A FEW GUIDELINES FOR A BETTER PRESENTATION
The resume is visually enticing, a work of art. Simple clean structure. Very easy to read. Symmetrical. Balanced. Uncrowded. As much white space between sections of writing as possible; sections of writing that are no longer than six lines, and shorter if possible.
There is uniformity and consistency in the use of italics, capital letters, bullets, boldface, and underlining. Absolute parallelism in design decisions. For example, if a period is at the end of one job’s dates, a period should be at the end of all jobs’ dates; if one degree is in boldface, all degrees should be in boldface.
As mentioned above, the resume’s first impression is most important. It should be exceptionally visually appealing, to be inviting to the reader. Remember to think of the resume as an advertisement.
There are absolutely no errors. No typographical errors. No spelling errors. No grammar, syntax, or punctuation errors. No errors of fact.
All the basic, expected information is included. A resume must have the following key information: your name, address, phone number, and your email address at the top of the first page, a listing of jobs held, in reverse chronological order, educational degrees including the highest degree received, in reverse chronological order. Additional, targeted information will of course accompany this. Much of the information people commonly put on a resume can be omitted, but these basics are mandatory.
Jobs listed include a title, the name of the firm, the city and state of the firm, and the years. Jobs earlier in a career can be summarized, or omitted if prior to the highest degree, and extra part-time jobs can be omitted. If no educational degrees have been completed, it is still expected to include some mention of education (professional study or training, partial study toward a degree, etc.) acquired after high school.
It is targeted. A resume should be targeted to your goal, to the ideal next step in your career. First you should get clear what your job goal is, what the ideal position or positions would be. Then you should figure out what key skills, areas of expertise or body of experience the employer will be looking for in the candidate. Gear the resume structure and content around this target, proving these key qualifications. If you have no clear goal, take the skills (or knowledge) you most enjoy or would like to use or develop in your next career step and build the resume around those.
Strengths are highlighted / weaknesses de-emphasized. Focus on whatever is strongest and most impressive. Make careful and strategic choices as to how to organize, order, and convey your skills and background. Consider: whether to include the information at all, placement in overall structure of the resume, location on the page itself or within a section, ordering of information, more impressive ways of phrasing the information, use of design elements (such as boldface to highlight, italics to minimize, ample surrounding space to draw the eye to certain things).
It has focus. A resume needs an initial focus to help the reader understand immediately. Don’t make the reader go through the whole resume to figure out what your profession is and what you can do. Think of the resume as an essay with a title and a summative opening sentence. An initial focus may be as simple as the name of your profession (“Commercial Real Estate Agent,” “Resume Writer”) centered under the name and address; it may be in the form of an Objective; it may be in the form of a Summary Statement or, better, a Summary Statement beginning with a phrase identifying your profession.
Use power words. For every skill, accomplishment, or job described, use the most active impressive verb you can think of (which is also accurate). Begin the sentence with this verb, except when you must vary the sentence structure to avoid repetitious writing.
Show you are results-oriented. Wherever possible, prove that you have the desired qualifications through clear strong statement of accomplishments, rather than a statement of potentials, talents, or responsibilities. Indicate results of work done, and quantify these accomplishments whenever appropriate. For example: “Initiated and directed complete automation of the Personnel Department, resulting in time-cost savings of over 25%.” Additionally, preface skill and experience statements with the adjectives “proven” and “demonstrated” to create this results-orientation.
Writing is concise and to the point. Keep sentences as short and direct as possible. Eliminate any extraneous information and any repetitions. Don’t use three examples when one will suffice. Say what you want to say in the most direct way possible, rather than trying to impress with bigger words or more complex sentences. For example: “coordinated eight city-wide fund-raising events, raising five times as much as the expected $50,000 goal” rather than “was involved in the coordination of six fund-raising dinners and two fund-raising walkathons which attracted participants throughout St. Louis and extremely successful.”
Vary long sentences (if these are really necessary) with short punchy sentences. Use phrases rather than full sentences when phrases are possible, and start sentences with verbs, eliminating pronouns (“I”, “he” or “she”). Vary words: Don’t repeat a “power” verb or adjective in the same paragraph. Use commas to clarify meaning and make reading easier. Remain consistent in writing decisions such as use of abbreviations and capitalization.
Make it look great. Use a laser printer or an ink jet printer that produces high- quality results. A laser is best because the ink won’t run if it gets wet. It should look typeset. Do not compromise. If you do, your resume will look pathetic next to ones that have a perfect appearance. Use a standard conservative typeface (font) in 11 or 12 point. Don’t make them squint to read it. Use off-white, ivory or bright white 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper, in the highest quality affordable. If you are applying for a senior-level position, use Crane’s 100% rag paper and make sure the water-mark is facing the right way. Use absolutely clean paper without smudges, without staples and with a generous border. Don’t have your resume look like you squeezed too much on the page.
Shorter is usually better. Everyone freely gives advice on resume length. Most of these self-declared experts say a resume should always be one page. That makes no more sense than it does to say an ad or a poem should automatically be one page. Your resume can be 500 pages long if you can keep the reader’s undivided attention and interest that long, and at the same time create a psychological excitement that leads prospective employers to pick up the phone and call you when they finish your weighty tome. Don’t blindly follow rules! Do what works. Sometimes it is appropriate to have a three pager. But unless your life has been filled with a wide assortment of extraordinary achievements, make it shorter. One page is best if you can cram it all into one page. Most Fortune 500 C.E.O.s have a one- or two-page resume. It could be said that, the larger your accomplishments, the easier to communicate them in few words. Look to others in your profession to see if there is an established agreement about resume length in your field. The only useful rule is to not write one more word than you need to get them to pick up the phone and call you. Don’t bore them with the details. Leave them wanting more. Remember, this is an ad to market you, not your life history.
