Latest update: January 6th, 2013
To modify a line from Winnie the Pooh, “the most frustrating things about resumes is that resumes are frustrating things.” If asked to design the best way to evaluate the top talent for a job, few people would recommend the submission of a document no one knows how to prepare and that requires a great deal of professional coaching and adjustment.
Ask a number of people for their opinions on the best way to create a resume and chances are you’ll get different answers from everyone you ask. Students often come in and tell us that a partner at a major firm advised him/her to use a specific format, and assume no one can question the wisdom of a partner.
The somewhat frustrating reality is that resumes are much more an art than a science; there are very few absolutes to what should or should not be done to create a winning one. As disconcerting as that may sound, it is realistic; we don’t often get to create the hoops, we just have to know how to jump through them.
As there is also no way to fully describe all of the elements of a winning resume in one article, we will return to this topic in a future column. (In the interim, we would be happy to send you the “Touro Career Services Resume Checklist” to use as a guide.) So how do you begin to jump through those hoops and produce a winning resume that gets you noticed?
To start, let’s understand the function of the resume. Your resume is your calling card; it describes the skills and experiences you have that would make you a valuable employee. The goal of the resume is to help you get an interview, not the job itself, so you need to focus on creating a compelling case that convinces the reader it is in his or her interest to call you in for an interview.
While career professionals will disagree as to what you need to include, there are some general guidelines you can follow. To start, resumes created with the Microsoft Word template should be thrown out. Human resources professionals see that format so many times a day; they are ready to pull their hair out. So, even if your resume contains some great information and you have all the qualities to make an excellent employee, it looks just like everyone else’s and it will not make you stand out.
There are some great resume books by the Five O’clock Club and Martin Yate that provide alternative resume formats that have actually landed jobs in the past. Most libraries have these books, and are well worth the investment of your time.
Once you pick a format, remember: typos, misspelled words, formatting errors, etc. must be avoided at all costs. This is your marketing document and calling card. Mistakes on a resume indicate that the applicant is not particularly careful about the manner in which s/he presents him/herself and gives the reader a good indication that they would be just as careless when employed.
Send your resume to your friends, have a professional review it – just be sure there aren’t any mistakes. Honestly, the smallest error can be the difference between securing or not securing a job interview.
Be honest. The claims you make as to work experience and tasks need to be factual. This is very similar to how you present yourself on a shidduch date. Put your best foot forward and present the best picture of your greatest qualities.
While resume experts disagree about the inclusion of a “summary” statement describing your skills (we highly recommend using one), it is essential that your resume be keyword rich. Most major companies use scanning systems for resume review. That means your resume will never reach human hands unless it satisfies the search criteria set up in advance.
Scanning technology is far from perfect, so there are a few important rules to follow. Many career advisors suggest using a PDF format to ensure the copy you send opens in the exact same format regardless of the system the reviewer is using. However, scanning systems tend to have a lot of trouble reading PDF files and often misread the content. A Microsoft Word document is much safer, especially when utilizing .doc, not .docx, but we recommend you send it to several friends using different computer systems so you can ensure the formatting remains consistent on all of them.
Career advisors also disagree on the best format for including the dates of employment, etc. on your resume. While there is nothing stylistically wrong with including those dates on the far left side, many of the scanning systems read vertically, so dates on the left side cut off the actual resume content. We advise that dates be pulled to the far right margin.
While employers do not publically identify the keyword criteria which they are seeking, there are some guidelines that can help move you in the right direction. Make sure to include words that identify the skills you have in the three areas that are most crucial for successful employment in almost any field. 1) Intellectual skills 2) Interpersonal skills and 3) Job skills.
Intellectual skills can encompass things such as analytical ability, academic achievement, problem solving skills, experience, etc. Interpersonal skills describe how you will work with others and include team skills, leadership, ability to follow direction, etc. Finally, job skills illustrate that you will utilize your intellectual and interpersonal skills once you start the job. They include such things as motivation, dedication, hard work, punctuality, and the like.
It is very important that the skills you choose are an accurate reflection of who you are. A good interviewer will be able to see if you are bluffing very quickly, so choose your words wisely. We generally advise people to list 4-5 skills they have in each of those three areas in order to create an accurate representation of who they are.
One of the more modern challenges is that after your keywords meet the search criteria, your resume still needs to look impressive when reviewed by a person. Our recommendation for the use of a summary statement is based on that reality. The summary statement allows you to include all of the important keywords in a concise, easy to read statement that gets noticed.
Summary statements have a tendency to look generic, and while those terms may get you past the computer review, a generic summary statement will not look impressive when reviewed in person. To get it right, take the time and effort to make sure it accurately and effectively describes the skills you have that would make you a valuable employee.
There are some new tools to allow you to target your resume summary statement to a particular job or field. Websites like http://www.wordle.net/ allow you to create word clouds, a visual presentation that highlights the keywords in any document. Creating a word cloud based on the job description or a series of job descriptions for similar positions, allows you to tailor your summary statement and include the most important key words for that position.
This is not a guarantee that the keywords produced will match the search criteria they establish, but most job postings are crafted carefully and the qualifications they include are an accurate representation of what the employer feel is important for success in that position.
Once again, be careful. Only include skills you do have even if the word cloud indicates that a certain skill is of extreme importance. A good interviewer will make you defend your skill descriptions, and if you don’t have that skill, it will be readily apparent.
Like it or not, resumes are the key to employment opportunities. Like everything of importance, it takes time and effort to do them right. Do your research and find a professional format or a style that works for you. E-mail us for a copy of our “Resume Checklist” that will help you know when your resume is ready for submission.
While there are as many opinions as to resume format as there are people, it is your job to make sure that the resume you submit clearly illustrates your skills and expertise both to a virtual and a live reviewer. Hopefully your efforts will pay off with a job interview very soon.
We welcome your feedback. Please email your career-related inquiries, feedback or request for the resume checklist to firstname.lastname@example.org. Touro College’s Career Services assists Touro students and alumni in all aspects of their career search. Contributing to this feature are Ron Ansel, MBA, CPC, Director of Career Services, Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed, and Sarri Singer, Assistant Directors.
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