Creating an Effective Resume
The first, and most critical, point for
creating an effective resume is self-assessment. An accurate
portrayal of your career interests can only be conveyed
after identifying those skills, abilities, and values you
want to find in your next job. The other half of resume
preparation is a review of all the educational and occupational
experiences you have had. Only when you have both of these
elements solidly in mind and feel a focus towards your next
position…begin writing your resume.
Understand the relative importance of a
resume to your job search. A resume will not result in a
job. Rather, it is a key marketing tool that will help you
land an interview. It will be up to you to do the rest.
We will cover more of that later in this guide.
If written well, a resume should generate
enough interest to make an employer want to meet you. For
those jobs in which written communication skills are essential,
your resume and cover letter may be your most important
marketing tools. Did you know that the first time an average
employer reviews a resume, they spend less than 60 seconds
on it? You must catch them in that time period and make
them want to look at it again.
A resume is as important in creating a
first impression with a potential employer as are over-the-phone
and face-to-face contacts.
This needs to be the first step you take
in looking for a job. When looking for a job, you are actually
functioning as a salesperson, and the product is YOU. In
order to be an effective Salesperson, you MUST be familiar
with the product. You may think you know the product it
is worth taking the time to do some self-evaluation. You
may be surprised by how much more clearly you will see not
only yourself, but also your image of the perfect job.
It is important to know what kind of person
you are and which work environments are most suited to your
own unique combination of skills, goals and areas of interest.
Jobs that combine your best in these areas are the jobs
in which you will have the best chance for success and where
you will feel the strongest sense of job satisfaction.
Remember when you were a child and you
wanted to be an astronaut or a firefighter or President?
Nothing is set in stone; our dreams, goals and expectations
tend to change as we grow and it is important to remain
open to change. Put aside the expectations or successes
of others. The fact that your parents worked successfully
in private industry doesn’t mean that you would not
be happier working for a government agency or a non-profit
organization. Does the fact that your mother is a lawyer
mean you have practice law as well?
To help ascertain which work environments
and job types are best for you, it is worth taking the time
to complete the following questionnaire. Find a quiet place
where you can work uninterrupted. Don’t feel you have
to complete this all at once. Work on it for a while and
come back to it. Also, if you get stuck, brainstorm, or
ask others for input.
When trying to discover and define your
personal interest areas, think about the newspaper and magazine
articles you turn to first. Are you more interested in the
business section or the front page? Make a list of the news
items, which have grabbed your attention over the last six
months. Also, consider your favorite leisure activities-
do they translate into job skills? For example, someone
who enjoys entertaining may prove to be a good event coordinator.
[Take the questionnaire]
Now that you have completed the exercises
and have a good idea of your next career move, the logical
step in the job search process is writing a resume. In the
majority of cases, resumes are the only documents a potential
employer receives in determining whether or not to offer
you an interview.
The content of a resume includes only that
information that an employer needs to know about you to
make a hiring decision. The essential components of a resume
Phone Number (include message number if you do not have
an answering machine)
Email address (only include this if you check your email
on a regular basis)
Key knowledge areas i.e. industries, functions, regions
Highlight of relevant technical/specialized skills (marketing,
strategic planning, advertising, etc.)
Complementary proficiencies (language study, computer skills,
special interests as they relate to the position you are
Personal traits (i.e. teamwork, flexibility as they relate
to the position you are applying for)
Employment History (Chronological
or Functional format)
List your positions in reverse order (most recent first)
Highlight key accomplishments (cost savings, improved efficiencies,
and special interests. Remember your Accomplishment Statements)
Minimize “lack of experience” indicators such
A chronological resume presents your work experience within
the time frames you spent in each job. This is the most
traditional and a good choice for individuals with steady
and increasing responsible work experience and for job hunters
whose recent employment is relevant to the job for which
they are applying now. Refer to the chronological resumes
at the end of this section.
