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:
If you answered Yes to even one of these questions, read on to learn how you can remedy your resume problem.
A well written Job objective is required
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.
Mention Achievements than just job descriptions
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 Anil Sharma wrote on his 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:
A resume should have good format
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.
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.
Speak for yourself with examples
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.
Do not spell past bad experience
Risks needs to be addressed
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:
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 Seema 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.
Address Job Hopping in your resume
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:
This technique works in both the chronological and functional formats.
Check Over qualification in your resume
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.
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:
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.
Sometimes saying less is better than saying more. Frequently a few strong accomplishments can generate more questions and interest than a page full of details. The achievement resume incorporates this concept by focusing on brevity and simplicity.
An achievement resume looks like a functional resume except that it does not have skill headings in the body of the resume. Instead it simply lists about five or six relevant achievements under a main heading such as “Professional Accomplishments” or “Selected Achievements.”
This type of resume works well for sales professionals, top level executives, and others who want to keep the spot light on just a few successes from their whole career.
Here’s a template that represents an achievement resume:
Street • City, State Zip • phone
What job would you like to have next?
HIGHLIGHTS OF QUALIFICATIONS
20xx-present Job Title Organization, City, State
19xx-xx Job Title Organization, City, State
19xx-xx Job Title Organization, City, State
19xx-xx Job Title Organization, City, State
Degree, Major (if relevant), 19xx
School, City, State
Replace Duties with Achievements in Your Resume
If you were an employer, what three questions would you ask a job candidate? Probably something like:
Tell the employer “Yes” to all three questions by writing about achievements instead of job duties on your resume. Accomplishment statements are the most powerful way to say "I'm good at what I do!"
Here are some questions to help you think of relevant achievements:
Your resume is about your future, not your past.
Based on this principle, keep in mind while writing your resume that your audience is the hiring manager for the position mentioned in your job objective statement.
In order to sell yourself to this potential employer, create statements that are meaningful to him or her. In some cases you may need to:
Use more generic terminology to downplay the differences and emphasize the similarities between your previous position and your job objective.
Arti was a salesperson who wanted to make a career change into elementary school teaching. She tried to bridge the gap between her two careers by emphasizing the common denominators of the two experiences.
Select the aspect of the achievement that relates to the job objective.
As a horticulturist, Poonam was surprised to learn that the part of her job she liked the most was answering client questions. When she wrote her resume for a job as a travel agent, she emphasized her customer service skills and downplayed her scientific expertise.
Prioritize your statements so the one most relevant to your new job is first.
In her former job as office manager, 75% of Andrea’s time was spent processing administrative paperwork, and less than 25% on training and supervision. She wanted to get a job as a corporate trainer. So she prioritized her achievement statements to stress the training experience even though it was not her primary responsibility.