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Important Things to Know When Creating (or Re-creating) Your Resume
The benefits of a current resume
While you may not be looking for a job right at the moment, in today's uncertain financial climate things can change quickly. You never know when a great job opportunity might just appear out of the blue. Whether you are looking for a job or not, it's still a good idea to have a resume prepared and keep it updated. This avoids the stress associated with either having to make updates at the last minute when you need a resume or having to present one to a potential employer that is lacking in detail on your most recent skills and experience. While there is no one-size-fits-all, the following are some important things to consider when creating or refreshing your resume.
We have the technology
What has technology got to do with preparing your resume? Quite a lot actually.
1. Electronic or paper copies?
A hard copy of your resume can still be useful. For example, if you are going to cold call companies in person to seek employment a paper copy of your resume offers potential employers instant access to information on your skills and experience.
In the main though, resumes are sent out electronically. You may wish to think carefully about the level of personal details you provide when preparing your resume from the point of view that you may be sending out multiple copies and will not have control over where your resume ends up. Whilst you need to provide some information on how you may be contacted you don't necessarily need to give exhaustive detail and you should not include information such as your date of birth - you don't know where this information may end up. You can always note that you are happy provide further information upon request.
You need to ensure that your resume contains those keywords that are relevant to your profession. For example, if you are a forklift driver you will want to list the kinds of licenses you possess. If you are an IT professional, name the software and programming languages with which you are familiar. The reason for including relevant keywords is that employers frequently use keyword searches to select those candidates that they wish to consider further. If you don't have those keywords in your resume then you may not be considered further.
3. Your Email Address
If your email adress is particularly personalised (think "Angelfairy", "Superstud" and the like) then set up another more generic one to use on your resume to give a more professional impression to potential employers.
4. Your Voicemail Message
Similar to (3) above, if your voicemail message tends towards the very individual and informal, consider changing it at least while you are looking for a job.
5. Spelling and Grammar
Now that checking your grammar and spelling is as easy as the click of a mouse, there is little excuse for having a resume containing poor grammar and spelling errors. A well written resume is a great demonstration of your communication skills. A poorly written and error-filled one can be interpreted as evidence of poor written communication skills, lack of attention to detail or even lack of interest.
6. Keep a Record
Many people prepare different resumes for different positions and this is a great idea as you can focus on the skills and experience you possess that are particularly relevant to each position. Bear in mind however that while you can submit hundreds of resumes electronically if you do not keep some sort of record of the positions you have applied for, you will be at a disadvantage when you receive a phone call from a potential employer if you can't remember what job it was or why you were interested. You may received acknowledgement of your application electronically, however it is very likely that if your resume has stirred some interest, you will receive a phone call seeking further information and possibly an invitation to an interview. Be prepared for this by keeping a note or a spreadsheet of your job applications.
The content of your resume
Your resume should be a sales brochure and like any sales brochure it should highlight the benefits of the product - you and your skills and experience.
It should not be a book. Few employers will read a 10 page resume. Around 3 pages is a good length unless you need to list such items as your publications.
Your resume needs to provide contact information such as phone numbers and email addresses. If you have a LinkedIn profile or a personal website that is relevant, then you may wish to list these as additional information. Your qualifications and any training you have undertaken should also be listed.
As far as your experience is concerned, you should start with your most recent position. In describing the work you have undertaken and the results you have achieved, strike a balance between including enough information to allow a potential employer to get a good idea of your capabilities and providing so much information that your reader loses interest. Look upon it from the point of view of the employer. They want to know if you have the skills and experience they require. They want to spend a minimum amount of time doing this (consider they may have hundreds of resumes to consider) so you need to catch their attention with the ways in which your experience and skills match their requirements. It's up to you to do this and it may well require refining your resume to address the requirements of the particular job you are applying for. Use the information in the advertisement and any other information you can get from websites, industry bodies or the companies themselves to help you highlight the ways in which you are well suited for a particular position. Re-emphasize these briefly in your cover letter.
Measure your success
If you've sent out a hundred resumes and got no response, then you need to look at what isn't working. It may be that you need to acquire some more recent and relevant qualifications and experience. It may be that you are applying for jobs for which you are not well suited. Or it may be that your resume needs some tweaking to make it more appealing.
Common problems with resumes:
1. The information provided is too brief - e.g. "2009 - XYZ Company - Sales Assistant" gives little information on the amount of time you were employed, the industry you worked in and the actual responsibilities you held.
2. The information provided is too extensive. Details of your skills and experience should be in line with the type of role you are looking at. For example, if you are a scientist then your descriptions of your experience would be of greater length than if you have held a holiday job babysitting.
3. Name and contact details are not noted on each page of the resume. Once printed, resume pages can become detached (once again, think of the hundreds that may be received by an employer). List your name and at least one contact option on each page.
4. The resume does not indicate any skills or experience that are relevant to the position applied for. If you are changing career, it may be necessary to acquire some new skills and experience, for instance perhaps by performing voluteer work. Otherwise you need to clearly show how your current skills and experience are transferable to the responsibilities of the position you are applying for. Potential employers will not usually make the leap of faith to presume that because, for instance, you were great at sales, you will be great at whatever other job you apply for.
5. There are too many unexplained gaps in your career. Many people have periods of unemployment, time off work for family reasons, to go on long overseas trips or other personal reasons. Employers do understand this but do not tend to favour those who have multiple long periods during which they have not apparently done anything at all. If you have a recent long period without work, look at doing some form of study, training or voluntary work to improve your marketability.
6. You have changed jobs so often that a potential employer will wonder (a) if you are hard to get along with or (b) that you cannot commit to a job for any length of time. Many people lose a number of jobs through no fault of their own in the current climate and it may be worth noting that your reason for leaving was "the company closed down". If you find you leave jobs very regularly of your own accord, then maybe having a closer look at the kinds of jobs you are applying for and ensuring that they will meet your requirements as well as you meeting theirs results in a longer and happier period of employment.
Get some feedback on your resume. Preferably from someone who works in your industry or a recruitment professional, however friends and family can also be very helpful in identifying gaps in information or areas that are not particularly clear.
Whether you are hunting for a job now, or will be doing so sometime in the future, you want to be confident that you have a resume which presents your skills in the best possible light and maximises your chances of getting the job you want.