phrase. Have a select reference list available to be sent if requested. Keep in touch with previous supervisors – a smooth hiring process should not include scrambling to find references.
- Check all details carefully for any chronological, grammatical, punctuation, or spelling errors. Do not rely on your spellchecker – be especially careful with technical terms. Have two other people review it.
- Enclose your resume as a Word document within your electronic covering letter. Tailor the covering letter to draw attention to your relevant strengths. When responding to an advertisement which may have hundreds of responses, it is safe to assume your cover letter may not be read. Be sure that all relevant points in your letter are also in the resume.
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