Your resume has a very important job: to get you job interviews. It should clearly show your value as an employee and team member. Think of your resume as an advertisement for you.
A resume should convey the message “if you hire me, your satisfaction is guaranteed and there is little to no risk associated with it.” It should present your skills in a manner that assures the employer you have what it takes to be successful in this position and you have the personality to be a good fit with their organization.
What can your resume say in 3-5 seconds?
A good resume entices a prospective employer to pick up the phone to find out more about you. The focus of a resume shouldn’t be to tell the entire story. Instead expertise should be clearly stated with the intention of generating interest in you and your skills. A well-designed resume has 3 to 5 seconds to persuade the reader to take the next step with you.
Stick to high level skills and major achievements. Don’t try to tell everything there is to know about you in your resume. Instead, make it clear to the reader what they’ll learn about you when they bring you in for an interview.
Whenever possible, customize your resume for each job you apply to. It won’t always be possible, and it’s a good idea to have a general version of your resume to submit to job boards. But when you’re able to send it directly to a company, customize it to highlight the things that will be most relevant to them. Unless your work history is very short, take out the things they won’t be interested in so they don’t waste time reading about things that are irrelevant to them.
Keep it simple
Resumes require the certain basic information and facts about your past. It’s up to you to decide what additional information to include, and what to leave out. This is part of the art of creating a resume.
The secret to moving your resume to the top of the pile is to keep the information clear and concise. It’s natural to want to to describe every job experience in great detail for fear that something may be left out or that we won’t hit the reviewer’s hot buttons. Too much information hits their buttons alright, but it is more likely to land your resume in the trash can than in the interview pile. Prospective employers who receive numerous resumes for a position are turned off by things like too many words without enough viewable white space, and more facts than are easily absorbed at a glance.
Keep your resume to one page unless you have an extremely good reason for making it longer. The old rule of thumb was: under 5 years of experience- 1 page resume, 10-20 years- 2 page resume and 3 pages if you just have to. Things have changed. Today, almost everyone expects one page. Anything that doesn’t fit on one page is probably too old to be relevant to anyone reading it.
Talk to the scanner
With today’s use of technology it is important to use industry-specific keywords that will be captured by software programs used to analyze job applications. Typically, resumes that are emailed or uploaded to a website are analyzed by software that identifies which candidates best fit the job. For this reason, it’s crucial to rephrase the job announcement and job descriptions in the content of your resume.
At the top of the page, put your personal information such as your name, email and contact details.
Segment the rest of the information into the following categories.
List your previous employment experience, including job title and the name of the employer. Provide a brief overview of the most recent and relevant positions. Keep your descriptions to a line or a very short paragraph.
List education in reverse chronological order, degrees or licenses first, followed by certificates and advanced training. Include the institution name, location and date. If you are a recent graduate, list any school awards you received.
Mention awards and commendations you have received. Don’t include school awards here. They should be included under the education section.
Include only those that are current, relevant and impressive. Include leadership roles if appropriate.
This is good to include if the leadership roles or accomplishments are related to the job target and can show skills acquired.
Include only if published. Provide a summary of your publications.
Personal interests can show a skill or area of knowledge that is related to the position, such as photography for someone in public relations. It can also show well-roundedness, good physical health, or knowledge of a subject related to the position. It might create common ground or spark conversation in an interview.
These are the categories employers expect to be included on your resume. However, they are not all required and can be adjusted to tailor your resume to your type and level of experience and to the employment opportunity at hand. With a little extra effort you can create a resume that makes you stand out as the best candidate for the position you are seeking.
Get feedback before sending your resume
Before sending out your resume, have it reviewed by your peers and, if possible, by a few hiring managers in your field. Getting their feedback will help you to improve your resume and also help you feel more confident going into an interview, since you will have a better idea of what your interviewer is expecting.
Content alone is not enough. Today’s job seekers are more experienced, have a greater breadth of knowledge and have access to more opportunities and industry experts than ever before.
A successful job search extends far beyond submitting a resume and hoping for an interview. Even the best resumes can’t compete with a personal endorsement from a trusted source. When trying to overcome gaps in employment, reentry into the job market or when changing industries, using social networking will land you more interviews more quickly. The key is, don’t depend on your resume alone. Your resume will serve you better when used to make meaningful connections and build networking.
Your resume is your advertisement to a prospective employer and should convey the message that with you they will get someone with an exemplary package of skills and the potential to grow. It is usually your first opportunity to make an impression on a prospective employer.
The key to a memorable resume is to make it visually appealing, easy to read, clear and concise.
Be aware of the increasing use of technology during the vetting stage of recruitment. Today, many human resource departments use computer software to scan and analyze applications. So the layout and design of your resume is critical to being successful in this process.
