Looking for work can be difficult in the best of times...these are not the best of times. Advice about résumé writing abounds and experts offer astoundingly different opinions. How is a job seeker to know which advice to follow? The bottom line: no one way is the right way for everyone.
For the job seeker, it is best to read as much as you can about how to write a résumé and how to job search. If you are looking for work you might want to check out my job search column. Sort through the information and think about it in terms of your particular situation. Some things to consider include your strengths and weaknesses as a job candidate.
Think about your:
Type of employment you are seeking
Your résumé should emphasize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. A job seeker should ALWAYS seek a second opinion (or a third or fourth). If possible, seek out the assistance of an expert - this is money well spent and a good résumé writer can be invaluable in helping you to stand out to employers who might not otherwise consider you.
Whether or not you seek the advice of a professional, some key areas to consider follow. It is important you give these résumé sections the deliberation they need to present your qualifications in the best possible light.
Objective vs. Profile
There is a lot of debate about which is the correct approach. Some experts tout the Objective as the way to go to be considered seriously by an employer as it commits you to a specific path that is [hopefully] in line with what they are looking for. Others recommend a strong Profile or Summary Statement outlining the best of what you have to offer and, essentially spoon-feeding the employer every good thing about you.
However, neither is going to be right or wrong in every case. The trick is to examine YOUR qualifications and how to present them to an employer in a way that will make you seem a good candidate for the opening the employer has. A job seeker may use an objective to apply for one job and a profile in another instance. There is no black and white in résumé writing.
Functional vs. Chronological
The chronological résumé is the traditional format that most are accustomed to: Work History is detailed in order of date, usually most recent first, with duties outlined either in bullet or paragraph format beneath.
A functional résumé is more modern in approach and emphasizes skills over work history. The Skills or Qualifications sections are often split into several subsections. This can make it easier for employers to scan your qualifications to quickly see if you might have the skills they are looking for.
Reported estimates are employers take 30 or even as little as 10 seconds to screen résumés. For this reason, a functional résumé is most often the format to use to apply online or secure the first interview. A more detailed, chronological résumé can be presented in a first or second interview if appropriate.
Subheadings with meaningful titles should be used to allow the employer to quickly scan a résumé to see that you may have what they are looking for. Use no more than three or four, otherwise the purpose may be defeated.
Group your skills from all of your jobs, past and present, under these subheadings. Use current voice - just because you are not working at a job currently doesn't mean you don't possess this skill! Likewise, include skills from unpaid positions as well as paid.
Again, include paid and unpaid positions - give yourself credit for everything you know and can do. If you don't, no one else ill. If you don't have a skill or experience required for a position you would like to pursue then volunteer or intern to acquire the missing attribute.
Be forward thinking about your résumé and your career. Most people don't work for the same employer for 30 years and retire with a gold watch these days. Plan now for your next job change if you are working. If you are looking for any job in the storm now, be mindful to plan beyond that next job.
Depending on your age and background, you may choose not to include an Education section or to omit years if you are a mature worker. Or you may choose to list certificates and other training pertinent to the job you are applying for. Employers may assume you have a college degree based on your background unless you list High School Diploma in this section, for example.
If you have studied a topic or area of interest through the internet, or books and articles read then find a way to include them in this section. Be creative in terms of your presentation and in getting credit for what you do know or can do.
Only give references when asked. This way you can give references:
- Who will be helpful to making you look good for the particular job you are applying for.
- A call to prepare them to look for an unknown number
- Some pointers on what kinds of attributes you have that they can emphasize.
There are, of course, so many other things to consider when writing a résumé, for example:
Balance and centering
But, thinking about the sections included above should get you started in the write direction. Just remember any résumé is a work in progress and should be examined and tweaked regularly in general and in considering specific jobs or employers in particular. In short, a résumé is always a work in progress. Good luck!
About the Author:
Mary Sherwood Sevinsky is a Masters-prepared Career Counselor with over 18 years experience in resume writing, personal branding, career assessment and counseling. Specializing in non-traditional specialized careers and career-transitioning, she has the ability to synthesize and focus your unique skills and abilities to obtain interviews for the positions you want with the employers you want to notice you.