Resume writing is like tennis in that certain rules apply. The tennis
court is a specific size. The net is a standard height. You can remove
the net and hit the ball, but then you're not playing tennis.
Similar conventions apply to resume writing. You can make up your own
rules as you go along. For example, you can print your resume on bright
red paperand you'll have an eye-catcher all right-but you won't have a
decent resume. Here are the features of the resume that always produces interviews
and job offers:
- It's accomplishment-oriented. Everything on the page is built around
your achievements: your "triples" and "home runs." They are its only reason for being.
- It's organized. Things aren't dropped in helter-skelter. Information
falls under easily understandable general headings,
which makes it easy to find facts.
- It's broken down into sub-headings. No long paragraphs.
- It's concise, not wordy. It's written in crisp phrases, not full
sentences. In resume language "K" means thousand, "M"
means million, and "MM" means hundred million. Thus, $27K means
27 thousand dollars. Omit words like "a, an, and the" and "I,
me and my." Otherwise, don't abbreviate. Take out the obvious. If
you hit 85 home runs last season, you probably don't need to mention you
also hit singles.
- It's written on one or two full pages, nothing else. Half-page or
1-1/2 page resumes look like you ran out of steam, or didn't plan well.
- It's normally limited to two pages, except for the occasional senior
executive resume, which can go to three. You'll notice that none of the
examples in this book are three pages. There's a reason for that: getting
it onto two pages is part of the drill.
Tip: The first draft is often too long (say 3 pages). Keep a long version
and then edit to a short 2-page version. Hence, two resumes. This will
satisfy your need to "have everything in there" and the real
world's requirement to "keep it to two pages." Use the short
version for general mailings; use the long version only when it's specifically
Some writers insist on having lengthy resumes: five or six pages, sometimes
more. Yet once they try them in the job market, they come back for a two-page
version. Everyone they've met has recommended no more than two pages!
"Show me a person who can't distill a
lifetime onto two pages
and I'll show you a scatterbrain or an egomaniac."
Jim Kennedy, Editor
The Directory of Executive Recruiters
- It's packed with important details. Nothing irrelevant. No personal
data is included, except when there is an important reason to do so (for
example, when industry standards require it). Let the resume simply show
where you've been and what you've accomplished. That's its job. Don't say
anything about references, age, marital status, references, sex, race,
family, personal interests, political or religious affiliationsunless
mentioning these things will help.
For example, if you're a Mormon job-hunter in Salt Lake City, mentioning
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints could be a plus. Mentioning
that in New York City might be a negative. Unless you're sure, keep quiet.
Another example: if you belong to a computer user's group and you're looking
for a computer-related job, mention the club. If prospective employers
want to ask you about outside activities, let them ask you face-to-face.
- It's typed or word processednever handwrittenand it's laser printed
on plain white bond paper, or off-white grey or buff. Nothing else. Very
clean photocopies onto good bond paper are more than adequate. No need
to wordprocess all originals.
(Key concept: You don't make a better resume by using better paper.
You make a better resume by using carefully-chosen words.)
- It's one-of-a-kind, not canned. It's not done by a resume service.
(More about that later.)
- It's conservative, because business is conservative.
- It's flawlessly clean. No typos, no misspellings. No white-out.
One Human Resources Manager said he trashes all letters and resumes with
even one spot of white-out. Perhaps short sighted, but that's reality.
- It's interesting, provocative, and enthusiastic. Not boring.
- It's weighted to emphasize recent work experience. As a general
rule, employers care most about what you've done recently, say within the
last ten years. They care less about what you did earlier. (Exception:
when something 10 or 15 years ago bears directly on their needs today.)
So if you look at a well-written resume visually, it looks like an inverted
pyramid. Your most recent experience receives the most attention (space),
and earlier jobs get less attention (space) as you go backwards in time.
That way, when you get to the very beginning of your careersay 15 to
25 years agoyou may have only enough room on the page to list the names
of companies, job titles, and dates. That's perfectly okay, because chances
are, most of your earlier work experience was less sophisticated.
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