Functional resumes are really a combination of functional
and chronological. This combination style provides for a
skills section, allowing you to group similar skills and
accomplishments from throughout your paid and unpaid work
Although many employers prefer the more
traditional chronological resume, it is not always the best
style for those whose career paths have been somewhat erratic,
for those looking to change careers, or for those whose
recent work does not support their career interests. A functional
resume focuses on what you have done rather than where you
have been. Job titles, names of organizations and dates
are not listed in the skills section, so volunteer jobs
and gaps in employment can not be identified as easy as
with the chronological style. Examples of this style can
be found at the end of this section.
College/university degree- list degrees in reverse chronological
order with the highest degree first.
Other Relevant information (only
as it relates to the position)
Credentials, licenses and special skills
Publications (include unpublished as well IF it relates
to your job target)
General Do’s and Don’ts of
• Present yourself accurately and positively
• Include only enough information to encourage an
employer to find out more. List your most recent positions
or areas of expertise first, then work backwards.
• Include brief descriptions (where appropriate) of
the companies where you worked: size, sales, volume, products,
• Stress accomplishments. Include figures and brief
examples to substantiate claims.
• Leave out data that might result in discrimination
(i.e. race, marital status, religion).
• Put education near the end unless there is a special
reason to put it up front (i.e. teaching position).
• Use strong, succinct action words (i.e. “designed
vs. worked on formulation of).
• Make the resume attractive to the eye, and make
sure it has absolutely NO errors. Wherever possible, avoid
underlining and using more than one font.
• Use the language of your future work. Make sure
your resume is related to an employers need.
• Have several others proofread and critique your
resume for accuracy and impact.
• Don’t have someone else write your resume
(ask for advice and input, but you know yourself best and
will have to defend the content).
• Make sure you do not come across as arrogant or
• Don’t exaggerate your strengths and talents.
• Don’t use pronouns, abbreviations, jargon
or buzzwords unless the terms are widely know and accepted
or are industry/company specific.
• Don’t crowd the margins or use excessively
• Don’t include references. Reference requests
are made when there is an actual hiring interest, not before.
At the end of your resume you may state, “ references
available upon request,” or since this is normally
assumed, the phrase may be omitted. As a matter of courtesy
and to ensure that potential employers receive favorable
references, always contact your references in advance.
• Avoid humor and vagueness.
• Don’t include personal information (weight,
height, marital status, children, etc.)
The appearance of your resume should invite
further reading and ultimately assist in getting you in
the door for an interview. Other things to consider include:
• Using a laser printer on good quality
• Keep it between one and two pages in length.
• Make it easy to read. The size of the print should
be comfortable (no smaller than 10-11) and the amount of
information that is bold or underlines should enhance rather
than overwhelm the reader. Allow plenty of white space on
• Provide at least a one-inch margin on the left and
right for the body of the document.
• Your resume must be flawless- no spelling errors,
typos or grammatically incorrect phrases, incorrect dates
of employment, correct phone numbers, etc.
More and more companies are using scanning equipment to
store resumes in databases. Resumes area searched for keywords
before being selected for review. If your resume is not
in scannable form, there is a chance it will be discarded.
To avoid this, adhere to the following guidelines:
• No two-sided resumes
• Print in black ink on plain white paper- even a
light off-white can reduce scannability.
• Format your resume as simply as possible:
No fancy fonts, small fonts, underlining (avoid where possible)
Use boldface for headings
Replace bullets with characters like dashes (-), carrots
(>) or asterisks (*)
No graphics or symbols
Use a font between 10 and 14 points and don’t crowd
• When you mail your resume, do not use staples and
do not fold (when possible). Be sure to send an original
rather than a copy. Scanning equipment often has difficulty
with copies (the same goes with faxed versions, so try mailing
the original, unless you have the capability of faxing directly
from your computer.
• When sending your resume as an email, protocol differs
by company. Sometimes hiring managers want the resume in
the body of the email, others as an attachment. Unless instructed
otherwise, send your resume as a Word attachment.
• Most resumes today are scanned into an electronic
database. Keyword searches are then done by the recruiter,
for example, choosing only resumes that contain the word
• If possible, do not fold your resume and cover letter,
but rather send it in a stiff 9x12 envelope. This allows
for more complete scanning.
