Organization Boosts Success Print E-mail
I am a pretty organized person. Some of my friends and family might even say that I'm anal about organization. I have to be to manage everything and I've created some pretty cool processes and systems that help me keep all the plates spinning. Organization in a resume is also a key issue and one that gets ignored a great deal by job seekers who attempt to write their own resumes. However, a well-organized resume is one that is one step closer to gaining an interview.

Think of a resume as a notebook/binder that has a report of your career in it. The first thing you see is the cover. In a resume, the cover is the header where your name and contact information appear. It is for reference mainly and to title your resume.

Inside the front cover, is the introduction page. This is the page that gets read the most by readers, usually completely if it's short enough and to-the-point. This section in the resume is the Summary section. It is the most important part of the resume because it sets the stage for the rest of the resume. If you can catch the interest in the Summary, the reader is more likely to pay closer attention to the rest of the content.

Next in the binder is a set of dividers with labels on them. Each label represents a section of the resume - Career History, Professional Affiliations, Technical Skills, Education, Training, etc. The labels are the headers in the resume. The reader will glance quickly at these to see what is there and generally go immediately to the Career History section. Next to the Summary, the Career History section is the most important and the most-read. Generally, the Education section comes last in order because it is the least important section - that is unless you are a new grad and have no real-world experience to offer instead. In that case, the Education is the big selling point and that comes ahead of work experience.

Within each section, there is a page of information in the binder. In the resume, of course, it is much shorter but use your imagination and see this in your mind. In the Career History, there might be more than one page where each page represents a job that you have held. On the top of each of these pages is the job title followed by the employer followed by the date. The information comes in this general order because that is the order of interest on the part of the hiring manager. They want to see the positions you've held, where you have worked, and what time periods you held each position.

Farther down the page, you should have a strong description of the scope of your position making sure not to be too wordy and not include minor tasks such as attended meetings. In bulleted statements on the page, highlighted with yellow marker, are the results you achieved during that position. The results are highlighted because that is what you really want to draw the reader's attention toward - how you made a difference. Other candidates may have similar job descriptions and have held similar job titles, but your achievements will be what make you stand out.

In subsequent sections such as Affiliations or Technical Skills, you can simply list the information if it is the type of information suited for a list. Be careful not to get too long or too old with the information. Keep everything relevant.

Throughout your binder you should be consistent in how you design your elements. Headers should be consistent. Bullet lists should be consistent. Don't double-bullet information (put a bullet statement within a bullet statement). Bullet lists should also not be too long. Keep the information organized so it flows logically and can be easily read or scanned quickly by a human reader. Organization can make all the difference between an effective resume and one that is difficult to decipher.
Why NOT to Use the Functional Format Resume Print E-mail
The functional format resume has few benefits and many detriments. Someone who chooses the functional format resume generally does so when a career change is in the works or there is something in his background that could be a problem. Often, the functional format resume is used when a prison term or some other large span of time is lost out of work history. Job seekers who want to change fields will sometimes opt for the functional format in an attempt to highlight the skills they have that make them qualified for the new field.

A functional format resume has the content arranged according to performance type (thus, function). The resume is divided into categories of skill and function. Under each skill category, the relevant information would be listed or described. A brief work history listing would come at the end of the document that lists job title, employer, and dates. Some purely functional resumes don't have the work history section at all and no dates appear on the resume.

There are many reasons NOT to use the functional format resume. Recruiters really hate the functional format because it makes them hunt for the information they seek and recruiters simply do not have time to hunt for information or make assumptions. Employers don't hire potential - they hire past performance. Future performance of a new hire is predicated on past performance. Recruiters and hiring managers want to see past performance in a resume so they can make a judgment on the future performance potential of a candidate. A functional format resume doesn't allow them to make that assessment.

The functional format takes away all frames of reference for hiring managers to measure what skills and abilities are listed. A candidate might claim high sales abilities and track record in the functional resume, but the recruiter is unable to place that in context in terms of time, employer, situation, or history.

Functional resumes tend to be quite short, too. The brevity of the resume doesn't help it in online databases because keywords are fewer. By eliminating job descriptions and other information that naturally comes into a chronological format resume, keyword richness is decreased resulting in poor performance in online databases.

Finally, recruiters and hiring managers realize the functional format is used to attempt to cover up detrimental factors in a candidate's past. They aren't stupid! Instead of helping to disguise problems in a career history, the functional format actually highlights them! Even if no problems exist in the background of a candidate who uses a functional format, the reader will assume there is something there.

Despite all the problems with functional format resumes, job seekers still feel compelled to use them, even when a chronological format would serve better. It's bothersome to hear a job seeker report he has sent out over a hundred resumes with no response and discover he's been using a functional format all along. What a waste of time and first impressions!
Communicating the Soft Skills Print E-mail
I had a client this week who was concerned that the new resume we were going to develop for him to communicate to the reader his unique personality. He said, The key to my sales abilities is my personality. I interview very well. I've never been on an interview where I didn't win the offer. My problem has been trying to capture that personality in the resume. I just haven't been able to get it across, at least not to where it makes the phone ring.

I found this an interesting comment because it showed several misconceptions that most job seekers have about the resume and how it works for them. The first misconception they have is that they can effectively communicate something that is intangible in their resumes - personality. Sure, it's possible to get style woven into a resume and it's important for the resume to be written in a tone that is similar to the client's, but really being able to communicate a personality in a resume is very difficult.

