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Cheat Sheet

Resumes For Dummies

From Resumes For Dummies, 6th Edition by Joyce Lain Kennedy

Your resume is you in paper (or electronic) form. It's the first glimpse employers get of the value you can bring to their company. Your resume should tell a compelling story of who you are and what you can do, especially in a tough economic environment or when you're moving from one career to another. Show your skills by creating a focused resume that shows point for point how you fit into the company's big picture.

Nine Ways to Bulletproof Your Resumes

Write a strong resume that gets you noticed. The following tips help you work up a resume that sells your skills instead of ending up in the reject bin.

  • Make keywords count. Keywords help employers find out whether you're player for the job they're filling. Industry-specific jargon counts for keywords. For example, "Series 7 licensing for brokers" and "triage" for nurses. Noun phrases indicate qualifications for requirements, such as "word processing," "supply chain management," and "product launches." And every match of your qualifications and experience with a job's requirements becomes a keyword.

  • Get your bearings. Use the Web to research an employer before you apply for a job. Start with visiting the company's Web site. Move on to sites like Hoover's and BusinessWire.com. Until you know whom and what you are dealing with, you aren't prepared to make a compelling case for yourself.

  • Use an uncluttered, readable design. If your resume looks like an online swap meet, it will cast doubts on your judgment. Pay attention to layout and typeface choice, as well as the openness effect of white space. Good type choices include Times New Roman, Aerial or Helvetica, but there are others as well. If you can use an 11-point font, do so — it's easier on the eyes. For mobile resumes presented on small screens, consider 11-point to 14-point type.

  • Answer the "So What?"question. This question is hidden and lying in ambush in every employer's mind. Forget about sticking to the old name-your-previous-responsibilities routine. Every single time you mention a duty or accomplishment, pretend someone fires back: So what? Who cares? What does it all mean? Imagining these questions isn't really pretending — these are employer responses.

  • Discuss an upward track record. Without mentioning dollar amounts, style yourself as a winner by mentioning that you received raises, promotions, and bonuses.

  • Showcase anything that you did in the top 5 percent of company performance ratings. Employers are impressed with the cream of the crop.

  • Don't apologize on your resume for any weakness that you may observe in your professional self. Until you can do something about it, like get additional education or experience, don't even think about shortcomings, and they certainly don't belong on your resume.

  • Discuss teamwork in job descriptions, giving specific examples and results. Employers love the word teamwork. They like team building, too. Talk about participating in tough tasks that help focus teams. Speak of trust as being essential to teamwork. Say that you were part of a team that succeeded in reaching a unified goal. The difficulty comes in making clear for which portion of the team's production you can take a bow. You must separate your contribution from the group's. If you don't, you chance being looked upon as one who falsely claims credit for work you didn't do.

    If you do find room for hobbies, be sure they're related to your job objective. Team-player sports such as volleyball, softball, and touch football are ideal for hobbies related to work in a group. (Building ships in bottles would better suit work as a lighthouse keeper.)

  • Give examples of leadership. Even as organizational structures flatten, every team needs a leader — unless you're headed for a support job where leadership is a liability. In the same vein, vision and drive are desirable characteristics. What did you originate, initiate, spearhead, or propose? What have coworkers praised about you? What suggestions have employers accepted from you?

Resume Basics: How to Protect Your Personal Information

Protecting personal information is always a good idea, but especially so with digital resumes. When it comes to resumes and the Internet, identity theft is a huge concern. Resumes zing around the world via the Internet and mobile devices giving thieves and scammers more opportunity than ever to boost your personal information.

The No. 1 way to keep yourself safe? Don't put your Social Security number on your resumes. Thieves can use your SSN as a free ticket to your bank and credit-card accounts. Resumes in job banks pose unnecessary threats to identity theft when the resumes include Social Security Numbers.

Make sure also that you are privacy-sensitive if you decide to post your profile online. Leave out any information not related to your job search.

Finally, resume-blasting your information across the Web is risky (and an ineffective way to find a job, to boot). If you decide to go wide and deep, use an anonymous and free e-mail address through a provider such as Yahoo!, AOL, or Gmail. Leave off your street address, and use a mobile phone number for pretty good security.

Changing Careers? Resume Tips to Ease the Transition

Career changers and transitioning military personnel sometimes struggle to write resumes that pack an interview-invitation punch. One such resume challenge is to turn your experience into skills that are relevant to new fields. Using understandable terminology helps you overcome that stumbling block.

Always use the language of and address the concerns of the industry where you want to go, not the industry you are leaving behind.

Make sure that you also

  • Learn the jargon of your intended industry. Use that jargon carefully in your resume. Whatever you write has to be understood by all, including administrative employees who may be the first to screen your document.

  • Analyze your interchangeable skills (also called transferable skills) to make your old experience apply to the job you want. A food server, for example, has sales experience (selling restaurant customers on extra menu items). An Army officer has management experience (overseeing soldiers). A teacher has training experience (changing student knowledge levels).

  • Consider using a functional (skills) — or hybrid — resume format. Although employers much prefer the reverse chronological format because it's more straightforward, you may need the functional approach to become a contender.

What Not to Include on Your Resume

A well-crafted resume contains only the information that proves you're a qualified candidate. Eliminate resume clutter by removing useless information that potential employers often view as filler and a waste of their time. Here's a short list of the worst offenders:

  • "References available on request." Listing the actual references on your resume is even worse.

  • Your Social Security number or driver's license number.

  • The date your resume was prepared.

  • Your company's telephone number.

  • Your high school or grammar school if you're a college graduate.

  • Dates you spent involved in college extracurricular activities.

  • Dates you were involved with professional or civic organizations unless using them to fill in gaps or add heft to your claims.

  • Names of (human) past employers; put these on your reference sheet with contact information.

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