On Wednesday, we posted a three-question quiz to identify your job search problem areas. If you missed it, see below.
In today’s commentary, we’ll address the dreaded résumé, helping to move you up the scale from bad to good. If you answered “1” or “2” to the first question in our quiz, you’ll want to review this post from the beginning. For the “3s” and “4s” in our midst, the basics we highlight in the first section may be old news, but we cover some finer points further down.
From Bad to Good
Your cover letter and résumé embody the first impression you will make on a potential employer, so pay close attention to what they say about you. If your documents haven’t changed since your school days, or they take the form of a dumping ground for miscellaneous detail about each position, you are showing an employer that you don’t care enough to do the job right.
A résumé book, readily available in the public library, can give you the basics of putting together professional-looking documents. In general terms, here’s what you should do:
- Pick a font with no gimmicks and use it at a readable but not over-large size. This will vary from font to font, but 11 point is a good starting place from which to adjust.
- Organize your positions in reverse chronological order. Unless you are an entry-level employee, your education should not take the lead—even if it’s from Harvard.
- Feature your title for each job in bold and follow with the company name and your dates of employment. You need only list the year.
- Under each position, highlight the most important details about your role and impact. A helpful strategy is to briefly list your responsibilities in left-justified text, then follow with bullet points that call out your key achievements.
- Include as many numbers as possible. State how many employees you managed, how big the budget you oversaw, the percentage of productivity improvement you drove, and so on. Generalities are boring; well-chosen specifics bring life to a document.
- Don’t weigh the document down with too much detail about the company. You’re not selling them, you’re selling YOU.
- Address the formatting. Your resulting document should be one page or two…not more and certainly not something in between. Work with font size, margins, and spaces between sections and bullets to get a pleasing final result.
- Make sure your name and contact information is easy to locate at the top of the document. And please, we beg of you, have someone proofread it!
We’re part of the way there, from Bad to Good, but don’t settle for just Good! Check back Monday for the next installment, from Fine to Fabulous.
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