The second misconception is that employers want to know all the nuances of personality before they can make a decision to call a candidate. Employers are primarily concerned about the results a candidate can achieve. They look for information concerning past performance in the resume as it relates to achievements, job scope, education, etc. Past performance gives them clues to future performance (kind of like mutual funds). If the employer is impressed with the performance that shows in the resume, they will set up an interview. It is in the interview that the personality is gauged. Only in the interview can personality traits be shown to the employer - not in the resume.

The third misconception is that soft skills like ethical behavior, communication, honesty, etc. can be described by stringing adjectives together. For example, the phrase Strategic thinker with well-developed, intuitive communication skills, strong organizational abilities, and keen negotiation skills is a typical sentence we see in summary sections that are written by job seekers. In this sentence, there are eight adjectives. There are only fourteen words total. All those adjectives strung together in noun phrases do not have any power. It's overkill.

Soft skills like detail-oriented and strategic thinking should be anchored to results. For example, an accountant who had worked in auditing could say Identified $200K in fraudulent expenses through detailed investigation of budgetary line items. This SHOWS detail-oriented skills rather than just claiming them.

Many people throw high-sounding adjective-heavy noun phrases in a resume but don't think about if they truly apply. They sound good so they must be effective. Unfortunately, most of these phrases are so overused that they are becoming trite and have lost their impact. It also sets my teeth on edge when I read detail-oriented in the summary and then identify 23 mechanical errors in the document ranging from misspellings to verb tense shift. That is why demonstrating evidence of the soft skills through the results achieved is always better than just claiming the skill by itself. If you demonstrate it, it has more power.
Seeking a Management Position Print E-mail
As part of the resume development process, we pay particular attention to the clients' goals and job search target because we write very strategic resumes designed to hit their mark. If we don't know what the mark is, it's difficult to construct a resume that works for the client. Most of the time, the client has a good idea what type of position he or she is seeking. It seems that the more senior the client, the clearer the target or, at least, the better the client is able to communicate his goal to us.

Occasionally, we will have a client like Jim (not his real name) that has particular trouble enunciating his job search goal. Here is the conversation we recently had with Jim.

GI: So Jim, tell me what you type of job you are targeting.

Jim: I was thinking a management position.

GI: Okay, can you be more specific?

Jim: I want to manage an operation.

GI: What kind of operation?

Jim: Something that is customer-centric and progressive.

GI: Your experience has been in corporate training. Are you targeting something along those lines?

Jim: I've worked with a lot of organizations in developing their internal training programs. Several of them are interesting. I'd like to target some of them.

GI: And those would beŽ.?

Jim: Oh, some Fortune 1000 organizations. I'm particularly interested in companies in the Southwest.

GI: Okay, maybe I'm not making myself understood. Jim, what industry are you targeting? ALL industries have management positions. Can you be specific?

Jim: I'd like something in sales.

GI: Let me clarify what you've told me. You want a management position in some kind of sales with a progressive, customer-centric Fortune 1000 organization located in the Southwest.

Jim: That's right.

GI: Jim, have you had any sales experience? I don't see anything in your information or on your old resume that shows you've been in marketing and sales.

Jim: No, but I have worked with many sales forces in my career. I know how to manage people. I have an MBA. That should be a good start.

You get the gist of the conversation. It didn't improve much from there. Management isn't an industry! It is a function! Sales is a function! Sales is not an industry! When you are considering your job search, don't just think in terms of job titles and job function. Think industry! Think knowledge base! Think skills!
The Bullets are Flying Print E-mail
Today, I saw a first in my twelve-plus years of resume writing - a resume that had numbered bullets. The summary section had eight bulleted items in two columns, and each bullet had its own number. I don't think I've ever seen a more bullet-riddled resume, either. The job seeker had quite gotten carried away with the bullet feature and shot his resume to death.

Bullets are great little design elements that allow certain bits of information to be separated from the rest of the document. The purpose of bullets is to draw attention to the information next to which they are positioned. Too many bullets, though, and you lose the effect that bullets were meant to achieve. Often, I will see all the information in a resume bulleted out resulting in long lists of sentences. In those situations, the bullets are useless for drawing attention and simply mark the beginning of the next sentence.

There are some rules for using bullets that job seekers need to attend to when working with the content of their resumes.

Select the information that is to be bulleted. Never bullet job description because description is better read in text form (like a paragraph). Instead, use bullets to draw attention to the important information like achievements and results-statements.

No more than five-in-a-row. If you have more information than five bullets will cover, reconsider either the information or the need for bullets. Long lists of bulleted items are not effective in grabbing the reader's attention.

Don't mix your bullets. Be consistent in the type of bullet you use all the way through the document. Don't mix round dots with squares, or checkmarks with diamonds. Keep them all the same.

Don't bullet your bullets (or number them either, for that matter). A resume is not an outline so you won't have big bullets with sub-bullets and sub-sub-bullets. Use one set of bullets. If you feel like you have more information that needs to be sub-bulleted, reconsider your information; you are probably getting too wordy.

Keep bullet statements short. Don't bullet a sentence that is more than two lines long. That's not a bullet item. Shorten it to the main idea and save the description for the interview. Paragraphs should never be bulleted and neither should job titles. Lists such as technical skills or classes may be bulleted but keep the list short.

Don't get goofy with your bullets. Keep the animated finger that points to the information out of the resume. You can stick with the standard bullets or you can create your own using the Insert Symbol tool. There are some neat little symbols that can be used very nicely for bullets and make your resume different.
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