1. What IS a resume anyway?
Remember: a Resume is a self-promotional document that presents you in the best possible light, for the purpose of getting invited to a job interview. It's not an official personnel document. It's not a job application. It's not a "career obituary1"! And it's not a confessional.
2. What should the resume content be about?
It's not just about past jobs! It's about YOU, and how you performed and what you accomplished2 in those past jobs–especially those accomplishments3 that are most relevant to the work you want to do next. A good resume predicts how you might perform in that desired future job.
3. What's the fastest way to improve a resume?
Remove everything that starts with "responsibilities included" and replace it with on-the-job accomplishments. See Tip 11 for one way to write them.
4. What is the most common resume mistake made by job hunters?
Leaving out their Job Objective! If you don't show a sense of direction, employers won't be interested. Having a clearly stated goal doesn't have to confine you if it's stated well.
5. What's the first step in writing a resume?
Decide on a job target or "job objective" that can be stated in about 5 or 6 words. Anything beyond that is probably "fluff" and indicates a lack of clarity and direction.
6. How do you decide whether to use a Chronological4 resume or a Functional5 one?
The Chronological format6 is widely preferred by employers, and works well if you're staying in the same field especially if you've been upwardly-mobile. Only use a Functional format if you're changing fields, and you're sure a skills-oriented format would show off your transferable skills to better advantage; and be sure to include a clear chronological work history!
7. What if you don't have any experience in the kind of work you want to do?
Get some! Find a place that will let you do some volunteer work right away. You only need a brief, concentrated period of volunteer training for example, 1 day a week for a month to have at least SOME experience to put on your resume. Also, look at some of the volunteer work you've done in the past and see if any of THAT helps document some skills you'll need for your new job.
8. What do you do if you have gaps in your work experience?
You could start by looking at it differently. General Rule: Tell what you WERE doing, as gracefully7 as possible–rather than leave a gap. If you were doing anything valuable even if unpaid during those so-called "gaps" you could just insert THAT into the work-history section of your resume to fill the hole. Here are some examples:
1993-95 Full-time8 parent — or
1992-94 Maternity10 leave and family management — or
Travel and study — or Full-time student — or
Parenting plus community service
9. What if you have several different job objectives you're working on at the same time? Or you haven't narrowed it down yet to just one job target?
Then write a different resume for each different job target. A targeted resume is MUCH, much stronger than a generic11 resume.
10. What if you have a fragmented, scrambled-up work history, with lots of short-term jobs?
To minimize the job-hopper image, combine several similar jobs into one "chunk," for example:
1993-1995 Secretary/Receptionist; Jones Bakery, Micro Corp., Carter Jewelers — or
1993-95 Waiter/Busboy; McDougal's Restaurant, Burger King, Traders Coffee Shop.
Also you can just drop some of the less important, briefest jobs. But don't drop a job, even when it lasted a short time, if that was where you acquired important skills or experience.
11. What's the best way to impress an employer?
Fill your resume with "PAR9" statements. PAR stands for Problem-Action-Results; in other words, first you state the problem that existed in your workplace, then you describe what you did about it, and finally you point out the beneficial results.
Here's an example: "Transformed a disorganized, inefficient12 warehouse13 into a smooth-running operation by totally redesigning the layout; this saved the company thousands of dollars in recovered stock."
Another example: "Improved an engineering company's obsolete14 filing system by developing a simple but sophisticated functional-coding system. This saved time and money by recovering valuable, previously15 lost, project records."
When you begin to write, your mind may give you random1, disjointed thoughts. Your ideas probably won't come out logically or sequentially, but write them down as they appear, without worrying about order or logic2. Don't judge and evaluate, simply collect them. Later you'll evaluate, sort, and organize them. At this stage you just want to get them down on paper, on tape, or on computer disk.
It is easier for most people to write this way, because the creative part of your brain isn't very logical, and the logical part of your brain isn't very creative. Don't expect your mind to perform both functions at once although some can.
Use the "card trick" to organize your thoughts
Sometimes it helps to put all your thoughts on individual index cards, exactly as they come to mind. Later, you can sort the cards to get a finished product, eliminating cards that don't fit.
This is also a beautiful way to write a magazine or journal article with very little stress–and very little "writer's block," because nothing you write down has to be said perfectly3 or accurately4. Everything can be sharpened up later. Your first goal is simply to collect your rough thoughts. Once you've accomplished5 that, here's what to do next:
1. Spend time on your letter. Someone once said, "With part-time effort, you get part-time results." This is especially true in letter writing. You can expect to spend several hours, or even several days, on a letter.
2. Write a draft, then let it cool off overnight.
3. Rewrite if necessary.
4. Use a strong close, like these: "After you have had a chance to review this letter, I will call you to get your reactions." "I will call your office next week to arrange a time when we might be able to get together. If you have any questions before that, please call me at 555 771-4357."
5. Avoid weaker endings like these: "Please call me at your earliest convenience." "I believe that a meeting could prove to be mutually profitable, and ask that, if you agree, you contact me so that we can arrange a convenient time." "Thank you for your consideration. I am available for a personal interview at your earliest convenience and look forward to hearing from you." "In the next week or two when your schedule permits, let's meet and discuss my aspirations6 in more detail. Please give me a call." "I look forward to your reply."