Job Search and Placement Assistance

RESUME TIPS

Many job seekers seem to forget that the resume is the only initial way of communicating who you are professionally. In many of the resumes we receive, it seems that little planning or effort was made to make it a document worthy of attention and consideration. Those factors that don't kill a resume with a single blow nevertheless weaken it, and a weak resume isn't what employers are standing in line to read. Of course, the first rule is, DON'T LIE, but there are some things you can do to strengthen your resume.

Want to see what I look for in a resume? CLICK HERE

Want to see some good and bad resume examples? Try these Sample Resumes

 

LAY OUT YOUR RESUME PROPERLY

Recruiters and employers tend to be suspicious when they see a functional format instead of the approved chronological style. What is a functional format resume? One which lists accomplishments, skills and responsibilities in separate sections not related to each individual job you have held. The actual work record is simply a listing of the employers, often without dates.

A functional resume is suspect because it implies that you may be applying the format to de-emphasize a potential flaw or weakness, such as a gap between jobs. A functional format might also be used to present yourself as more of an expert than your background warrants. Functional resumes are also often hard to follow, and the format is best avoided. Nearly every client we work with prefers a chronological resume, with dates, responsibilities and accomplishments listed for each position held like this sample: 

NATURAL FOODS, Feb. 2000 - Present

Plant Manager, March 2004-Present
* Manage Production, Maintenance, and Sanitation Operations for a large non-union food manufacturing facility that produces over 1M pounds/day of finished product and employs over 300 employees.
* Reduced waste from 2% to .4% in only 6 months.
* Ensured compliance with all FDA and OSHA standards.
Maintenance Manager, Nov. 2002-March 2004
* Managed daily operation for a maintenance department that serviced a 300,000 sqft food manufacturing facility.
Area Production Manager, Feb. 2000-Nov. 2002
* Responsible for daily operations of 11 high speed production lines that were responsible for producing at or above scheduled outputs.

If you are really in love with the functional format, place a brief summary of your experience and accomplishments near the top of your resume, and then go ahead with the chronological format below. 



CLARIFY YOUR EDUCATION

If a recruiter or an employer sees incomplete education information on a resume, the assumption will be that the applicant is trying to cover something up. Be sure and indicate if you have a completed degree. Applicants seem surprised when asked about their degree status, even when it is very unclear from what they have written on their resume. For example:

EDUCATION

Mechanical Engineering, Michigan State University

Does that mean coursework only, a 2 year degree, or a completed 4 year degree? Trust me, most won't bother to find out. They will just discard the resume in favor of one that is much clearer. Much better to list it like this:

EDUCATION

Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, 1988, 3.7/4.0 gpa
Michigan State University

This way there is no question in the mind of the reader about degree status, and the resume won't be discarded. The lesson? Be very clear on your resume - don't assume anything, because the reader doesn't know you. Your paperwork has to make the introduction for you.



LIST THE DATES!

Strength of work record is what an employer is looking for. If you send a resume that does not include employment dates, there is no way for anyone to gauge your work record, and frankly, it will appear that you are hiding something. That will result in your resume getting tossed aside. List the dates of employment for each employer, and if you have held multiple positions with one company, break down the dates for each position you have held. Check out this sample:

NATURAL FOODS, Feb. 2000 - Present

Plant Manager, March 2004-Present
* Manage Production, Maintenance, and Sanitation Operations for a large non-union food manufacturing facility that produces over 1M pounds/day of finished product and employs over 300 employees.
Maintenance Manager, Nov. 2002-March 2004
* Managed daily operation for a maintenance department that serviced a 300,000 sqft food manufacturing facility.
Area Production Manager, Feb. 2000-Nov. 2002
* Responsible for daily operations of 11 high speed production lines that were responsible for producing at or above scheduled outputs.

As you can see, this clearly shows the career progression and eliminates any questions about work record.



CHECK YOUR SPELLING AND PUNCTUATION - AGAIN!

Of all resume deaths, the most pointless result from carelessness with spelling, grammar and choice of words. Without exception, every recruiter and hiring manager mentions misspellings, misused words and grammatical mistakes as irreversible and almost always fatal flaws in a resume or cover letter. Nothing says "incompetent" or "unworthy" more succinctly than poor grammar or spelling. Using your word processor's spell-checker isn't enough. You must read through the resume once for accuracy, checking numbers, dates, city names and other facts; then a second time for missing or extra words; then a third time for spelling.

Employers simply won't put up with an applicant who uses impaired spelling, particularly when the job seeker misspells the interviewer's or the organization's name. For that, there's no forgiveness. Misspelled or misused words imply slipshod work habits and laziness. In your own interest, have someone else proofread your resume after you have proofed it yourself. Show your resume to several friends and ask them to read it out loud. Listen to where they pause; this could mean you've written something confusing or inaccurate. After you get their feedback, revise the resume so that it's error-free. Mistakes often result from your haste to get out a new version.

You should also use proper grammar and spelling in any and all email communications with recruiters and potential employers. Don't use slang, nicknames or street terms. Treat it like a business conversation, because it is!

Also, DON'T USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS IN YOUR RESUME OR YOUR EMAILS. AS YOU CAN SEE FROM JUST THIS BRIEF SENTENCE, IT'S REALLY ANNOYING, AND IT CERTAINLY DOESN'T PROJECT PROFESSIONALISM. USE CAPITALS FOR EMPLOYER OR JOB TITLE IF YOU MUST, BUT DON'T JUST PRESS THE CAPS LOCK AND GO TYPING!!



GIVE YOUR OBJECTIVE

By not describing what job or field you want to work in, your resume starts off on the wrong foot. You force the employer to read it all the way through to figure out what kind of job you're suited for. You create more work for a busy reader.

