A good resume helps get your foot in the door when you are looking for a job. If it is short, snappy, and keeps the most pertinent information up front, it could win you an interview with a prospective employer. It will not, alone, get you a job, but it can be an important part of your total "sales presentation" of yourself as you seek new fields to conquer.
But how do you go about writing this attention-getting resume? You can pay a resume service to help sort out your personal educational and job history, organize the information, and type it up neatly. Such services can cost from under $50 to over $160.
Or you can tackle the resume-writing job yourself, with the help of such books as "The Perfect Resume," by Tom Jackson (New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday.
However you do it, there are plenty of professional hints for getting down on paper, succinctly and clearly, the major skills and know-how that you have to offer an employer.
Since some concrete examples of past performances let a potential employer know how effective a candidate has been in other jobs, career-development authority Ruth Shapiro advises people, even before they tackle the resume itself , to begin by setting down a number of their accomplishment stories based on the problem or purpose presented, the solution they devised, and the results that occurred.
The most relevant of these examples can then be incorporated into the resume, she says. "No matter what resume format you choose," Miss Shapiro states, "you should go beyond the job description itself to highlight what you can do for the employer. This is done through these accomplishment examples, through which you convey the positive contributions you have made in past employment, or in school , volunteer organizations, or family and home management.
"It is good to ponder over past accomplishments, and to write them down," Miss Shapiro explains. "Such an exercise makes you analyze what you have done, and this can reinforce your strengths and help build your own confidence. This job history can also later become a sort of script for the interview that you hope to attain and serve as a reminder of particular points you wish to make."
This consultant reminds clients that the Equal Employment Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, age, race, or marital status. Such information can be included, or not, as the applicant desires.
Here are a few suggestions from resume experts:
1. Think short. Be precise and complete, but be brief. Try to get all your information on one page. Use telegraphic language and strong, active verbs to describe what you have done. Examples of such verbs, says Miss Shapiro, are "planned, directed, sold, organized, supervised, persuaded, wrote, edited, improved."
2. Gear your resume to a clear-cut focus, or objective. Never be mysterious about why you are writing, or what job, or jobs, interest you most. Do not appear to be "stabbing in the dark." Nor should you ask what jobs are available, or say that "you are willing to do anything." Gather enough information about the company to which you are applying to know exactly what it has to offer you, and what transferable skills you can offer to the company. "Matching your background and expertise to the requirements and functions of the job you aspire to is what a good resume is all about," according to Womankind Executive Resources in New York.
3. Be honest, and be sure of your facts. Never exaggerate what you have done because you may later be quizzed in detail on such points. Also do not describe past accomplishments with such self-complimentary adjectives as "innovative" or "exceptional," but let your facts and figures speak for themselves. Stating that you increased sales by 25 percent means far more than the claim that you are a "creative salesperson." Always try to translate your experience into terms of logistics, cash flow, inventory control, increased production, and so on.
4. Explain gaps in your resume with such explanations as "From 1962 to 1970 I was out of the job market because I was at home caring for a family."
5. Remember that the physical layout of the resume, graphically speaking, makes an enormous impression. It should be neatly typed, easy-to-read, and have white marginal spaces on all four sides. No paragraph should be more than four or five lines long. "If a resume doesn't look clean, uncluttered, and well ordered, and if something in it doesn't catch the eye immediately, out it may go ," warns Miss Shapiro. She claims that the resumes that don't get noticed are usually those that are too heavy, too detailed, and too dull.
It takes from three to four drafts, says this consultant, to make a resume as objective, terse, and compelling as possible. Mr. Jackson suggests that if you want to list the books you have written, the awards you have won, or other types of information you feel are relevant to your job-seeking, consider attaching them as an addendum to your resume in the form of a separate listing.
There are several good and appropriate ways to organize a resume, including both the chronological and functional approaches. The best one for you probably depends on the nature of the job you are applying for, and the type of employer to whom you are applying.
In the last few years, a new resume format has evolved that, in many instances, is thought to be superior to the old conventional format, which lists where you worked and what you were called, year by year, in reverse chronological order. This new "functional" format breaks down your experiences into the functions you have fulfilled and the skills you have developed in the process. It enables you to pinpoint your strengths, to deemphasize (but not delete) dates, and to play down aspects of your career that you want to put in the past.
A secretary, for instance, who wants to emphasize her organizational, research, and communication skills, might list what she has accomplished, under those headings, in order to prove her ability to handle management or supervisory positions. She would not refer to her typing and filing skills.
Tom Jackson, author of the book, "The Perfect Resume" and president of the Career Development Team Inc. in New York City, says, "A perfect resume is a well structured, easy-to-read presentation of your capability and accomplishments, designed to convince a potential employer to invite you for an interview." He maintains that a resume demonstrates your own self-appraisal, or what you think of you.
His book includes 55 examples of effective resumes. It also lists resume information for women reentering the job market and college students seeking their first jobs.
As a reminder to those who may be tackling their first resume, your name, address, and telephone number goes at the top. Your job objective should follow. It could be specific, such as "vice-president of marketing" or nonspecific, such as "management position in consumer goods marketing where I can use proven skills in management, marketing, research, and communication."
Your next heading should be titled "Background Summary," and should give a broad bird's-eye view of your career experience. Beneath that would come a heading called "Professional Experience," which could include sub-headings with some of your most outstanding accomplishment stories.
A heading called "Employment History" follows, listing dates of past employment, plus state and city (but not street address) of past employers. This is followed by a heading called "Education" which lists last degrees, first , and a final paragraph that states "References available on request."