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Choose the Optimal Resume Style

1) Chronological. This is the "traditional" resume, which summarizes a candidate's education and experience by beginning with the most recent information and working backwards. This format works best for candidates who have followed a specific career plan with jobs of increasing responsibility.

2) Functional. This style of resume highlights a candidate's skills, experience and accomplishments in specific areas, such as admininstration, communications, management or marketing. A functional resume may or may not include a work history with specific dates of employment. The functional format is an excellent alternative for candidates who:

a) are re-entering the workforce after a long absence
b) are changing careers
c) have worked in the same (or similar) positions for a long period of time. If listed chronologically, their work repsonsibilities sound repetitive.

3) The modified chronological format is often the most effective. In this structure, candidates organize their professional experience in chronological order and use functional categories within the structure to emphasize relevant experiences and transferrable skills.

Here’s the basic layout for a modified chronological resume:

1) Header (name, address, email address, phone number, fax)
2) A strong profile section detailing the scope of your experience and areas of proficiency
3) Reverse chronological employment history emphasizing achievements in the past 10 to 15 years
4) Education (new graduates may put this at the top.)

 

Discussing Your Education

Whether you're an Ivy League MBA or a recent high school graduate, you can use your resume's education section to outshine your competition. Some candidates are unsure where to place the education section on their resumes. The decision ultimately depends on what you want to emphasize.

A general rule of thumb:

a) Place experience before education if you have five or more years of professional experience related to your goal. At that stage in your career, hiring managers will be more interested in your job accomplishments than your education.

b) Place education before experience if you are a recent graduate or have less than five years of related work experience. If you are changing careers and have continued your education to support your new goal, education should come first.

Also include supporting documentation of your academic acheivements, specifically:

a) Your GPA. If you are a student or recent graduate, list your GPA if it is 3.0 or higher. Candidates with more than 5 years post-graduate work experience can drop their GPA from their resumes. Experienced candidates should simply list the basic facts regarding their degree, including institution name, location, degree, major and date.

b) Academic Honors. Include academic honors to show you excelled in your program (Dean's List, Summa Cum Laude distinction, election to honor societies, etc.).

c) Outside Activities. Students and new grads with little related work experience may use the education section as the centerpiece of their resumes, showcasing academic achievements, extracurricular activities, special projects and related courses.

If you don't have a degree, but have completed ongoing training in your field, list your related courses, seminars, conferences and training in the education section. Consider creating a separate section of your development highlights:

Example:

Professional Development Highlights:

Product Launch in a Global Marketplace
E-Commerce Solutions
Selling the Dotcom Vision
Increasing Sales Through Relationship Selling
Professional Management Program

 

Your Objective Statement

Your resume must include a well-defined objective to indicate the position you seek within an organization. Most hiring managers are too overworked to read through the details of every resume they receive trying to flesh this out. Your objective should be broad enough to encompass your range of talents, yet specific enough to describe your fit with the employer's openings. A well-constructed objective statement includes two basic elements: job level and functional area.

In writing your objective:

a) Avoid job titles, which can involve very different activities in different organizations. Use broad categories of jobs rather than specific titles, so that you can be considered for a wide variety of jobs related to your skills. For example, instead of secretary you should say "responsible office management or clerical position," which is a better match for your qualifications.

b) Define a "range of responsibility" that includes the possibility of advancement.

c) Include your most important skills.


Here are a few excellent objective statements:

* An administrative position in the area of rehabilitation/geriatric health care utilizing my knowledge of clinical, community, and patient services.

* Obtain a challenging position in Broadcast Journalism, with a special interest in reporting, anchoring, and producing with a commercial television station.

* Position as a Word Processing Secretary that will utilize my computer knowledge, strong people skills, organizational abilities, and business experience.

 

Summary of Relevant Skills

Over 95% of current resumes include a summary section, which may be entitled:

Summary Qualifications Career Progression
Executive Summary Summary Overview Career Highlights
Key Skills Skills Summary Career Profile
Highlights Skills Highlights Key Hiring Assets
Overview Relevant Skills Technical Profile
Profile Professional Profile Credentials
     

If written properly, this section is a job seeker's greatest tool. This section must motivate the employer to read the rest of your resume. Include a three or four-line summary of your salient skills and qualifications for the position you seek.

With the explosion of Internet recruiting, employers increasingly rely on keyword searches as the basis of electronic candidate identification and screening. Thoughtful choice of a comprehensive list of job-relevant traits, skills and competencies can quickly elevate your resume to the top of the pile.

Do your homework. Know upfront the skills and competencies important to the position you seek. Then, write your summary to demonstrate that your skills and experiences match that profile. Show how your skills can be used to solve their problems and improve the employer's bottom-line.

The most effective summaries are targeted on one career goal. If you have more than one possible objective, consider drafting different versions. Fill your summary with key words related to your career field. Your profile can also be supplemented with a bulleted "Key Skills" section, which provides an easy-to-read listing of your core capabilities.


Professional Experience

Your resume should document your employment history for the past 10-15 years, telling where you worked, for whom, at what location and in what capacity. Yet your professional history should include much more than a copy of your general job description. In the increasingly competitive world economy, firms seek candidates with specific job skills and varied accomplishments. For each position you have held, consider (and document):

a) The types of challenges you faced
b) The actions you took to overcome problems
c) The result of your efforts; how your performance benefitted the company

Each line of your work history should begin with a strong action verb. Use short, powerful phrases rather than long blocks of text. Relate each primary accomplishment and what it delivered to your employer. Your resume should document what you:

Activated Completed Designed Developed
Enhanced Improved Invented Maximized
Organized Produced Revised Stabilized

Ideally, your work history will demonstrate that you are a creative problem-solver who enhances your firm's bottom line. Whenever possible, quantify your achievements. If you were a hiring manager, which of the following entries would you find more impressive?

a) Developed a new seasoning product
b) Developed a new potato chip seasoning that reduced costs by 30% and captured a 34% market share

The second description uses numbers to quantify the accomplishment, providing a context that helps the interviewer understand the degree of difficulty involved in the task. Numbers are a powerful resume tool that will help you draw attention to your accomplishments. Always quantify your successes. Here are three comman ways to do that:

 

a) Financial Criteria. Organizations are always concerned about money. Whenever possible, quantify your accomplishments to show ways you’ve saved money or earned money.

* Recommended a new ISP that reduced corporate online costs by 15%.
* Wrote a fundraising letter that brought in $25,000 in donations.
* Managed a student organization budget of more than $7,000.

 

b) Time Savings. Companies are constantly looking for ways to save time and do things more efficiently. They’re also concerned about meeting internal and external deadlines. Demonstrate your ability to save and manage time:

* Assisted with payroll activities, ensuring that employees were paid on time.
* Interviewed players and coaches after all games and composed 750-word articles by an 11 p.m. deadline.
* Suggested procedures that decreased average order-processing time from 30 minutes to 8 minutes.

 

c) Specify Amounts. Include figures to show the significance and magnitude of your achievements.

* Recruited 25 members for a new student government group.
* Trained seven new employees on restaurant operations procedures.
* Introduced 27 proposals as residence hall representative for student government.

By quantifying your accomplishments, you'll show prospective employers exactly what you can contribute to their organization.


Special Talents & Skills

You should also describe any special skills, talents or accreditations that increase your value to a potential employer. This includes:

a) proficiency in foreign languages
b) licences to practice (medicine, law, education, social work)
c) computer skills and certifications
d) professional affiliations, particularly those thatdemonstrate management skills
e) volunteer work


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