Writing that winning resume

What is a Resume?

A resume is a sales tool. When a person is seeking a new position, he/she must consider many aspects of their background before actually writing their resume. In addition, a person must know to what kinds of companies their resume will be sent and for what kinds of positions. Just as a salesperson must know his product and his market, a job candidate must know him/herself and the market to which the resume will be directed.

The first task in preparing a resume is to analyze your work history. Among other questions, write down answers to the following. Your answers will help determine the format of your resume (more on that next). For example:

  • Do you have a solid work history or many short-term positions?
  • Have you held jobs that used a variety of skills or skills that are closely related?
  • Is this a continuation of your career or change of career?
  • Are you newly entering the work force with little paid work experience, or do you have existing paid work history?
  • Is the work you did now "extinct?" Or, has your industry vanished or moved to a different geographic area?

Types of Resumes

Resumes generally follow one of three formats: Chronological; Functional; or, Combination. Based upon your work history, you should be able to determine which format will be the most effective.

Chronological: Most employers prefer this format because it most easily presents the information they seek. Employers look for a solid work history, relevant experience in the job to be filled and experience in their industry. This format is simple for resume screeners because the information can be compared to the job specifications without interpretation.

Functional: Many career counselors prefer this format because it focuses on a person's skills up front without giving the employment history at the beginning of the resume. It is most often recommended for persons changing careers, because it allows a person to present the transferable or newly acquired skills to a prospective employer. It is also effective to use this format when there is little paid work experience, or when the recent experience is not relevant to the job for which you are applying.

If a person has a poor work history (many short-term positions or lapses in employment) this format works best, since dates do not stand out at the beginning of the resume. It is possible that a prospective employer can become interested enough from reading the skills portion, that an interview may follow. This format points out your selling points before revealing any negatives.

Combination: If your employment experience is solid, this format highlights both the skills you offer as well as your work history.

Examples of all of these can all be found in the many resume books in the library.

Writing that Winning Resume

The following facts should help you put together a winning resume:

  • Decide on the format you wish to use.
  • Develop a summary or objective statement. The objective statement should be brief and as clear as possible. Keep in mind what the employer wants and eliminate objectives that only focus on your desires, i.e., "To work for a company in which I can grow.............."
  • Recognize that you may want to write more than one resume, in order to appeal to different objectives or to different industries. This can be done by changing the objective or reversing the order of skills and/or accomplishments.
  • Keep in mind that it is not the employer's job to figure out what you want to do. This is something you must be very clear about. If you are highlighting skills different from what the job entails, this is confusing to the employer who will assume you are not qualified for the job.
  • If a former company is not well-known, supply a brief statement to identify the business. i.e., "Fortune 500 company specializing in the manufacture of paper products." Or, "300 bed long-term care facility."
  • When describing your responsibilities or function at a company, it may be appropriate to state to whom you reported. i.e., "Reported directly to CFO".
  • Emphasize accomplishments, not job duties. Quantify accomplishments, if possible.
  • Use action verbs to describe accomplishments or job functions. i.e., "Directed, Wrote, Created, Prepared, etc."
  • Plan to revise, proofread and get the opinions of people for whom you have respect. Take responsibility for your resume even if it is prepared or typed professionally.

Final Tips

  • Appearance counts.
  • A resume cannot have any typos, erasures, white-outs, etc.
  • Use clear, readable type and print it on a laser printer if possible.
  • Leave enough white space and use a good quality paper. White or off-white is best.
  • One or two pages are fine, but not more -- many executives with thirty years of experience use one-page resumes.
  • Put your name on the top of the second page and mark it page 2 in the event that the pages are separated.
  • Place employment dates in the left margin only if they are favorable. Dates can be put to the right of the name of the company in parenthesis.
  • Always write a cover letter to be sent with your resume, and use the same paper for the cover letter as you did for the resume itself.

Good Luck! Your next position may be just around the corner.

For more information about this or other topics related to your job search, contact Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest or the author.