A quality resume can give you an advantage for getting on the shortlist of preferred candidates for a job. We'll look at resume writing hype and ten quick tips for crafting a quality resume. Ten more quick tips follow for submitting a resume via email or the Internet where it will be scanned for key words by an employer. Then we'll look at standard job application forms and how they compare to resumes.
Is Resume Writing Overhyped?
Should your resume be a masterpiece? Do you need a pricey professional resume writing service to craft a masterpiece resume? In most cases, the answer is no. Pricey professional resume services are useful for some. They are also overhyped by those who provide the service. Some are gimmicky. Most people do quite well crafting their own resumes and having a knowledgeable friend or relative make correction suggestions.
If you are like most who write their own quality resume, you have many available resources. You have literally hundreds of examples available on the Internet or in resume writing books and manuals. For example, in Fearless Job Hunting (Knaus, et al. 2010) we walk you through the paces and show you how to get to the endpoint of producing a quality resume. Among free services, state workforce development agencies provide resume writing assistance.
Most employers want to know if you have the educational and work background that qualifies you for the job. If you meet the criterion, you'll get a second look.
Your resume doesn't have to be a masterpiece to present your qualifications; too slick a presentation may cause a screener to look askance at the document. However, this is not an either/or situation where either a resume extols great accomplishments or is bland. You can-and probably should-dress up your resume to present yourself in the best but also most realistic possible light.
Ten Quick Resume Writing Tips
Some of the following 10 tips include psychological research findings that apply to crafting a quality resume to get on the shortlist of preferred candidates for a job.
1. What Resume Style is Best for You? Review resume styles to see which you like best and which you think will project your credentials in the most favorable light. You can find Microsoft resume templates in MS Word office programs. Specialty job search Internet sites, such as http://www.resumel.com/ give sample resumes.
2. Define your objective. After you listed your name, address, telephone, and email address, start with your objective. In an age of computer generated resumes, you can easily modify your objective to fit different jobs. However, it is important that you are clear on your objective and avoid going too far afield from what you want in a job and from what you can offer to an employer.
3. Be mindful of accuracy and style. Use the active-tense and pithy wording. This language style is forceful and engaging. Avoid hyperbole, or language that is generalized glitter. Keep your text free from spelling or grammatical errors. Needless errors can keep you off the shortlist. Use a high quality paper, perhaps 100% cotton bond. This small investment helps project a quality image.
4. Make a conscientious impression. Many resume screeners fancy themselves "personality" experts who can judge personality by virtue of the written word. They ordinarily overestimate themselves. Nevertheless, some resumes are transparent and suggest a personality style. If you present like a "complainer" or that you have an elevated opinion of yourself, you may not get past a preliminary screening. To avoid sending the wrong message, submit your credentials in a standard, informational style. A conscientious presentation conveys a conscientious image. That is a "safe" personality profile to present.
5. Take an organization's image into account. Because a quality image is a strategic resource, organizations expend considerable effort to enhance it. What does your target organization(s) do to promote its image? Can you create an image through your resume that is consistent with the image the organization projects?
6. Present your job history in an organized way. Create an organized chronological presentation of your job history with dates and important functions. Start with your most recent job. Emphasize documentable accomplishments.
7. Cite your educational history. Start with your highest degree or accomplishment.
8. Strengthen your presentation with special accomplishments. Add suitable job-relevant information: your military history, special honors, publications, civic service, voluntary work, news articles, and statements of appreciation from former employers, and special skills. It is usually assumed that you'll present references, but you can state something like "references provided on request." However, if you have a highly regarded person as a reference, use the name.
9. Show integrity. Present an accurate history and this is an integrity indicator. Organizations that do not perform background checks may be subjected to litigation for negligent hiring. To avoid litigation, many now do background checks, and this includes confirming educational and work credentials.
10. Attend to the visuals. An attractive graphical resume layout can give you a slight edge to get on the shortlist. How do you block off information, use bulleted text, separate sections with lines, etc.? A quality layout suggests extra diligence. Look for attractive resume layouts that you can imitate, or create one. If you are a graphic artist applying for a graphic arts consultant position, your resume can be a work sample to introduce your other work samples.
Guidelines for Computer Scanned Resumes
The day of the internet job application is here. The trend is increasing. Firms use Internet submitted documents to scan for key words in your resume that match their job criteria. This field is rapidly changing, so a currently popular format may be replaced by another. Organizations also have differing requirements for Internet submissions
Internet resume has a somewhat different style. Here are 10 quick tips for a common form of Internet submissions:
1. Set the width of the characters to 60 or less and use Courier or Times New Roman 10 to 12 point fonts.
2. Start with your name and address in capital letters centered on the page. After the address, list phone number on one line; then email address on a separate line.
3. Include a Keyword Summary of no more than 50 words. Include your degrees, university, major, certifications, special skills/knowledge, employment history, (including job titles and duties performed). Unlike a traditional resume where you use action verbs, your keywords are nouns or noun phrases.
4. Use asterisks (*) or plus signs (+) instead of bullets for your listed points.
5. Use capital letters or bold face instead of underlining or italics (underlining and italics don't usually scan well).
6. Use the space bar instead of tabs to indent.
7. Avoid the use of vertical lines and boxes and use as few horizontal lines as possible.
8. Be concise. If your job experience entails more than 10 years, concentrate on the most current 10 years of experience and stop after page 2. Include your name and address at the top of page 2.
9. When mailing a resume for scanning, mail it in a 9 x 12 inch mailing envelope to keep it flat. If your resume is two pages, don't staple the pages. Use thin cardboard on both sides to reduce wrinkling.
10. When emailing a scan-able resume, convert the document to rich text format (or ASCII if requested specifically).
Applications Versus Resumes
Do you need a resume? In some cases the answer is no. An employer may use a standard job application to pull out what they want to know about your job qualifications.
The application format is common screening device for most hourly and salary positions. You fill out your name, address, phone number, and email address. You fill in blanks about your employment history: previous employer(s), dates of employment, supervisor, your job functions, your title, promotions, and reason for leaving, etc. Standard forms include your educational background, military history, and, in some cases, race, gender, marital status, and date of birth. You may have to check whether you'll agree to drug testing, background checks, and so forth. Some organizations will have you complete their application form on-line.
If you haven't completed an application form for a while, see the following:
A resume gives you another way to show how you qualify for a job. But here you are in charge of the way you structure your information. You can build your resume to show that you have special skills, solved challenging problems that gave an employer a headache, or put in extra hours to get a job done.
If you complete and application and simultaneously submit a resume, make sure that they are consistent. Sophisticated screeners will look for inconsistencies. Even if they find relatively meaningless inconsistencies, this may be sufficient to rule you out in a down job market with an abundance of candidates for too few jobs.
Dr. Bill Knaus