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By Ken Soper, MCC, NCCC

Man with resumeResumes can help get interviews as well as help interviewees gain some control during interviews, but a resume alone won’t land a job.  A good cover letter showing you match the employer’s needs should accompany the resume.

Nonetheless, a well-written resume is an important step in your search for work.  It often can become the agenda—or at least part of it—during an interview, serving like a sales brochure, whetting the appetite of the interviewer.  Think of yourself as self employed—you’re selling your services to this prospective employer. Writing your resume can also help you organize your thinking and in so doing, be an interview rehearsal of sorts. 

Do know that leaving out pertinent data or including irrelevant information can diminish your resume’s impact. Many resumes are poorly organized and contain information that is not relevant to the type of job the individual is seeking.  So, don't just throw your resume together and hope for the best.  In some ways no resume, using a well-written letter and/or application form instead, may be better than a poorly written resume! So, carefully organize and write it, customizing it as much as possible to each position. 

Text Box: Tip: Investing in voice mail, an answering machine, or service is a good idea, or enlist a friend or family member to permit you to list their number where an answering machine (with an appropriate neutral message) can take messages for you during your search.
Don't just let someone else write your resume ‘for you’ either!  Yes, do get help from a knowledgeable professional who will work with you in writing it, giving their insight, honest and objective opinion and critique.  If you do use a writer to assist in developing your resume, check out their work and references, being sure you’re not just paying for a word processing service.  Study (don’t copy) examples in resume guides which you can find in libraries, and the samples of other successful people.  Public librarians can help you find the guides that patrons of their library have found most useful.

Focus on being factual, stating accomplishments and the positive results of your work, skills and knowledge.  Analyze all your experience (paid and volunteer) to uncover these accomplishments. "Quantify and qualify" your work and accomplishments wherever possible and appropriate which indicate your work activities and efforts made a noticeable, positive difference.  Use action verbs and avoid "passive" words (like "responsible for" and "duties included"). 

General categories of resume information and their ‘usual’ order are these:  Job Objective (can be omitted), Summary of Qualifications (may be omitted if you have including a Job Objective), Work History (or ‘Work Assignments’, which I prefer) with Accomplishment Statements in reverse chronological order (listing in order job title, company name and location, and inclusive dates of employment—month and year or years only, or length in years), Education, Training, Technology Skills, Keywords, and "Other Facts" (a more appropriate category name than "miscellaneous" or "personal").  If your Education and Training (or any other information) are more important qualifications to your job objective, then they should appear ahead of your Work History. 

"Functional" categories can also be effectively used to highlight your experience or knowledge.  Organizing a version of your resume in a functional format is usually easier once you’ve done a reverse chronological one.  The functional approach allows you much more freedom to create category names. Note that research indicates that most resume readers, meaning humans (versus optical character readers and software), prefer to have a chronology of your work history if you use functions as categories.  This chronology is usually placed later in the resume after the functional strengths and accomplishment statements. 

Spell check your resumeAnd finally, a couple of other recommendations.  Avoid use of the first person pronoun "I".  Doing so gets very redundant and creates a textual ‘smudge mark’.  And PLEASE check final resume copy for typographic and syntax errors!  Enlist someone to help.  Check spelling, grammar, and the overall look of the resume.  Use your word processing software’s spelling and syntax checker.  Readers of resumes are very unforgiving of spelling and syntactical errors, suggesting to them you do sloppy or careless work.

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  Resume help topics
  Layout Guidelines
Job Objective or Summary of Qualifications?
Work Assignments / Accomplishments
Sample Accomplishments by Job Category
Education and Training
Keywords and more
Some last words

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