Resume Articles

The following articles could give you useful ideas about how to create and use your resume effectively to attract employer attention.

'Magical' Resumes Don't Just Happen

In fact, “magical” resumes could be said to resemble the mythical unicorn. We’d like to believe that lovely and unique creature could actually exist, but we live in a world that says, “Not gonna happen!” To some extent, the same can be said about resumes. Hoping and wanting to believe that your resume will magically land you the job of your dreams probably won’t get you very far.

Creation of a resume that can help you work magic with prospective employers more closely resembles the work of a skilled bricklayer. It’s a matter of carefully placing brick upon brick and making sure to use the right kind and amount of cement to hold the bricks together so you achieve the desired effect. In other words, you know what you want the outcome to be, and you take the right steps to get there.

So how does this translate into practical concepts and actions? The following three elements all play a part in developing a resume that says, “I am the one you need” in the most appropriate and compelling terms:

      Know your audience: A true one-size-fits-all resume does not exist. The desire to cut corners and keep all your options open by not being too specific seems tempting at times. Resist the temptation! Define as clearly as possible who your target audience is and find out as much as you can about them, including their probable needs. Use that as a launch-pad for developing your magical resume.
      Know yourself: Avoid either selling yourself short or inflating your capabilities. Instead, honestly evaluate what you can do, what you want to do, and—within those parameters—what you can offer potential employers that they would find worth paying good money for. One way to approach this is to get the view of outsiders (non-relatives, for example) on what you do best and how you have added value to your employers.
      Know the market: In a good job market, you might have some slack, unless you’re pursuing opportunities for which you don’t have the necessary qualifications. In a poor job market, slack is nonexistent. You have to find legitimate ways to show how you outclass your competition, and you need to be able to go beyond the tried-and-true approaches—you know, the things we’ve always done that used to work so well but don’t any more.

A cautionary note: Virtually every job-seeker has some degree of competition to face. You could create the most magical resume imaginable and still come up short if you don’t get it to the right people at the right time. Building and nourishing a strong network should come before the point where you start submitting your resume for employment opportunities. Few people succeed solely on their own, no matter how good they are.

10 Resume Writing Tips to Get You Started

At some point, you may want or need the help of a professional resume writer, but if you haven’t reached that point yet, here are some resume writing tips to begin the process for yourself:

Tip #1: Identify the employer’s key needs and focus on how you can meet them!
Tip #2: Know what your career value is and emphasize the strongest points.
Tip #3: Never lie and don’t exaggerate. It will come back to haunt you.
Tip #4: Communicate a sense of direction and purpose.
Tip #5: Incorporate the keywords appropriate to your chosen goal.
Tip #6: Avoid vague generalities — specifics make a stronger impact.
Tip #7: Use concrete examples based on the Challenge-Action-Result (CAR) concept.
Tip #8: Choose conciseness over wordiness. Don’t try to tell your “life story.”
Tip #9: Make the length suitable to your level of experience and your career field.
Tip #10: Omit personal items such as hobbies, unless there’s a strong reason to include them.

“Bonus” tip: Proofread – proofread – proofread! Mistakes can kill your candidacy. You may think that people won’t notice, but what if they do?

Watch Out for that Resume 'Black Hole' Trap!

If your resume looks as if it could have come from 20 years ago or it hasn’t been put together carefully—with good attention to what your targeted employers are probably looking for—it’s likely to end up in the resume “black hole” trap. The same goes for submitting it to employers without doing any research beforehand to see if your background makes sense for the company. Yet another black hole mistake is distributing your resume with a generic cover letter that does little, if anything, to give the employers a reason to read it OR the resume.

What is the resume black hole trap?

We all know that in science, a black hole basically swallows everything that comes close enough to be drawn into it—and doesn’t let anything escape back out again. When you rely on resume writing that doesn’t do justice to your experience and your potential value to employers, doesn’t show that you are not only living but working in the 21st century, and so on, you are aiming your resume right at that black hole with regard to the job search process. You will be submitting your poorly thought-out resume to employers who will, at best, dump it straight into their vast and growing database; at worst, the resume won’t even make it into that location. What you almost certainly won’t get is anything in the way of a return trip—i.e., a meaningful response from the employer.