Use your Objective to make a strong positioning statement in your resume. It should convey what you are looking for as well as what you can do for your potential employer. Use your Summary of Qualifications to briefly (3-4 sentences) list your top skills and/or training. Be sure to use key words relevant to your field if they apply to your background.

It's important to tell the reader what you want to do. Employees perform better in jobs they enjoy and are qualified for. Make this clear in your resume's objective. If you know the exact job title you're applying for, include it. Start the resume, for example, as follows:

OBJECTIVE

Seeking a Marketing Management position where my 10 years of sales, marketing and management experience will add value to operations.

If you don't know the job title, start your resume:

OBJECTIVE

Seeking a position where 10 years of sales, marketing and management experience will add value to operations.

Beginning your resume with a clear objective or a focused summary tells readers exactly what you want to do for them. This message establishes rapport, sets the stage for the rest of your resume and will improve your results.



FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN OFFER THE COMPANY

This is the worst and most common mistake you can make. Employers don't want to hire you. They hate hiring. They only hire employees when they have problems to solve. Employers don't want to spend a lot of time hiring, just as you wouldn't want to spend more time in a dentist's chair than you had to. Your resume must answer quickly the question on every employer's mind: "What can you do for me?"

Most resumes don't. Too many start: "Seeking a position where I can utilize my skills in an atmosphere with potential for career advancement…." That is not the way to start. Avoid coming across as someone who uses employers as a springboard to better jobs. Employers have their own problems. Most could care less about your career aspirations or desire to make more money.

Compare the following objectives:

"To obtain a long-term career with an organization which has a strong background where I can grow professionally and be rewarded financially."
(self-focused)

"A position in sales and marketing where my talents can be utilized to increase market share and company profits while pursuing new opportunities for career challenges with a company who places high priority on customer satisfaction, initiative and quality performance in the realm of product and channel management."

(company-focused)

A good resume should tell an employer how a candidate can add value to the operation or contribute to efficiency, as in this summary:

SUMMARY

Seeking a position where 10 years of sales, marketing and management experience will add value to operations.

What hiring manager wouldn't want to talk to a candidate who's offered to add value to his operations? You also could say: "will contribute to operations" or "will add to profitability." The wording doesn't matter. What matters is your focus on helping the employer meet his goals.



FOCUS ON RESULTS!

Everywhere and always, if you describe the duties you perform and don't include your accomplishments, your resume is virtually assured of a near-death experience. This is especially true if it comes up against resumes that are packed with accomplishments.

While what you've done at each job is important, what you accomplished and how you made yourself valuable to past employers is even more significant. Review your daily duties. What were the positive results when you did your job well? How did sales, revenue or efficiency increase? Write down these results and include them in your resume. The more specific, the better.

Instead of: "Responsibilities included implementation of policies and procedures, training of new employees, interfacing with subordinates and vendors and light correspondence," try: "Worked with staff and vendors to increase product turnover by 15% and sales by 23% in five months. Also trained 14 new employees, five of whom were rapidly promoted."

A word of caution, however - be sure you can prove everything you claim.

Results are the bottom line. Generally, people who move up in a company are the ones who can communicate their results and achievements, as opposed to just listing job duties.



BE CLEAR, NOT WORDY

Don't hide behind your vocabulary. When your resume isn't clear and to the point, the reader gets bored and pitches your resume in the trash. Write as if you were talking to a class of sixth-grade students. For example, instead of saying "implemented," try "adopted" or "set up." Never "utilize" what you can simply "use." Don't "interface" with people, "work" with them. Instead of using "impact" as a verb, try "affect" instead.



MAKE EMAIL WORK FOR YOU

Email is a wonderful innovation, allowing nearly instant communication, and the ability to share files and documents quickly and easily. Many candidates email resumes to employers and recruiters. However, there are problems that can occur when sending a document via email. If your resume can't be opened at the other end, how can you be hired?

Most people send their documents either as an attachment or as text pasted in the body of an e-mail message. If you send your resume as an attachment, make sure that it is in a standard format - Word, RTF, or plain text. If you have a resume in another format, convert it to one of these formats for the purpose of email. Don't assume that the recipient has the same programs as you. DO NOT send your resume and/or cover sheet in ZIP or archived format, and DO NOT send it as an image file. A lot of recipients also don't want to see a PDF file. Mac users should pay special attention to their attachments so that they can be read by PC users.

Attachments aren't foolproof. To make sure everyone can read your resume, you may choose to copy and paste the text of it into the body of your e-mail message. In your word processor, highlight the entire text of your resume and copy it into the clipboard. Switch to your e-mail program and paste the text into your message. If you use both methods, you can be certain that one way or another, your resume will be read.



WORK RECORD COUNTS

The final knockout factor that eliminates many applicants is citing too many jobs. Some people move from job to job, company to company, industry to industry, all on the same resume. Listing too many jobs earns unsatisfactory grades from employers because it shows a restlessness that no employer can satisfy; or a personality no employer cares to deal with; or chronic lateness or absenteeism; or the three Ds: dishonesty, drinking and drugs. One thing you can count on is that readers aren't going to stop and ponder it. They'll stop reading because it makes them feel uneasy.

How do you present your resume when you have held many jobs? First, if you have held your current job for several years, you can list the last 3-5 jobs you have held, and simply state on your resume, "Previous work history available upon request". If you have moved from job to job recently due to corporate restructure or downsizing, your best bet is to include a note to that effect following each job listing, such as "Company closed", or "Laid off in a 20% staff reduction". If you have voluntarily moved from job to job several times recently, you are going to have a tougher time of it.

Resumes with too many jobs can survive the first cut and become contenders. However, you need to show that you have more going for you than other candidates. Some industries expect lots of job changes, such as Wall Street, almost every area of science, computing, software and electronics.

 
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