You have to be concise and selective. Concise, because the average resume receives only five to seven seconds of viewing, and you won’t get a second chance to make an impression. Selective, because you can’t explain everything you’ve done or a list of all your abilities. That much information would be too much for a potential employer to process. You must be discriminating in choosing the items that most relate to the position for which you are applying. A selective approach helps to hold the employer’s attention and leaves him or her with a few unanswered questions. It serves to motivate the employer to want to see more of you and hence invite you for an interview. Obtaining an interview is the sole purpose of the resumé. No one is hired strictly based on how they look on paper.
The standard resumé, which is one or two pages in length, can be creative but must at the same time contain some basics:
- an objective
- a summary of your experience
- a record of your education
- other related activities
The objective section of your resume is one or two sentences that state, as precisely as possible, what you want to do. It gives anyone reading your resume a general framework of your direction and interests. To avoid being too general or too specific – which may at times exclude you from positions—do both. Indicate the major field you are considering or general job category, then list your specific job title preferences. For example: “A mid-level position in product management such as New Product Development Manager or Area Sales Manager.”
Your experience is probably the most important information on the resume for the potential employer. This category states what you are doing now (listed first) and what jobs and what jobs you have held in the past. List the three of four most relevant positions. Choose which are most relevant by the following criteria:
- how similar the position or specific responsibilities are to the position being sought (always emphasize similarities between your past and potential job),
- how long you spent in that position, and
- how recent your experience was.
Your job responsibilities should be described from many business angles as possible. What did you achieve? How much responsibility did you have? Did you supervise anyone? Did you have any budget responsibility? Were you promoted? Did you work independently or as a team member? Did you take projects from start to finish, or were you responsible for a specific part of a process? Did you work with customers? Did you sell any products or services? What innovations, improved productivity or cost improvements did you bring to your previous positions? These are the type of questions that provide useful information to potential employers. Numbers, percentages, and time periods quantify and qualify your past, and should be used whenever possible. Professional organizations, committees, volunteer activities and special projects which relate to the position you are seeking should all be included in the “Other Related Activities” section of your resumé.
Some modern resumés do not include pictures or extensive personal information, and they mention very little unrelated experience. References are becoming less frequently used now because of legal restrictions, so they should not be specifically listed.
A cover letter will often need to accompany your resume. It should always be sent to a person (not a department or function) with whom you have already spoken. The personal contact increases your chances of getting special attention throughout the job hunting process. The cover letter must be clear and direct, starting with an attention-getter, mentioning highlights of your resume and ending with an indication of what action YOU will next take. Do not ask the employer to call you. If you are creating work for them before you are hired, even if only a phone call, how much work can they expect you to create once you are hired? As an employee, your job should be to help make their job easier.