How to avoid the resume black hole trap.

While there’s no 100% guaranteed process—no foolproof steps you can take—you can certainly increase your chances of not getting swallowed. You can take a number of constructive actions, including:

      Do your homework on the company, industry and other key factors before you start sending out your resume, so you can focus on critical needs your targeted employers have that match well with your experience and talents.
      Make sure your resume zeroes in on the value you have added to past and current employers, rather than simply providing a laundry list of your qualifications and responsibilities. Avoid the phrase “responsible for” or similar wording.
      Give employers an indication that you are current on technology, including the overall category of social media. If, for example, you have a good LinkedIn profile, consider including the link to your profile in the contact information at the top of your resume. The same goes for places like Twitter—but DO be careful that whatever content you already have in those places is professionally presented or at least neutral in nature (e.g., no wild party stories or photos!). Otherwise, you might help your resume get into the black hole faster!
Make your cover letter a strong resume add-on.

No one these days should send a cover letter that says, in essence, “here’s my resume; I hope you like it!” A professional cover letter is not the same as a file transmittal sheet. It must quickly and clearly indicate to the reader that you are a promising candidate for the company’s open position and have substantial value to offer. While it shouldn’t simply repeat information verbatim from the resume, it can and sometimes should reference and expand on items that are in that document. Above all, it should encourage readers to give thoughtful consideration to your resume by distinguishing you from the horde of other candidates they’ll be seeing.

But aren’t resumes “dead”? Maybe I shouldn’t even worry about the resume black hole trap.

Occasionally I read something by a recognized expert on employment issues or job search techniques suggesting—or plainly stating—that resumes are dead and job seekers shouldn’t bother using a resume to secure their next position. If you’re sitting there staring at your shiny new resume, especially if you’ve just paid a professional to create it, you might be wondering whether you’ve wasted your time and hard-earned money. Take heart; all is not lost.

I’ve seen experts make a strong case for not using a resume (for example, replacing it with active job development approaches and value-demonstration tactics). Some of them have a much more exalted presence in the career management field than I do, even though I’ve been in it a long time. However, I’ve also had clients take the resume I created for them and parlay it into interviews and job offers that led to a satisfying career move. So my view is that a resume—done right and used effectively—can still help you capture desirable job opportunities. The operative terms are “right” and “effectively.”

Your job search is more than just a resume.

It’s true that if you think having a resume is all you need for a successful job search, you’re probably in for a rude awakening. In the first place, I don’t know anyone who has ever gotten hired just by having a professional resume. Life seldom works like that, and the employment or hiring process virtually never does. In the first place, employers won’t find you in the vast universe of applicants unless you target them, so simply firing off your resume for an advertised opening is ineffective at best. (Here comes that black hole again!)

If you’re a senior-level manager or executive, you’re most likely not shopping your resume around via online job boards, company job postings or other similar methods anyway. To start with, you probably have a network of contacts you will selectively share your situation and goals with. Even though those individuals know you, you might want to provide them with a copy of your resume as a quick way for them to understand what you are pursuing and what you want to offer to employers.

As a matter of fact, even if you’re not a senior-level job seeker, that’s not a bad way to increase the effectiveness of your job search.

So what’s next?

Don’t assume resumes are “dead” and how/when/if you present yours doesn’t matter much. Just re-think the possibilities and choose what works best for you in your unique situation. And be smart about keeping away from that black hole!

By the way, have you updated your resume lately? If not, now is a good time to do that. What have you accomplished since the last update that isn’t in there and should be?

More articles: Senior Manager/Executive Job Search | Job Interview | Career Management

The articles included here were written by me unless otherwise identified.

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If you are interested in sharing or reprinting these articles, in-full or in-part, for use elsewhere, please note that they are copyrighted, and therefore must include appropriate author credit as follows:

“By Georgia Adamson, A Successful Career, 508-263-9454, www.ablueribbonresume.com.”