A resume is not merely a list of work experience It is a valuable marketing tool that sells your skills to a prospective employer. You have a product to sell and the employer is the customer. Think about what the customer needs and how your skills can best serve them. Like any good sales presentation, a resume highlights the product’s ( in this case, the prospective employee’s) outstanding features and how they can benefit the customer (the employer).

What to Consider before Writing your Resume

A college student looking for a first job will need a different resume than an executive in their 50s and so on. Applicants returning to the workforce after a long layoff need to use a resume that highlights their skills and camouflages their unemployment. Before formatting a resume, write an informal list of your skills, work history and achievements. Gather reference letters and work evaluations from employers that praise your past job performance, and consider incorporating some of the highlights into your resume .

Resume Formats

Choose the most flattering physical format for your resume, one that highlights your work history in the best possible light. Fit your resume into one or one-and-a half pages so busy hiring managers can scan it quickly.

Reverse Chronological Resume

The reverse chronological resume is the most popular resume format.. It lists all your pertinent work experience with the most recent job listed first.

Replace the drab heading Work Experience with Professional Experience. Whether you’re a customer service representative or a CEO, you’re still a professional, not just a worker bee, and you want to set that impression from the very top of the resume.

For each job, you list the name of the company, your job title and the dates worked. Format this key information in a bold font for emphasis. List your job duties in a specific and targeted manner. Instead of typing “Sold office printers in the tri-state area”, write “Marketed and sold high-tech printers to Fortune 1000 companies.” Underneath it, highlight your achievements using action verbs. “Generated dozens of new accounts for XYZ Company during the first quarter”, for example.

Think of your resume as a sales letter. You want your work history and accomplishments to sound as enticing as possible, so experiment with action verbs and juggle several drafts of each job description until you find one that accurately portrays your time at that particular company.

Concentrate on the your most recent job and one or two positions prior to that one. The human resources rep who interviews you will only have a passing interest, if any, in what you did ten years ago. In most cases, hiring reps are concerned with recent work experience. If you are changing careers, or last utilized the skills for the job you want years ago, consider using the functional resume format.

Functional Resume

A functional resume lists the skills you’ve used by industry or function. Underneath your contact information, you record your top skills, accomplishments by skillset, instead of by job. If applying for a customer service job at a pharmaceutical supply house, your first section heading would highlight customer service skills you used at variety of other jobs. Mentioning the companies worked for by name isn’t necessary unless you think it will pique hiring manager’s interest. If you’ve also worked at a medical office, your second subject heading would be “Medical Front Office” and you could list your job functions, including interactions with pharmaceutical sales reps who visited the office. A third section may mention accounting or writing skills, or whatever you feel is pertinent to the job you seek.

This type of resume is perfect for people who’ve been unemployed for while independent contractors look for permanent work or folks entering a new field. Here, the focus is solely on your skills, not the companies you worked for or dates of employment.

Other Parts of a Resume

Objective/Summary

If you’re applying for a specific position, this is extraneous information. According to Tony Beshara, author of the book Unbeatable Resumes, employers aren’t interested in your objective. They are concerned with how you’ll fit into their plans. Eliminate the objective and put the space to better use. One caveat – if you’re sending out a general resume to sell yourself without targeting a specific job ad, a one sentence summary will help to identify your skill set. Don’t write “I’m looking for an administrative position in a large company where I can use software skills, write “Interested in an administrative position that will utilize my copywriting and marketing background to further the company brand. Be specific in your word choice – use action words like analyze, promote and clarify. Place your objective underneath the contact information and before Professional Experience.

Education

List any college or university degrees first, followed by any technical of specialty degrees. You may add Adult Education classes or other training courses pertinent to the job to which you’re applying. Place the Education section underneath Professional Experience.

Awards/Publications

Add work-related awards and articles published in professional journals in this section, after the Education listing.

Conclusion

Crafting the perfect resume is more important now than ever. With the unsure economy and increased competition, dashing off a generic resume to every job ad won’t even guarantee that a hiring manager will see it. While formatting is important, mixing and matching the proper selection of skills and experience with a commanding writing style will increase the chances of your resume being read. Once your resume impresses a hiring manger, you’re one step closer to an interview – and a new job.

Additional Readings:

Want an Unbeatable Resume? – Read These Tips from a Top Recruiter – Forbes.com

How to Write a Resume – Monster.com


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