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Guidelines for Preparing an Effective Resume

There is no one way to prepare a resume.  Resumes are organized and written in many different formats.  And job seekers have been successful using all different types of formats. 

The important thing to keep in mind in going through the process of writing your resume is your GOAL.  It should be the driver of the format you use and the content you include. Simply put, your resume needs to be organized and written in a manner that supports you in achieving your goal.

The standard measure to be used about what information to include or exclude is just this:
Will this help me meet my goal?  
To achieve your job search goal, your resume needs to effectively convey what you can do for your next employer.  Please note:  No objective statements appear on modern resumes; instead use a Career Summary, or overview paragraph, to orient your reader to the type of work you want to do. 

While there is no one way to prepare a resume, there are, however, several things to keep in mind to produce an effective resume.  Here are some guidelines.

Guideline 1: A resume should be strategic, focused, and relevant
A resume is NOT a "tell all document!"
Save your “tell-all’s” for chats with your best friend or your autobiography!  Insert into your resume only that information which pertains to the job or role you want.  Highlight duties you have performed, skills you have gained, and experiences that show you are capable of performing the required duties of the future job you desire.  In other words, craft a strategic, focused, and relevant document. 

Here’s how to do it:   The best resumes are written strategically.
    1.    Begin with THE GOAL of the work you want to do in mind .  Write it down. 
    2.    At the top of the resume, write about your goal in a short paragraph  –  no “Objectives” please.  Write down phrases (No complete sentences appear on a resume.) stating your profession and revealing outstanding experience(s) and strong capabilities.  This is called a Career Summary, Qualifications Summary, or some similar term. 
    3.    Every item subsequently written on the resume (below your Career Summary) should support or contribute to achieving THE GOAL.  If it doesn’t, it’s irrelevant and should be removed.

Guideline 2: A resume should be future-oriented
"If you put down what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got." 
This expression says a lot about why job seekers don’t the get the job.  Think about it.  Let’s say you are an engineer, performing hands-on design work, and decide you would like to be a manager of other engineers.  You apply for an engineering manager job.  In your resume, you show all the work you designed, tested, and implemented. 
Would you get the job? . . . . . . . Probably not. 
Why?  . . . . . . . Something’s missing.  

Let's look into this all-too common situation a little further:  The engineering manager job description shows a manager must be not only (1) technically qualified but also have (2) the interpersonal skills in order to lead and manage people.  To only shows technical abilities, as the young engineer did, means he will stay an engineer.  On the other hand, a savvy young engineering competitor, while also not yet able to show formal management experience, drew upon his or her interpersonal and leadership experiences  --  leading a team, providing direction to a problem solving team, coaching a new member of the department, resolving a conflict.  He showed interpersonal capabilities as well as technical ones.  Who do you think got the job?

Here’s how to do it:  Show you have some experience in meeting most, if not all, of the requirements.
    1.    Review the position advertisement and make a “T” chart.  List ALL the job’s requirements and preferences on one side of your chart.
    2.    Opposite each requirement, list your experience in performing the required duty, no matter how partial, limited, or small it may be!
    3.     Now list these experiences on your resume.  Do this for any position for which you apply.  This approach shows the recruiter or hiring manager that while you may not have all of the required experiences and proficiencies, you have both the aptitude and the capability for doing so.

Guideline 3: A resume should use appropriate language
It’s not just what you say but how you say it!  Resumes are no exception!
The language you use to describe your experience, capabilities, strengths, and accomplishments forms an impression of you in the reader’s mind.  That impression may be that you’re a viable candidate for this position, or not, based on the words you use. 

Here’s how to do it:  Use words that show level of responsibility and proficiency.
    1.    Be current in your use of words to describe the work you’ve done.  Outdated terminology dates you as someone who may not have kept up with industry and profession changes.
    2.    Show level of responsibility through your words.  The budget, staffing, and authority of a vice president would be greater than those of a new supervisor.  Use wording and quantification to show magnitude as well as capability.
    3.    Be persuasive through use of wording that influences your reader.  You’re in sales when seeking a job and your job is to influence the reader of your resume to see you as a candidate who is in the running.  Show the “benefits” of hiring you!

Guideline 4: A resume should be Succinct
 “My resume is 6 pages.  How do I get 30 years of experience into 2 pages?”
    You don’t! 

What you do is plan and write a resume that is strategic, focused, future-oriented, relevant, and that uses the appropriate “sales” language.
What you’ll get is a 2-page resume that is concisely and precisely targeted for the job you really, really want!

Here’s how to do it:  Write and edit . . . . . . .
    1.    Write and edit
    2.    Write and edit
    3.    And, write and edit some more.

A resume is an iterative process.
It will take several iterations to produce a resume you love!  But using these guidelines for preparing an effective resume will get you there!
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
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