Lately I’ve had a lot of calls to help folks with resumes. Some have not had a resume in years; others have needed their resumes radically updated. You can certainly use my services, or you may be able to do this on your own. Here are some suggestions to create your own resume:
- Get It All on One Page. If you need more than one page, then you are probably going back too far in your work history. Even though you can’t legally be discriminated against because of your age, a savvy resume reviewer with any kind of math skills is going to see how long you have been in the workplace. There’s no need to provide them with this information inadvertently.
- Use the Largest Font You Can. Sounds contradictory, right? You’re trying to get a lot of information on one page, so you should cram it all in, right? No. The person reviewing your resume may have “old” eyes, and may be reading your resume in the middle of several others. You want to stand out in your use of that single page, and you don’t want that reviewer to have to squint to read your 8-point font. You should use nothing less than a 10-point font, and a 12-point or 14-point font is even better.
- Don’t Use Arial or Times New Roman Fonts. Your reviewer is going to see these over and over again. Something that is a little different will be a refreshing change for him/her. But, of course, it should be a font that’s easy to read.
- Consider Your Resume’s Structure. It’s your resume, so you can design it any way you like. You may be used to seeing certain formats, such as providing the name of every company, the dates/years you worked for them, and what tasks you performed during that time. If you’ve only had a couple of jobs, this may work well for you. However, I have had tons of jobs (and now run my own business), so it’s not an effective method for me and my work experience. What if you list the names of your employers, and then summarize the job titles or duties you have had? A potential employer may be more interested in the skills you possess or have learned in your prior jobs than a more traditional outlay.
- Consider Your Resume’s Emphasis. You have strengths and weaknesses, like every other job-seeker. If you are 25 years old, and a Harvard graduate, by all means emphasize this in your resume. But if you have been out of college for 40 years (or never went to college), then this is not the part of your experience that you want to emphasize. If you have very little work experience, emphasize your education. If you have a lot of work experience, de-emphasize your education. Think of all of the parts of your resume the same way.
- Polish, Polish, Polish! Draft your resume – just get information down on paper. Begin the process of crafting your resume until you like the way it looks and what it says about you – it may take several times to do so. Then review what you have written. Have a friend who knows you well review it. Try to view it impartially – the way someone who DOESN’T know you might review it. What does it say about you? Would it give a potential employer the idea that they have the opportunity to hire someone with interesting skills and experiences? Make sure it looks professional – a typo is an absolute no-no! (If you’re not careful with your resume, how careful will you be with important details when you’re on the job without the infinite time you have to craft your resume?)
- Prepare Special Resumes. So now you’ve drafted and finalized your resume. This is an important tool to have in your toolbox. You can use it for “blind” jobs – positions for companies that don’t advertise the skills the employer seeks. It should also serve as a starting place for the special resume you will prepare when you are aiming for a particular job that requires specific skills you have. Again, you will need to tailor your resume to the specific skills that employer seeks. For example, my resume for a casino job (a profession in which I dealt blackjack and other casino games for 8-1/2 years) will look different from my resume for a legal secretarial job (which I did for 15 years). Nothing in either resume will be untrue – it will just be a matter of emphasizing certain desirable skills over others.
- Keep Digital Copies of Your Resume Handy. If you use Microsoft Word (which the vast majority of businesses will be able to read), keep a copy of your resume on your computer/laptop so you can adapt it. But it is probably wiser, if you have the opportunity, to also save your resume as a pdf file in Adobe Acrobat (again, the vast majority of businesses will be able to read it). If you are completing an online resume, then you may be able to “cut and paste” your resume from Word. (If you use Apple instead of Word, then you will want to save and send in similarly appropriate formats.)
- Include/Attach/Enclose a Cover Letter. If appropriate, you may attach a cover letter to “introduce” your resume. This should be no more than a few sentences – let your resume speak for itself.
- BONUS: Once You Obtain the Interview, Be Ready to Listen and Respond. Your potential employer knows what’s on your resume about you, and probably nothing else. Let the interviewer “drive” the interview (perhaps this is different if you are trying to obtain a sales position). The interviewer may ask you to expound upon what you have revealed in your resume, but I would expect an even mildly inquisitive interviewer to ask questions that are not covered on your resume. Be honest, and be forthcoming, but be careful – there are questions your potential employer cannot ask you under law, and you should be aware of what cannot be asked (and therefore should not be answered). Listen to the entire question, and try not to interrupt before providing an honest (and hopefully thoughtful) answer. After a few minutes, you may have a good idea whether the interview is going well, and you can relax somewhat (whether you think you’ve got this in the bag, or that you have no chance whatsoever). Or your interviewer may be someone who holds his/her cards close to the vest, and you won’t have any idea, even when the interview is completed. You may also have to go through this process several times, depending on the company and the level of the job you are attempting to obtain. If you pretend to be someone you’re not, that’s who your potential employer will think s/he is employing, and that may be impossible for you to sustain in the long run. It’s best to be yourself, and find the job that is a good fit for who you really are, than it is for you to try to fit yourself to a job that does not match your personality, or that you will probably not like or be able to hold for at least a year. That said, desperate times may require desperate measures.
- BONUS TWO: Write a Thank-You Letter/Note. If, after the interview, you decide you want the job, it is a nice gesture to send a personal handwritten thank you letter to your interviewer. (In the digital age, you can also do so with an e-mail to get the response to your interviewer more quickly.) Like your cover letter, this should be only a few sentences that indicates something you enjoyed during the interview (or some topic over which you may have connected), and thanking him/her for his/her time. It’s one more chance to put your name in front of your interviewer, and may help you “seal the deal.”
If I can help you with this process of preparing your resume, I would be happy to do so. I can work with you to prepare the resume(s) professionally, and have it/them available for you in Word and pdf formats. Please contact me through my website at www.atyourservicelimited.com. I’d love to help you get that job you want!