• Be sure to send an original rather than a copy,
because scanning equipment often has difficulty with scanned
Critique your resume
When you believe your resume is complete,
ask yourself the following questions:
• Have I selected the most appropriate
resume style for my background/career objective?
• Have I de-emphasized the interruptions in my career?
• Have I highlighted benefits for a potential employer
and are my relevant qualifications obvious?
• Have I put the most important information near the
top and left side of my resume?
• Have I stressed accomplishments rather than only
• Have I used natural and understandable language?
• Have I left off irrelevant personal information?
• Is my resume brief, to the point, and clear?
• Have I been consistent in my use of underlining
or bold typeface, capitals, spacing and margins?
• Is my original copy clean, clear and of good contrast?
• Have I chosen high quality bond paper on which to
reproduce my resume?
is an example of the Chronological resume. This most common
of the resume types accounts for 90-95% of all business
resumes used today.
Resume #2 is an example
of the Functional/Combination resume. These tend to be used
by people whose work histories are better showcased by listing
their abilities rather than the more traditional list of
Additional Career Assessment Assistance
The Internet is fast becoming the number one source for
job search assistance. It is also full of site that will
help you further define your next career move. Several good
is one of the oldest job search sites on the internet. A
must for all job seekers. They also have a number of links
to career assessment advice, testing, etc.
In November 2000, they are merging with www.headhunter.net.
as of this printing it is unknown what the new site name
will be, but typing either of the above sites will bring
job tips and benefits info. as well as a great site to search
job search site with a lot of good career information. Dilbert
cartoonist Scott Adams’ favorite site (so says Vault.com).
Has a book section where you can order from a number of
solid career assistance books.
www.ajb.org this is the
Department of Labor’s website. Not a very exciting
site to look at, but more and more companies are starting
to post their positions directly on the net, not in their
local DOL office.
www.ama.org American Marketing
job search site with links to career marketing information.
this is the only site on the Internet that is purely for
search jobs. Read articles from the IT industry.
www.shrm.org Society for
Human Resources Management. Great articles and links even
if you’re not a member.
Society for Training and Development.
www.swe.com Society of
careers. This is a global site with a good career section.
It is possible to search for jobs in specific companies.
Articles that will help you keep up on the industry as well.
$100k plus executives. This is a paid site.
hunting tips, search available jobs, research employers
Career Connections. A compilation of job information available
on the web. Individuals post their business at this site.
One focus of this site is career information and guidance,
though they do have job listings.
are divided by industry in the “company gallery.”
personal search agent where you select the parameters and
they email appropriate jobs to you.
www.eriss.com this site
provides job hunting tips, electronic resume posting as
well as San Diego employer links.
the Riley Guide helps with on-line search tactics and good
The list is endless. But these are some
good starting points. Make sure you also check out the local
sites for your city, such as www.jobsinsandiego.com,
the local Yahoo page, etc.
Department of Labor
As with Internet sites, there are an overwhelming number
of books available on the job search process. Here are a
number you may find interesting. For more, check with you
librarian or on the Internet. Talk with your friends and
family to see which ones they would recommend (remember,
what works for them may or may not work for you).
What Color is Your Parachute?,
The king of the category -- and still as vital in the 90s
as it was in the 70s. Includes a lot of material related
more to career counseling than selling yourself, but Bolles
covers all the bases and does it very well. The classic
dismissal of resumes as a way of finding work. [
The New Relocating Spouses
Guide to Employment, Frances Bastress
Cover Letters That Will Get You the Job You
Want by Stanley Wynett (1993). Wynett's a
former advertising copywriter, and his letters have a flow
and style that you won't find in most cover letter guides.
Over 100 sample letters, with some excellent ideas scattered
throughout that you could bring to your own letters
Sweaty Palms by
H. Anthony Medley (1992). A perennial bestseller (first
published in the 70s), and still very useful. Covers a wide
range of topics from preparation to presentation to negotiation.
The Everything Get-A-Job Book,
by Stephen Graber…gives you the competitive edge,
with a fun and non-intimidating approach to looking for
your first job or just plain trying to find a better job.
