Job Search Process: Resume Writing
Selling your benefits and features
Looking for that plum job? One of your most important tools in any job search is your resume. Within no more than two pages, it’s your opportunity to demonstrate your value to a prospective employer. Every aspect of your resume informs the reader about you – from the words you choose to the kinds of information you include. Instant judgments are made; make yours a resume that leads to a meeting.
Before you start writing.
Your writing job will be so much simpler and your resume so much stronger if you first develop these materials. You may be surprised at just how often you refer to them during your resume writing and your search.
In detail, describe the job you seek. What firms have your perfect job? What will they include in your perfect job's description? What are the responsibilities? What are the qualifications?
What experience, contacts or knowledge base would cause the hiring manager to say "this is the person I want to hire?"
List your benefits and selling features. Benefits and features are the things that make you unique. To begin, make a list of your working experiences, the specific knowledge and skills you can employ, your contact list and every other personal qualification. Every one of these is a feature, the data points, the facts about you. Features are important, whether it’s language skills, software development competencies or technical training, every feature is an important personal asset that adds to your story.
To strengthen the importance of each of your features, write an example of how you've used your features in ways that bring particular beneift to a prospective employer. Transforming your features into benefits for your prospective employer differentiates you from every other applicant. This is what makes you memorable and not an also-ran. It’s no longer enough to simply list core skills. Instead, it is necessary to demonstrate how you use your skills in ways that are meaningful to your prospective employer.
To do this, write a brief description of how you used each feature and the result for the employer. Let’s say you have specific software knowledge but for the job you want, every other applicant has the same knowledge. What makes you different when you use that software knowledge? Do you apply it in a different way? Are you faster? What enhances your results over others? Answers to these questions are your benefits, the things that differentiate you from all other applicants. Benefits show your unique value to your prospective employer.
You will, of course, cite your features and their benefits from experience at previous employers. Also, include the features you've developed in personal endeavors. Have you held a leadership position at church? Have you organized a fund raising program for your favorite charity? Have you coached a team, chaired a committee, taught a skill, acted in a play or sung in a choir during your non-working hours? Coaching shows mentoring, team-building and teaching skills. Chairing a committee shows leadership, management and organizational skills. Don’t forget to translate these features into benefits for prospective employers.
Make a list of action verbs. These words describe the things you do. Action verbs bring life to your resume. Words like develop, create, manage, operate, direct, conduct, teach, mentor, act and write. You’ll get help finding action verbs at www.thesaurus.com.
Start your writing.
Choose your resume style. Resume protocol varies by industry and job type. The most common style is chronologic where your employment is listed sequentially starting with your most recent job and progressing through your employment history. The functional style resume features your skills and how you’ve used those skills. Finally, the combined format uses features from both chronologic and functional resume styles.
Learn which format is preferred in your industry. Or, you might choose to prepare a resume in each of the styles. Simply google “resume types” to get to one of the many websites with style sheets and tips for each of the three resume styles. Here, we’ll consider the content and formatting that applies to all resume types.
Word Choice. There are two kinds of words to consider as you write your resume. The first is active words. Active words demonstrate accomplishment and results. Active words help the reader envision the prospect as one who takes action. Words like planned, organized, taught, edited, wrote, started, directed, grew, led, sold, empowered, developed, implemented, created – all these words imply action.
The other important words when writing your resume are the search-specific key words. Today, resumes are screened electronically. That means that the keywords used in the job description become key words in the screening software used by many employers. Carefully incorporate the descriptive words found in the job description. Use the words appropriately. Consider the frequency of each word’s use. Some key words can be used throughout your resume – if appropriate. Consider synonyms. Without these words, your resume may be rejected before human eyes have scanned it.
Your Name. Whether emailed or submitted as a printed copy, your name must be at the top of every page. Things happen, pages can be separated. With so many applicants vying for each job, it’s easier to throw a resume out than to figure out how to match a second page to its first unless there’s a name at the top.
Summary. At the top of your resume, right below your name and contact information, place your summary. It shouldn’t be more than three or four lines. As you write it, keep the hiring manager in mind. Begin by listing all the things that best describe your work history, your experience and your top skills. When possible, quantify. Use numbers or words that quantify, whether it’s top sales person, best results or another quantifier. Shorten each point to a phrase and then create sentences using these phrases. It’s not easy. Keep taking words or phrases out til you get it to the few ideas and words that best describe you at work.
Objective or goal. There are mixed opinions on whether an objective or goal serves a fruitful purpose any longer. Check with colleagues or google the “merits of an objective on a resume.” If you decide to include an objective or goal, ask yourself, “What is my working purpose?” You’ll need to use caution. While your main purpose may be to get a job, that should never find its way onto your resume. Whatever the job, hiring managers want to hear your passion; they want to know that you really want to do their job. You’ll want to write a clear statement of your deep and sincere desire to work in the specific business or job category
Electronic submission. When submitting a resume by email, follow page format conventions. Set all margins to 1 inch. Use universal fonts – generally Arial or Times Roman – so your resume can be read on all computers. Be aware that not all firms accept resumes in PDF format. Learn the format preferences of the firm to whom you will submit your resume.
Proofread it! Misspelling and poor grammar will often be the reason for immediate rejection. Proof your work.
Always enclose a cover letter with your resume. In it, you can toot your horn; tell of the three or four unique benefits you would bring to the firm. In the opening paragraph, acknowledge the firm and the specific job you seek. In that same paragraph, include a powerful sentence about you – you can draw the words for this sentence from the summary you wrote for your resume.
Follow the opening paragraph with three or four bulleted points that explain the key benefits of your employment. Conclude your cover letter with a well-worded paragraph that expresses your strong interest in the firm and the job. That’s it; your cover letter is complete.
Make everything easy to read. Make it easy to find your best qualities, especially those related to the job. Make certain your prospective employer will quickly grasp the benefit of your employment. No one said this was easy. Job search is a full time job til you land the plum job you’ve sought. Here’s to your greatest success.