In cyberspace, new rules for your résumé

By , Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

Once upon a time, résumés were traditionally delivered by a postman. But in the age of e-mail, where information flows as quickly as electricity, they mostly travel across the Internet.

As job seekers transition from one form of résumé delivery to another, they're bumping up against new rules and conventions. And without a new rule book, they risk making mistakes that could hurt their prospects, career experts say. Fortunately, avoiding those mistakes isn't all that hard, they add, once people understand the new job-search game.

"The Internet has changed the job hunt," says Marc Cenedella, president of TheLadders.com, an employment website and e-newsletter. "Executives' average job tenure in our country is four years. If you haven't done something in four years, you're pretty rusty at it. For [those] who have spent even more time in one position, they will be surprised at how much the market has changed."

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For instance, job seekers used to send out résumés to 10 to 20 people at a time, but now they might e-mail thousands of résumés just to get a few replies, says Mr. Cenedella. So don't be afraid to send them out - one per company - to as many companies as possible, he counsels.

More important than quantity of résumés is the quality of what you put on them. "Number one, people should consider creating a skill-based and quantitative résumé," advises Marcel Legrand, senior vice president of strategy and planning at Monster.com, a career- management company based in Maynard, Mass. "The wrong way is to say you were a sales manager in charge of 10 people in [a company's] eastern region. The more proper, interesting way is to say you were a sales manager who led 10 individuals resulting in a 15 percent quarter-over-quarter growth and 20 percent increased annualized sales."

In addition, Mr. Legrand says that résumés should be written with key words in mind. He says that since many large companies have software that searches through the scores of résumé they receive, a special section should be reserved for especially descriptive or significant terms.

"If I do a lot of project work, it might not say on my résumé that I am team- oriented," he says. "I want to put that in."

There are plenty of don'ts in the new résumé world.

"The most common mistake is mismerged cover letters," says Cenedella of Theladders.com. "In most cases the body of an e-mail has all but replaced the traditional cover letter, making it very easy to cut and paste copies of the same letter to different hiring managers. But ... it is also very easy to mismerge an electronic message, and say things like 'I'd like to put my skills to work at IBM' when applying to Hewlett Packard."

Another mistake: applying for positions that are above one's skill level. It wastes both the company's time and the applicant's time, job experts say.

Cenedella also warns against using unorthodox fonts, applying for jobs without proper qualifications, and, what he calls the most egregious error, the weird e-mail address.

"I can't tell you how many times I've seen hotrodlover@hotmail.com, or sexylady@hotmail.com," he sighs.

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