before you can begin to design your resume on paper, you need to have the words. Use the following twelve-step writing process to help you clarify your experience, accomplishments, skills, education, and other background information, which will make the job of condensing your life onto a sheet of paper a little easier.
Decide what type of job you will be applying for and then write it at the top of a piece of paper. This can become your objective statement, should you decide to use one, or be used in the first line of the profile section of your resume to give your reader a general idea of your area of expertise.
Objectives are not required on a resume, and often the cover letter is the best place to personalize your objective for each job opening. There is nothing wrong with using an objective statement on a resume, however, provided it doesn't limit your job choices. As an alternative, you can alter individual resumes with personalized objectives that reflect the actual job title for which you are applying. Just make sure that the rest of your information is still relevant to the new objective, though.
Never write an objective statement that is not precise. You should name the position you want so specifically that, if a janitor came by and knocked over all the stacks of sorted resumes on a hiring manager's desk, he could put yours back in its right stack without even thinking about it. That means saying, "A marketing management position with an aggressive international consumer goods manufacturer" instead of "A position which utilizes my education and experience to mutual benefit."
Under the objective on the first piece of paper, list any education or training that might relate. If you are a recent college graduate and have little relevant experience, then your education section will be placed at the top of your resume. As you gain more experience, your education almost always gravitates to the bottom.
If you participated in college activities or received any honors or completed any notable projects that relate directly to your target job, this is the place to list them.
Showing high school education and activities on a resume is only appropriate when you are under 20 and have no education or training beyond high school. Once you have completed either college courses or specialized technical training, drop your high school information altogether.
Continuing education shows that you care about life-long learning and self-development, so think about any relevant training since your formal education was completed. Relevant is the key word here. Always look at your resume from the perspective of a potential employer. Don't waste space by listing training that is not directly or indirectly related to your target job.
Get your hands on a written description of the job you wish to obtain and for any jobs you have held in the past. If you are presently employed, your human resource department is the first place to look. If not, then go to your local library and ask for a copy of The Dictionary of Occupational Titles or the Occupational Outlook Handbook available online at http://stats.bls.gov/oco/oco1002.htm. These industry standard reference guides offer volumes of occupational titles and job descriptions for everything from Abalone Divers to Zoo Veterinarians (and thousands in between).
Another resource available at your local library or college career center is Job Scribe, a computer software program with more than 3,000 job descriptions. Other places to look for job descriptions include your local government job service agencies, professional and technical organizations, headhunters (i.e., recruiters), associates who work in the same field, newspaper advertisements for similar jobs, or online job postings (which tend to have longer job descriptions than print ads).
The ResumeEdge Resume Center will provide you with hundreds of job descriptions taken from all of the resume samples. Simply do a keyword search for relevant job titles on the sample resume pages.
Now, make a copy of the applicable descriptions and then highlight the sentences that describe anything you have done in your past or present jobs. These job descriptions are important sources of keywords, so pay particular attention to nouns and phrases that you can incorporate into your own resume.
In today's world of e-mailed and scannable resumes, make sure you know the buzzwords of your industry and incorporate them into the sentences you are about to write. Keywords are the nouns or short phrases that describe your experience and education that might be used to find your resume in a keyword search of a resume database. They are the essential knowledge, abilities, and skills required to do your job. They are concrete descriptions like: C++, UNIX, fiber optic cable, network, project management, etc. Even well-known company names (AT&T, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, MCI) and universities (Harvard, Yale, SMU, SUNY, USC, Stanford, Tulane, Thunderbird) are sometimes used as keywords, especially when it is necessary to narrow down an initial search that calls up hundreds of resumes from a resume database.
Acronyms and abbreviations here can either hurt you or help you, depending on how you use them. One example given to me by an engineer at Resumix was the abbreviation "IN." Think about it. "IN" could stand for intelligent networks, Indiana, or the word in. It is better to spell out the abbreviation if there could be any possible confusion. However, if a series of initials is so well known that it would be recognized by nearly everyone in your industry and would not likely be confused with a real word, then the keyword search will probably use those initials (i.e., IBM, CPA, UNIX). When in doubt, always spell it out at least one time on your resume. A computer only needs to see the combination one time for it to be considered a "hit" in a keyword search.
Soft skills are often not included in search criteria, especially for very technical positions, although some companies use them extensively for the initial selection of resumes for management positions. For instance, "communicate effectively," "self-motivated," "team player," and so on, are great for describing your abilities and are fine to include in your profile, but concentrate more on your hard skills, especially if you are in a high-tech field.
At the end of the chapter, you will find more examples of keywords for specific industries, although there is no such thing as a comprehensive listing of keywords for any single job. The computerized applicant tracking programs used by most companies allow the recruiter or hiring manager to personalize his or her list for each job opening, so it is an evolving process. You will never know whether you have listed absolutely every keyword possible, so focus instead on getting on paper as many related skills as possible.
The job descriptions you found in step three are some of the most important sources for keywords. You can also be certain that nearly every noun and some adjectives in a job posting or advertisement will be keywords, so make sure you use those words somewhere in your resume, using synonyms wherever you can. Make a list of the keywords you have determined are important for your particular job search and then list synonyms for those words. As you incorporate these words into the sentences of your resume, check them off.
One caution. Always tell the truth. The minute a hiring manager speaks with you on the telephone or begins an interview, any exaggeration of the truth will become immediately apparent. It is a bad idea to say, "I don't have experience with MS Word computer software" just to get the words MS Word or computer software on paper so your resume will pop up in a keyword search. In a cover letter, it might be appropriate to say that you "don't have five years of experience in marketing but can add two years of university training in the subject to three years of in-depth experience as a marketing assistant with Hewlett-Packard." That is legitimate reasoning, but anything more manipulative can be hazardous to your job search.