Keep it simple by using a standard or classical 11 to 12 point font like Arial or Times New Roman. This is typically expected by the reader and is easy on the eyes. It is also a requirement if your resume is going to pass through modern scanners correctly and to be read comfortably by prospective employers who may be viewing applications on a laptop, netbook or mobile device. Mobile devices are often used to read documents, so make sure your resume is easy to read on them.
If you’re applying to a large company, your resume may be printed, scanned, copied, faxed and emailed to a number of different people and departments. The format and content has to survive all this and remain readable as it travels through an organization. The format of your resume must be generic enough to withstand the journey to get to the person who will ultimately hire you.
Make your resume visually appealing by keeping the formatting to a minimum, using a simple structure and displaying the information in a balanced and symmetrical style. This strategy helps your resume look clean, flow easily and be easily understood very quickly. Hiring managers briefly scan resumes as they are received and they typically file them away until they are ready for review. A clean, crisp page with a symmetrical information flow will make a favoralble impression during the brief initial review.
Ensure that your presentation of information is uniform and consistent when using italics, capital letters, bullet points, boldface and underlining. Only use emphasis techniques to highlight critical information that is required as a qualification for the position or demonstrates skills beyond expectation. Too frequently writers use bold to simply delineate information that they feel is important, but may not necessarily be applicable to the position. Your resume will have greater impact if the format is easily understood, information is easily located and is specific to the requirements of the position.
If you are going to mail your resume or deliver it in person, take the extra steps to make it look great by using high quality printing on slightly off-white or bright white paper in the highest quality available. Business professionals are very busy people and you don’t want your resume to be lost or mixed in the paper shuffle on a desk and accidentally be thrown away. Using off-white paper, heavier weight paper or bright white helps your resume stand out among the pile of papers on a desk.
Break out of the “cookie cutter” resume techniques that we have all been taught. Your resume should not simply be a presentation of facts; it should be a direct response to the job you are applying for. Use your resume to direct the conversation, demonstrate that you have more to offer than just the necessary skills, show that you are knowledgeable and good at what you do. Be specific with numbers when applicable.
If you’re better than average at financial management, say it: “Improved the company’s financial performance by cutting costs by 15%.”
Your resume should not include everything you have ever done. It simply has to communicate that you can do the job better, with more expertise and with a better attitude than the other applicants. Your main purpose is to show a history of strong performance that moves the employer to pick up the phone and call you.
Use targeted key words in your resume. Often these words are referred to as action words or power words. Power words are intended to make a compelling argument for your degree of skill and experience. Use them sparingly, since overuse and overemphasis is an immediate turnoff. Be sure to use keywords that were used in the job description. Information should be concise and to the point. Use short sentences that are as direct as possible.
Check your resume to guarantee that there are no spelling, typographical, grammatical or punctuation errors. Your resume is the tool you use to sell yourself. If your resume is a presentation of your greatest skills and a demonstration of the employee you will be, then simple spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors lead employers to believe that your attention to detail and professionalism may be less than desirable and you may not be the person they want representing their company.
Remember that your resume represents you. You wouldn’t go to an interview with a mustard stain on your shirt. Spelling and grammatical errors on a resume look just as sloppy to a hiring manager.
There are several strategies that can be used to increase the likelihood that your resume will be read and that you will get an interview. It’s important to remember that your resume will not do the entire job for you. You have to pick up the phone, make contacts and social engineer your way to the interview. However, you are unlikely to be successful without a strong resume to back you up.
Competition in the job market is the highest it’s been in decades. A competitive job market can be attributed to the economy, the greater availability of highly qualified applicants, and perhaps less obviously, social networking. Today’s job search requires applicants to not only have outstanding resumes, but also have an in depth understanding of how employers hire and what they are looking for when reviewing applicants.
You can make your resume work for you by laying the ground work through inquiring phone calls, social networking, gaining industry experience and following up on every resume you submit. The bottom line is that even the perfect resume will not do the job on its own. It’s a critical part of the job search process, but you have to work to get it in front of the right people.
Mapping Your Resume
One of the most important things to do when searching for a job is to have an attractive resume that communicates effectively, as it is the first thing about you that the potential employer experiences. The first impression it creates can help you get the interview or ensure that your resume goes directly into the file folder of archived records.
So how should you go about developing your first resume? The first task is to make a good outline to gather your thoughts before you jump in head first. There are three main categories that you need to consider and include in your resume: education, experience, and skills. Outlining before writing your resume allows you to map out your thoughts, organize the content and focus on relevant details which will make the task of resume writing much easier.