Jammed with tons of tips, strategies, and advice from the
trenches, this comprehensive book will be indispensable
to anyone hoping to land a great job. Although we have not
read this book the reviews on Vault.com are promising.
Researching the Job Market
Developing Your Job Search Tools
Having the right tools to perform an effective
search makes all the difference in the world. This section
will provide you with several of those tools.
1. Understanding the job market-
How it is organized and what are the likely results from
various job finding techniques- is essential in developing
your job search strategies.
2. Researching- a crucial tool that helps you identify
target companies, develop your approach and shine in the
3. Developing your contacts and learning how to
get information, advice and the right introductions that
should lead to a job offer.
When you begin to put together your job
search strategy, it is extremely important that you are
open to all avenues of employment. Do not focus solely on
the public or private sectors or only the biotech industry.
For the most part, the same or very similar skill sets are
required for jobs in most sectors. And remember, skills
are transferable from one industry to the next. Many individuals
are surprised to find a job well suited to their individual
needs where they least expect to find one. If you explore
ALL of your possibilities, you will open yourself up to
1. Understanding the Job Market…
How to find out what’s
There are many sources available for finding
a job. They tend to fall into two major categories.
These openings have been “publicly declared.”
They might be found in the newspaper, on-line, in company
job posting lists.
These openings have not been advertised to the general public.
Sometimes these openings may be nothing more than a vague
intention, which is until a manager meets someone who triggers
his or her interest. They can also be communicated by word
of mouth or through networking. These can often be the best
jobs, so you need to learn, or polish, the skills it takes
to find them.
Locating Published Openings
In today’s fast-paced world, this is an excellent
place to find employment information. For industry research,
current and future trends and employment statistics, try
• The US Bureau of Labor Statistics-
• State Occupational Projections-
• State Occupational Information Coordinating Committee-
• The Wall Street Journal’s National Business
Employment Weekly- www.nbbew.com
• Lexis Nexus provides, for a fee, an excellent source
of industry information, as well as information written
about a specific company but not by that company, leading
to a more objective article.
When you are ready to research specific
companies, agencies or organizations, it is essential to
check out their websites. Every major company should have
a website with information about their long-term goals and
employment practices. If they don’t have one, or it
seems poorly maintained, keep that in mind when making employment
In the previous section we listed a number
of websites that can help you locate specific jobs, but
they are also helpful for industry information, trends,
links to company websites, etc.
Keep in mind that many papers now offer
their classified sections online.
Benefits of using the classifieds:
• Gives a good idea of the skills and experience required
by a specific industry or position in that particular region
of the country.
• Responding to these ads gives you practice with
writing cover letters and marketing letters, as well as
learning how to tailor your resume to specific companies
• Your response might lead to an interview.
Drawbacks of using the classifieds:
• Many of today’s jobs are no longer listed
in the classified section of the newspaper, so you may be
missing out on opportunities if this is your only source
of position openings.
• There are usually a high number of applicants per
job advertisement, which leads to a low rate of placement.
• Some organizations and placement agencies run ads
strictly to collect resumes.
Search Firms and Temporary Agencies
There are many placement agencies in the
US, and numerous specialize in particular field (a good
handbook to take a look at is The Directory of Executive
Recruiters). However, it is important to remember that it
is not their aim to help you figure out what it is you want
to do. To get the largest benefit of working with a recruiting
firm, you must go to them with a clear picture of the type
of position you are looking for.
RESEARCHING THE JOB MARKET
Company and Industry Research
Once you have an idea of what the current
job market has to offer, it is time to do research on the
various industries and companies in which you may be interested.
This section will give you some tips on how to proceed with
this research. We will explain a number of tools and how
to use them for the best results.
Research provides a crucial foundation
for your entire job search process. Consider it to be the
means by which you get answers to your career questions.
Without this research to back up your candidacy for a specific
position, you may appear vague, unmotivated or uninterested
in the job you are being considered for. Those who do adequate
research (and this does not mean you need to spend and exorbitant
amount of time on it) will stand out from the rest of the
applicants in a pool of candidates.