Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - Page 1 of 3
How to write a successful resume
Your resume is your passport in your search for a new or a better career. A high-quality, professionally presented, and well written resume will open doors, put you ahead of the opposition and win you that all-important interview.
Make your resume a quality document
Set yourself a high standard when writing a resume for yourself. Invest time and money to produce a beautifully set out, laser-printed, professional looking resume you are proud to send out. You can add one color or perhaps print on a cream, high-gloss paper. Keep to one or two fonts, sizes and styles. Remember your resume is a business document so don't go overboard. Quality is the key so don't overuse special effects.
Write a skills-based resume
Write a skills-based resume concentrating on the skills, knowledge and achievements and how these make you an outstanding candidate for the position. Get away from the dry, functional, chronological listing of positions held and duties performed. Your resume must stand out from the pack. It should let your reader see at once what you've achieved for others and by inference what you offer any prospective employer.
Pitch your resume to meet your prospective employer's needs
You're typically competing against 100 other candidates and the employer will only call four or five to an interview. You want to be one of those select few. To win that interview you must work out what your prospective employer wants and pitch your resume to meet those needs. Closely study the advertisement and try to match your skills and achievements to those specifically mentioned.
Nine out of ten people fail to write about what the employer's central question: Can this candidate do the job? Most resumes are an autobiography or a chronological list of positions held. This makes it hard work for the reader. Keep the employer's central question at the forefront of your mind when you put together your resume. The reader looks at the information presented and says ‘so what’. You have to work out what the employer wants so as he or she reads the information, the response is ‘great, that’s what we want.’
Think through the qualities the best candidates have for such a job
If you wanted to hire a software programmer, what qualities and qualifications would the ideal candidate have? Unless the employer asks for a specific programming skill, list and highlight all the operating systems you're familiar with, programming languages you have qualifications in, the software packages you have used. In this way, your specific skills will shine through.
Think of the image your resume presents
Every resume must use good layout, high-quality paper and perfect typing. But beyond these needs, think what image your resume presents. If you're applying for an auditing position, you will want a conservative image, minimum color, few or no graphics, and the best-quality paper. This will generate an image of a conventional, careful and controlled person. If you're applying for a copywriting position, you can be more creative and show your skills when presenting your resume. If you're a prospective sales representative, you must come across as confident, resourceful and dedicated. You must think about the image your resume and work hard to match it to the position and employer's needs.
Keep your resume short, relevant and specific
You must get the reader to remember five or six key messages selling your qualifications and skills so you stand out as a candidate to interview. You want the reader to remember you and to pick you for interview.
Write your resume as short as necessary
You may only need a one-page resume if you're a school-leaver or graduate with little or no work experience. Most resumes are two pages long. Never go beyond three pages. By the time your reader gets to the end of a long resume, he or she will have lost your key messages in the detail.
You don't have to include everything in your resume. Keep what's relevant and impressive. Don't go into too much personal information such as your marital status, children or hobbies. Include only outside interests that show important sides to your character. Mention outside interests that show you are community spirited or ones relevant to your chosen career. For example, you could mention your position as Chair of the Parent-Teachers Association or your interest in photography if applying for trainee journalist posts.
Decide on the key messages you want the employer to remember
Research shows most people can only remember half a dozen ideas from reading a document. As an employer reads dozens of resumes, he or she will only remember a fraction of the content of each one. You must decide what you want the reader to remember. This is usually why your qualifications and skills match those of the prospective employer. For example, if you are applying for a position as a IT Help Desk Manager, your key, specific messages might be:
- Four years' experience as a supervisor on an IT Help Desk for a medium-size company,
- Training staff in Microsoft Office products,
- Knowledge of C++ and Unix,
- Degree in Office Technology from Kent University,
- Author of plain language guide to database management.
Place the key messages to catch the reader’s eye
Present your key information on the most prominent position on the first page. Use the top half of the page, using layout to draw attention to this text. You can use a heading such as ‘Most Relevant Experience and Skills.’
Throughout your resume, use layout, bold, bullet points and indentation to highlight the important information you want the employer to notice. Never bury important information in a long paragraph.
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