Pay particular attention to the following key points:
With one glance the header should communicate to the reader the precise message you want to get across. Choose your words carefully and make sure you don’t settle with “cookie cutter” descriptions. For example, rather than saying “Successful Sales Manager”, consider more descriptive terms like “Intuitive, Customer Centered Sales Manager”. This is your first opportunity to direct the conversation and lead the prospective employer in the direction you want them to go. Your resume should communicate to the employer the information that you would want to tell them in an interview to get the job.
Lots of people go over the top in listing their skills so keep this area brief, succinct and to the point. Avoid adding too much fluff and information that goes beyond the scope.
Your experience should include any positions that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Typically past job experience is listed in reverse chronological order; however it is more important to consider which jobs are the most relevant and identify them accordingly. Include your previous position title, company name, location and the number of years that you worked for that employer. Occasionally, resume writers are stumped because the job title may not be a good representation of the actual job duties. In this case it is acceptable to choose a job title that reflects your responsibilities while in that position. It is also a very good idea to include the everyday jobs and accomplishments that you had in these roles. If you choose, you can also include any awards or achievements in this area.
Employers use a resume to find out as much about a candidate as they can, including access to their educational and professional networks. Resume reviewers expect applicants to include their school name, location and the number of years attended as well as a list of qualifications obtained. It is helpful to list your information in reverse chronological order with the most recent information at the top.
Clean and Simple
Once you have all the information mapped out it’s time to create a one of a kind, eye catching and memorable resume that moves the prospective employer to take action, pick up the phone and schedule an interview. Keep it simple. Avoid fancy looking templates, fonts and graphics. Present your information in a balanced, evenly spaced and straightforward presentation.
Remember, a number of employers now use technology to scan applications. You don’t want to be marked off the interview list because it’s difficult to scan your resume.
There are some general rules like limiting to one page, using standard typeface and size, and making it as clear, concise, and easy to read as possible. Try to use simple short paragraphs and bullet points where practicable. Use quality white or slightly off white paper and print your resume with a laser printer. Spell -check your final product and have someone else review your work before submitting it to any employer.
Standard contact information is located at the top of the page and should include your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. Traditionally, people like to center this at the top of the page; you may want to try left justifying your contact information and making it slightly larger with bold font. Placing a line between the contact information and the rest of your resume will make it easier for a perospective employer to quickly grab your resume, locate the phone number and give you a call.
As for the rest of the resume, the format comes down to personal preference and targeting your resume for the specific job. There are basic resume templates in many word processing programs or you can create your own. Being able to present everything clearly and neatly will be what makes you stand out.
You may not be able to list everything and you will need to determine what is important to include and what can be omitted. Many people have their resumes loaded down with unimportant or redundant information. Remember: short and sweet is best.
Using these simple tips you should be able to create a professional looking resume. It’s a good idea to make a few different ones and then decide which one looks the best or seek someone else’s opinion.
A good resume will get you noticed above the others and helps you stand a better chance of getting an interview.
Journal writing is a not only a great way to preserve personal events and memories, it’s also a great resource for stimulating your other writing endeavors. The truth is, though, that sometimes it feels as if nothing is going on. Life feeling mundane? Don’t think you have anything to write about? Give the following exercises a try and see if they don’t revive your journal writing.
Look through old Photos or Mementos – There’s always something you’ve left out of your personal narrative or forgotten along the way, no matter how thorough a chronicler you’ve been. The truth is, oftentimes people block out things that were the most meaningful or powerful— it’s the brain’s healthy little coping mechanism. Take the time to sit down and sift through these old memories and see what it brings up.
Activate your Right Brain – Take out a pencil and paper and try to write with your left hand. This will wake up the right hemisphere of your brain. If you’re left handed, doodle. Stimulating the ‘creative’ side of your brain is sure to bring up some ideas or, at a bare minimum, get the gears going.
Change Format – If you usually journal in book and pen, try writing on your computer. Or exchange your pen for a crayon, say. Maybe you’re used to working in a certain place – move to the other side of the room. Turn your chair. Stand on it. Shift the paradigm.
Write on your Assumption – Not many people realize this, but everyone goes through life making one critical assumption about everyone else. A clever person, say, might continually assume that others are as clever as he or she; this assumption eventually causes problems when other people don’t live up to this ‘standard’. What’s your assumption? Do you expect people to be nice? Moral? Think about it. Then write on it.
Any of these journal writing prompts will be a great tool for focusing and stimulating your journal writing. Give them a try right away. A great little one to get the ball rolling? Try writing an entry on your day using 1-word sentences. It can be as brief or as long as you like, as long as it stick to the 1-word format. Here’s my entry: Write. Drive. Swings. Write. Attempt. Bloat. Meh.
See? Easy. Get started and see what you can do.