Length of consulting resumes. In a consulting resume, you are expected to shovel it as deep as you possibly can. If you are selling your own consulting services, make it sizzle, just like any other resume, but include a little more detail, such as a list of well-known clients, powerful quotes from former clients about how fantastic you are, etc. If you are seeking a job with a consulting firm that will be packaging you along with others as part of a proposal, get out your biggest shovel and go to town. Include everything except the name of your goldfish: A full list of publications, skills, assignments, other experience, and every bit of educational crapola that you can manage to make sound related to your work. The philosophy here is: more is better.
Watch your verb tense. Use either the first person (“I”) or the third person (”he,” “she”) point of view,but use whichever you choose consistently. Verb tenses are based on accurate reporting: If the accomplishment is completed, it should be past tense. If the task is still underway, it should be present tense. If the skill has been used in the past and will continue to be used, use present tense (“conduct presentations on member recruitment to professional and trade associations”). A way of “smoothing out” transitions is to use the past continuous (“have conducted more than 20 presentations…”).
Break it up. A good rule is to have no more than six lines of writing in any one writing “block” or paragraph (summary, skill section, accomplishment statement, job description, etc.). If any more than this is necessary, start a new section or a new paragraph.
Experience before education…usually. Experience sections should come first, before education, in most every case. This is because you have more qualifications developed from your experience than from your education. The exceptions would be 1) if you have just received or are completing a degree in a new professional field, if this new degree study proves stronger qualifications than does your work experience, 2) if you are a lawyer, with the peculiar professional tradition of listing your law degrees first, 3) if you are an undergraduate student, or 4) if you have just completed a particularly impressive degree from a particularly impressive school, even if you are staying in the same field, for example, an MBA from Harvard.
Telephone number that will be answered. Be sure the phone number on the resume will, without exception, be answered by a person or an answering machine Monday through Friday 8-5pm. You do not want to lose the prize interview merely because there was no answer to your phone, and the caller gave up. Include the area code of the telephone number. If you don’t have an answering machine, get one. Include e-mail and fax numbers, if you have them.
A FEW MORE TIPS
Try not to include anything on the resume that could turn the employer off, anything that is controversial (political, etc.) or could be taken in a negative light.
Put the most important information on the first line of a writing “block” or paragraph. The first line is read the most.
Use bold caps for your name on page one. Put your name at the top of page two on a two-page resume. Put section headings, skill headings, titles or companies (if impressive), degrees, and school name (if impressive), in boldface.
Spell out numbers under and including ten; use the numerical form for numbers over and including 11 (as a general rule), unless they are the first words in a sentence. Spell out abbreviations unless they are unquestionably obvious.
If you are not sure what sort of job you are looking for, you will most likely wind up in something that turns out to be just a “job.” In a “job” you exchange your life for money. It is possible to choose a career that will fit you so well that you do it because you like to go to work. At Work in Ghana we offer career counseling, coaching and testing programs for people committed to choosing a new career direction for a lifetime of satisfaction and success. Our services, available worldwide and consistently commended for excellence since 1981, are for people who realize that choosing the best possible career direction is one of the most important decisions they will ever make.
WHAT NOT TO PUT ON A RESUME
- The word “Resume” at the top of the resume
- Fluffy rambling “objective” statements
- Salary information
- Full addresses of former employers
- Reasons for leaving jobs
- A “Personal” section, or personal statistics (except in special cases)
- Names of supervisors
ACCURACY/ HONESTY/STRETCHING THE TRUTH
Make sure that you can back up what you say. Keep the claims you make within the range of your own integrity. There is nothing wrong with pumping things up in your resume so you communicate who you are and what you can do at your very best. Did you ever see an ad that didn’t pump up the features they hope will convince you to buy? In fact, you are being foolish if you seek to convey a careful, balanced portrayal of yourself. You want to knock their socks off!
WHAT IF I HAVE NOT PERFORMED BRILLIANTLY?
If you are not really exceptional at doing this job or at least potentially exceptional but inexperienced, maybe you are applying for the wrong job. Why would anyone want to spend their days doing something they did not excel at and didn’t really enjoy? Click the underlined text below and your computer will waft you off to a Work in Ghana web page that tells you about our programs and services for people who do not want to spend their life as a career zombie, stuck in a boring, lifeless job where each day you wish you were somewhere else.
QUESTIONS A PRO WOULD ASK YOU
What key qualifications will the employer be looking for?
What qualifications will be most important to them that you possess?
Which of these are your greatest strengths?
What are the highlights of your career to date that should be emphasized?
What should be de-emphasized?
What things about you and your background make you stand out?
What are your strongest areas of skill and expertise? Knowledge? Experience?
What are some other skills you possess–perhaps more auxiliary skills?
What are characteristics you possess that make you a strong candidate? (Things like “innovative, hard-working, strong interpersonal skills, ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously under tight deadlines”)
What are the three or four things you feel have been your greatest accomplishments?
What was produced as a result of your greatest accomplishments?
Can you quantify the results you produced in numerical or other specific terms?
What were the two or three accomplishments of that particular job?
What were the key skills you used in that job?
What did you do in each of those skill areas?
What sorts of results are particularly impressive to people in your field?
What results have you produced in these areas?
What are the “buzz words” that people in your field expect you to use in lieu of a secret club handshake, which should be included in your resume?