Sunday, November 06, 2005

7 Steps to Writing a Resume

Newfield says an effective résumé should begin with a professional summary, three to eight sentences highlighting your strengths, experience and education.

Remember: A résumé is intended to make you stand out from the hundreds of others applying for the job. A chronological listing of your experience achieves nothing. Avoid the mundane by highlighting major accomplishments such as boosting sales, opening a new office or improving efficiency and cutting costs.

Large corporations, such as GE , Microsoft and Time Warner are flooded with applications. Most electronically scan stacks of résumés looking for key words. Learn the key words in your field and use them to strengthen your pitch. Don't let this degenerate into the clichéd use of buzzwords, but think about tossing in "market expansion," "financial planner" "inventory management" and other key terms vital to your field.

Don't confuse the professional with the personal. Never include marital status, religious or political affiliation on your résumé.

When reviewing a résumé, the prospective employer doesn't care that you were "downsized" in your last job--he wants to know what you can do for him if hired. The details of why you left your prior job will be discussed at the interview, if relevant.

If you've got 25 or 30 years of experience, it's not necessary to provide a blow-by-blow account of your employment history. Most employers look for upward movement and increased responsibility. So, outline the early experience and provide greater details on what you've been doing in the last 10 or 15 years.

"Send a résumé to positions you're qualified for," Newfield says. "Many programmers think they should be head of the MIS department. The gatekeepers--those who determine which résumés will be presented to the boss--decide in about 15 seconds which pile your résumé should go into."

Newfield says it's important to answer a basic question on your résumé: Do you speak geek?

If you have extensive knowledge of computer hardware, software or unusual tech skill, list the skill in a special section under education. This could also include professional licenses, professional affiliations and advanced training in a specialized field.

A good résumé is short, simple and well-written. Keep it to one page if you're just starting out and two or three pages if you have extensive experience. Fancy brochure-style résumés or those with multiple attachments aren't helpful. Don't include letters of recommendation, photocopies of awards or copies of newspaper and magazine stories.

This seems basic, but many miss, or ignore, what their mother taught them: Never lie.

A résumé isn't a legal document, so the only sanction for lying is an employer's decision not to hire you. But if you lie on your résumé, you'll have to repeat the false information on the company's job application, which is a legal document, and that can get you're fired.

If you have a drunken driving conviction, you may have to disclose it on the job application. But read the application carefully. Some ask, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" In most cases, driving while intoxicated is a misdemeanor and therefore needn't be disclosed.

Many companies routinely check an applicant's educational background, prior employment and military service or hire an outside agency to do the legwork. Never claim degrees and experience you don't have. The degree of scrutiny increases as you move up the corporate hierarchy, but that's not an invitation for middle managers to fudge. Always keep it straight.

Previous employers won't turn thumbs down on you and most will limit their official response to confirming employment, dates, duties and salary.

"Everybody is checking everything," Newfield says.

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