Writing a short story can be a flash of inspiration or a challenging ordeal. Sometimes a burst of creativity can send me running towards the computer or fishing around for a pencil and pad. At other times writing can be more like pulling my own teeth.
First off, what is a short story? How short or long does it have to be? The simple answer is as short as you want, but not as long as a novella. There are no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking, a short story should waste no time.
Literary legend has it that the shortest story ever is by Ernest Hemingway and goes like this:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
This exercise in brevity makes a typical piece of “flash fiction” look like War and Peace. It is nonetheless a short story, because it has a theme, tells a story and is an example – albeit extreme – of Hemingway’s economical style, whether he actually wrote the six-word vignette or not. In as few words as possible, it gets the reader to imagine an involved and emotional tale.
Never mind about writer’s block – a short story is no big investment. Just put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and see what comes out. If you don’t like it you can always trash it, but you’ll be surprised at what you can come up with in just a few minutes and how fun it can be. The most important thing to do is get the ball rolling.
Here are some guidelines and tips to help you write a story:
When describing a scene, thing or a person, consider physical details and accuracy, but also the feelings inspired by what you are describing. What words give you those feelings? How much you concentrate on feeling or accuracy will depend on the kind of story you are writing. Do you want to be clinical or create a strong mood? Find the right balance: too much detail can be boring and too much emotion overly sentimental.
Use metaphors and similes. Shakespeare shows time and again how the use of metaphor can be vivid and evocative. Take this line from Hamlet:
But, look, the Morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastern hill.
Note how powerful a description a metaphor can be, while not necessarily being accurate. Keep in mind that your metaphors may mean one thing to you, but something entirely different to your readers.
Avoid using too many adverbs and adjectives. One of the most prolific authors of our day, Stephen King, from his no-nonsense memoir On Writing:
The road to hell is paved with adverbs.
While adverbs and adjectives have their place, use them sparingly and try to describe things via action.
In a short story, the fewer characters the better. You don’t have much time either, so too much description of your characters’ traits and deep character development is simply not possible. Keep things moving and say what you have to say, but not more.
It is easy to give advice like “get into the head of your character,” but perhaps it is more helpful to say “let your character get into your head.” In other words, use your own experiences, personality and feelings when developing your characters. “Write what you know,” may be a bit of a cliché, but I find it to be especially true when creating characters. As far as settings and plots go, however, let your imagination run wild.
Pay attention to details in peoples’ speech, clothing, mannerisms, etc. – anything that you personally notice or that interests you. Use them when developing the voice of your character. The character’s voice is always important in a story – no matter the genre or how outlandish the scenario, the characters should always be “real”.
Direct and indirect characterization
Direct characterization or “telling “is when the narrator flat out tells us about a character:
John was bad at math.
Indirect characterization or “showing” is when dialogue or action displays a character trait:
John said, “Two plus two equals five.”
The plot is the basic outline of events in a story and how they are organized. It is the “meat” of the story, or a “selective version of events”, as described by one literary theorist. Don’t tie yourself to plot conventions or tropes – a story doesn’t need to have a resolution or follow any of the standard blueprints in order to work, though you may find it more challenging to create something “good” without falling back on certain tools.
Dialogue in fiction should be selective and serve to differentiate one character from another. It should help plot development, demonstrate conflict, provide background, and create dramatic situations and intrigue.
My taste may not be typical – in fact I hope it isn’t – but I find it refreshing when a story’s dialogue is realistic. I appreciate when characters speak how real people do, as opposed to some of the clichéd or quick and clever ways we have come to expect from fiction. This enables me to become more absorbed in the story, by recognizing or relating to the characters.
Colin Bulman defines setting very nicely: place, time, historical events, political climate, social circumstances, religious belief and atmosphere. Each of these elements can have a stark effect on the characterization, tone and believability of your short story. How setting is important to a story differs depending on the type of story and what role the setting plays. Genres such as horror, war and science fiction can be defined by their settings. Settings within a story may also change, with a little or a lot of influence on the narrative.
Standard English is English that conforms to accepted rules of grammar and usage. Bulman states that it should normally be used – unless there is a strong reason not to – because readers prefer it. I would agree that the author usually wants to be understood, though dialect, slang and other techniques that might go outside Standard English can also say a lot. Shakespeare and Dickens even managed to change the English language by inventing new words and expressions.
In conclusion, here are a few more quick tips to help you with your story:
- Create a conflict
- Use characterization and dialogue to make your protagonist “live”
- Create an antagonist – it can be a person, society, an inner or outer force
- Use a “twist” ending
Now that you you know how to write a story, go and write!
Bulman, Colin, Creative Writing: A Guide and Glossary to Fiction Writing, 2006
King, Stephen, On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft, 2000