Today, we will explore the process of résumé writing, the most effective résumé formats, how to add some punch to your résumé, and distributing your résumé for maximum impact.
When considering how to write the most effective résumé, we must consider the realistic functions of a résumé. First and foremost, your résumé is your most powerful marketing tool. It must contain all the information an employer will need to make the decision to schedule a job interview. It must be structured to clearly and forcefully present that information so it may be understood by an employer at first glance.
Your résumé will be your first contact with an employer. First impressions are lasting impressions. You have between 20 and 30 seconds to make that first impression. That is the amount of time people take to glance at a résumé before deciding to toss it aside or read further. Very often the person who will actually make the decision about awarding the position to a candidate will NOT be the first person to read the résumé.
Gatekeepers regularly screen résumés before the boss ever sees them, to save the boss some time. Your résumé must impress the gatekeeper enough at a single scan for him or her to pass it on to the person who will actually hire you. There are some fundamental rules for writing a résumé:
Keep it brief. As I stated, your résumé is your primary piece of marketing collateral, like a brochure or a flyer. You must present your career honestly, clearly and completely in one, or if necessary, no more than two, pages.
Use sound marketing design principles when creating your résumé. According to many authorities, presentation of the content in your résumé is as important as that content itself. Use formatting options to highlight key features and benefits of your product (your experience and your skills) to generate interest on the part of the employer. Make use of such conventions as:
- Presenting data in bullet lists as opposed to paragraph format
- Organize your content logically, so your target audience (the prospective employer) can immediately see why you deserve as much of his or her time as a job interview will require.
On the point of organizing the content of your résumé, there are a few different formats that are widely used: chronological, functional, achievement, hybrid chronological, and hybrid functional résumés
Exactly as its name would suggest, the chronological format offers your professional experience in reverse chronological order, starting with your current or most recent position, and progressing back over the last ten years, or to your first career position, whichever comes first. This is the most basic résumé format, and is ideal for people who have had a steady run of employment within the same industry.
Functional résumés are unique in the fact that they prominently feature job titles in order of importance or impact. According to Literacy Education Online (Saint Cloud University, St. Cloud Minnesota), here are some sound reasons to choose a functional format:
You’re interested in emphasizing positions and accomplishments rather than job time spans, skills, and employers
Your background fits one of the following three categories:
- You’ve had impressive job titles and duties.
- You can’t list work experience in chronological order without gaps.
- You’ve held a variety of jobs or assignments not directly related to your intended career but have performed functions directly related to your career objective.
…And a good reason NOT to choose the functional format: you’ve had little paid or volunteer experience since this approach depends on actual job titles for its effectiveness.
Again, according to authorities, a functional résumé is also effective for someone beginning a career in a different industry than that in which he or she has spent the last few years
The achievement format is very similar to the functional format, but emphasizes achievements, accomplishments and contributions rather than job titles and descriptions of duties. Using headings that reflect the various areas in which you worked, as opposed to job titles (i.e. Marketing, Production, Sales, etc.), highlight your accomplishments in the same bullet list format that you would the descriptions of your duties in either the chronological or functional formats.
There are some experts who feel that the functional and achievement formats are difficult for employers to follow, and do not recommend using anything but the chronological format. There are others who stand by the effectiveness of both functional and achievement formats, and view the chronological format as both outdated and inappropriate for people who have experience in more than one career industry.
The hybrid chronological format combines both the chronological and achievement formats. In the professional experience section, as opposed to listing job duties and skills, present your achievements, accomplishments and outstanding contributions in a bullet list format.
The hybrid functional format combines the best of achievement and functional formats. As opposed to listing skills and duties under specific job titles, you present your achievements, accomplishments and outstanding contributions in the same bullet list format.
At this point, I’d like to address the Many Uses of Your Résumé. I know I’ve said this before, but your résumé is your chance to make a lasting first impression on a prospective boss. It serves as your introduction. It will set the employer’s expectations.
Your résumé is a marketing document. In the right hands, it will excite interest in your skills and experience. In the right place, it can open doors for you, career-wise, prompting contact from Employers, Human Retarget professionals, Headhunters, and Staffing professionals.
But the bottom line, as far as any use of your résumé is concerned, is that your résumé has only one bona fide purpose. And that purpose is not to get you a job. That purpose is to get you an interview. Beyond opening that door and getting you in to see the boss, actually getting the job is up to you, personally.
Now that we’ve explored some of the basic considerations of creating a résumé, let me say that the most effective résumés all have one thing in common… they Start Out with a Bang.
We’ll now take a good look at how to build the heading, job objectives, summary of qualifications, and work history sections of a résumé.
It really goes without saying that it’s vital to build a résumé heading that gives all the necessary contact information:
- Legal name
- Including Street number and name
- Apartment designation, if that’s appropriate
- City, state and zip code – include zip + 4 if you are able, as it facilitates faster mail delivery, and also indicates to your reader that you are thorough and detail oriented
- Home phone
- Cell phone, if applicable
- Fax number, if you have one
- Office number, if you can reasonably expect a certain degree of privacy
Avoid personal email addresses that carry inside jokes or strange and unusual nicknames. It’s easy to understand that someone would hesitate to email you about a substantial management position if your email address contains nicknames like “daddy’s little girl” or “Alabama horny toad” at domination lounge dot com. Take advantage of any of the many targets of free email addresses and establish one email account that you use for personal business communications. Keep the address simple, as in jsmith at geo dot com.
What position you are looking for
- To whom this document should be directed, in the event it will be read first by a gatekeeper
- What level of responsibility you are seeking
- The perspective from which to interpret all the information on the resume
- What we believe is most effective is a virtual compromise between the two opinions: including a descriptive job title underneath your name in the heading, which will convey the same information.