Steps to Writing Your Resume

Targeting Your Career and Audience – You must have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish in your professional life in order to maximize the impact of your resume for your targeted audience ­­ the hiring manager or graduate school admissions director.

Before you begin, ask yourself these questions. Are you:

  • Making a lateral move?
  • Seeking a promotion?
  • Career transitioning?
  • Pursuing admission into a graduate program?*

For numbers 1­3 above, the most effective way to begin targeting your resume is to search openings that appeal to you on job boards (i.e. Monster, Hot Jobs. CareerJournal), internal company postings, or newspaper classifieds.

With these in hand, you can highlight the qualifications you will need to be considered and the duties you would be expected to assume. Every match in terms of qualifications and experience will serve as key words** in your resume, as well as provide focus so that the resume can be tailored for your targeted audience. The more closely the content of your resume matches the content of these postings, the more likely you will be asked to interview.

Resumes provided for graduate school admission showcase your skills, professional experience, accomplishments, and academic history in much the same way as "job" resumes. The difference is that an admissions resume will focus on what transitions well to the classroom, not to the workplace.

Formatting for Maximum Impact – The moment your resume is opened by a hiring manager or admissions director, it must appeal to him or her on an aesthetic level, while accurately reflecting your industry or career goal. To do anything else is to relegate your resume ­­ no matter how brilliantly it is written ­­ to the rejection stack.

Qualification Summary & Skill Set – Picture yourself at the market after a long day at the office. You’re in a rush, of course, and want only to purchase those items on your list, if they’re on sale. Hurrying into the store, you glance around for the weekly advertising piece that indicates which items will be offered at a discount. Trouble is, there’s no advertising piece this week, and no one to answer your questions. If you want to purchase the items you most need at a discount, you’re forced to walk up and down each and every aisle until you find what’s available.

Doesn’t sound like much fun or an effective use of time, does it? And yet this is the same type of frustration hiring managers are exposed to every time an applicant sends in a resume that fails to open with a well­written Qualifications Summary and/or Skill Set.

What is a Qualifications Summary? It’s a brief paragraph that showcases your most effective skills and experience as they pertain to your job search. More importantly, it’s your chance to convince a hiring manager of the skills you can bring to the position. This is essential, given that hiring managers generally afford no more than 10 seconds to an applicant’s resume, unless they’re compelled to read further.

Qualifications Summary vs. the Objective- In the outmoded Objective, the candidate told the hiring manager what he wanted, whether that was a job at the company, room for advancement, a chance to use a new college degree, or any other reason an applicant could think of and the hiring manager could dismiss as self­serving. On the other hand, the Qualifications Summary proactively declares what the candidate can do for the targeted company, which places the hiring manager’s needs first. A wise applicant always uses a Qualifications Summary, either by itself or combined with a Skill Set.

What is a Skill Set?Generally speaking, it’s a list of your core competencies as they relate to your targeted career goal. Again, let’s take the example of the accountant who has just passed the CPA exam and now wants to be a controller. Rather than presenting all of that data in the qualifications summary, a portion of it would be showcased as a tag line (professional title or title of job you’re targeting) and skill set.


Accomplishments and Special Skills


There is no data on your resume more important than your accomplishments. Why? Think of it this way: you’re a hiring manager with one position to fill and 10 qualified candidates clamoring for the position. Each candidate has the same basic educational and professional background. So, who gets the job? The candidate who contributed the most at past positions. Accomplishments are all that separate you from other equally qualified candidates, with one caveat. Your accomplishments must be quantified.

What is an Accomplishment? 

Increasing the company’s bottom line (i.e. facilitating its growth)
Streamlining procedures
Promotions
Special projects successfully completed
Decreasing costs
Company- or industry-sponsored awards
Certifications and licensure

What is not an Accomplishment?

Daily responsibilities that are included in your job description
Regular attendance at work
Getting along with co-workers
Working full-time while going to college at night
Volunteer or community service unless it has a direct bearing on your job search  

In other words, an accomplishment is service that goes beyond your usual job description. But for an accomplishment to have the most effect, it must be quantified.

Special Skills should always be presented up­front so that a hiring manager knows what you can do. In some instances, a special section (i.e. Computer Skills, Languages, Office Procedures, etc.) should be created to showcase these special skills.

Special skills will include: 

Computer proficiencies
Office procedures (i.e. answering multi-lined phone systems, taking dictation (include speed), transcription, typing (include speed), 10-key, etc.)
Linguistic capabilities (i.e. fluency in a foreign language, ability to translate, etc.)
Any skill that’s industry-specific for the job you’re seeking  

Professional Experience In the Professional Experience section you will list your employers, job titles, and dates of employment in a reverse­ chronological order; that is, your most recent job comes first, followed by your next most recent job, and so on. This format is standard and is expected by all hiring managers and admissions directors With regard to employment dates: Generally speaking, hiring managers prefer years of employment, rather than months and years (i.e. 1999 ­ 2003 as opposed to May 1999 ­ April 2003). However, some college admissions programs want specifics when it comes to dates, so it’s best to use precise dates when applying to graduate school.

In the Professional Experience section you will also include daily tasks and responsibilities beneath the appropriate employer listing. If you’ve included a Career Accomplishments section in your resume, you should not repeat that data here. Once data is presented in a resume, it must not be repeated.

Verb tense:

  • For those jobs where you are still currently employed, write your job duties in the present tense.
  • For those jobs in the past, write the responsibilities you held in the past tense.
  • Additionally, Professional Experience can be captured and showcased in three formats:

In the functional format, you are stressing what you know over where you gained your experience. This works for those who have strong skills, but a weak employment record.

In the chronological format, you are providing a work history dating back from the present. This is the most common format and is generally preferred by hiring manager
s.

In the combination format, you are stressing what you know in one section, while also providing work history dating back from the present in another. This is a highly popular modern format.

Education and Training Data provided in this section should be prioritized (and included) according to: 

Your current career level
The purpose of your resume
The country in which your resume will be distributed
Training

Your current career level – If you’re a professional with five or more years of experience, Education should be listed last on your resume. GPAs, awards or scholarships, and mention of dean’s lists are not generally provided in a professional or executive resume, except for those used for entrance into graduate school programs.

The purpose of your resume- Resumes sent to admissions directors for graduate school can list Education before Professional Experience or after, depending upon these factors:

  • If the applicant has just recently completed his bachelor’s degree, it should be listed before Professional Experience.
  • If the applicant has real-world experience related to the graduate degree she is seeking, the Professional Experience should be listed first.

The country in which your resume will be distributed– If you are distributing your resume within the US, high school education is not included. The only exception to this rule would be if you’re applying for a job with the federal government. In that case, you would include high school data.
When distributing a resume outside the US, then high school education is included.

Training– Include all specialized training that is transferable to your new job target. If you have not attended college, include all specialized training in your target field. Hiring managers generally prefer to see some post­secondary education. 

 
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