Articles from TheCareerAdvisor
The Rules of the Resume Game
  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 paper—and 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:

  1. 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.

  2. It's organized. Things aren't dropped in helter-skelter. Information falls under easily understandable general headings, which makes it easy to find facts.

  3. It's broken down into sub-headings. No long paragraphs.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 requested.

    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

  7. 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 affiliations—unless 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.

  8. It's typed or word processed—never handwritten—and 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.)

  9. It's one-of-a-kind, not canned. It's not done by a resume service. (More about that later.)

  10. It's conservative, because business is conservative.

  11. 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.

  12. It's interesting, provocative, and enthusiastic. Not boring.

  13. 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 career—say 15 to 25 years ago—you 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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