We produce below a very powerful article explaining in detail the concept, design and the essentials of resume writing from rockportinstitute.com.
Part 1 – Resume Writing – Write a resume that generates results
Part 2 – How to knock the socks off a prospective employer
Part 3 – The evidence section: How to present your work history, education, etc.
Part 4 – A few guidelines for a better presentation
Part 5 – I’m not sure the job I’m looking for is the right one for me
Part 6 – Add power to your resume with powerwords
Part 1: RESUME WRITING – WRITE A RESUME THAT GENERATES RESULTS
This award-winning guide to resume writing will teach you to write a resume equal to one done by a top-notch professional writer. It offers examples, format choices, help writing the objective, the summary and other sections, as well as samples of excellent resume writing. It is the most trusted resume-writing guide on the planet, used by more than a million people each year.
Writing a great resume does not necessarily mean you should follow the rules you hear through the grapevine. It does not have to be one page or follow a specific resume format. Every resume is a one-of-a-kind marketing communication. It should be appropriate to your situation and do exactly what you want it to do. Instead of a bunch of rules and tips, we are going to cut to the chase in this brief guide and offer you the most basic principles of writing a highly effective resume.
Who are we to be telling you how to write your resume? As part of our career consulting practice, we have coached and advised Fortune 500 C.E.O.s, senior members of the last few presidential administrations, thousands of mid and early career professionals, artists, technical people and others in nearly every field of endeavor.
Our specialty at Rockport Institute Career Change is working with clients who want to choose or change to a new career, one they will love; work that makes full use of their talents, fits their personality, their values, and is also practical. Our staff has been commended for excellence by two U.S. presidents. Our first book, The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success was a top-10 national bestseller. That is our one and only specialty. If you think you may be in the wrong career, check out our website or read reviews of our books on amazon.com.
Are you an executive or professional looking for an extraordinary, professionally written resume? As authors of this, the world’s most widely used, regularly updated guide to resume writing since 1995, we can connect you with the very best expert resume writers. Send us an email. We’ll get right back to you.
This guide is especially for people looking for a job in the United States. In the U.S., the rules of job hunting are much more relaxed than they are in Europe and Asia. You can do a lot more active personal marketing in your resume here. You may have to tone down our advice a few notches and use a more traditional, conservative format accepted in your field if you live elsewhere or are in law, academia or a technical engineering, computer or scientific field. But even when your presentation must fit a narrow set of rules, you can still use the principles we will present to make your presentation more effective than your competition’s.
THE GOOD NEWS AND THE BAD
The good news is that, with a little extra effort, you can create a resume that makes you stand out as a superior candidate for a job you are seeking. Not one resume in a hundred follows the principles that stir the interest of prospective employers. So, even if you face fierce competition, with a well written resume you should be invited to interview more often than many people more qualified than you.
The bad news is that your present resume is probably much more inadequate than you now realize. You will have to learn how to think and write in a style that will be completely new to you.
To understand what I mean, let’s take a look at the purpose of your resume. Why do you have a resume in the first place? What is it supposed to do for you?
Here’s an imaginary scenario. You apply for a job that seems absolutely perfect for you. You send your resume with a cover letter to the prospective employer. Plenty of other people think the job sounds great too and apply for the job. A few days later, the employer is staring at a pile of several hundred resumes. Several hundred? you ask. Isn’t that an inflated number? Not really. A job offer often attracts between 100 and 1000 resumes these days, so you are facing a great deal of competition.
Back to the fantasy and the prospective employer staring at the huge stack of resumes: This person isn’t any more excited about going through this pile of dry, boring documents than you would be. But they have to do it, so they dig in. After a few minutes, they are getting sleepy. They are not really focusing any more. Then, they run across your resume. As soon as they start reading it, they perk up. The more they read, the more interested, awake and turned on they become.
Most resumes in the pile have only gotten a quick glance. But yours gets read, from beginning to end. Then, it gets put on top of the tiny pile of resumes that make the first cut. These are the people who will be asked in to interview. In this mini resume writing guide, what we hope to do is to give you the basic tools to take this out of the realm of fantasy and into your everyday life.
THE NUMBER ONE PURPOSE OF A RESUME
The resume is a tool with one specific purpose: to win an interview. If it does what the fantasy resume did, it works. If it doesn’t, it isn’t an effective resume. A resume is an advertisement, nothing more, nothing less.
A great resume doesn’t just tell them what you have done but makes the same assertion that all good ads do: If you buy this product, you will get these specific, direct benefits. It presents you in the best light. It convinces the employer that you have what it takes to be successful in this new position or career.
It is so pleasing to the eye that the reader is enticed to pick it up and read it. It “whets the appetite,” stimulates interest in meeting you and learning more about you. It inspires the prospective employer to pick up the phone and ask you to come in for an interview.
OTHER POSSIBLE REASONS TO HAVE A RESUME
- To pass the employer’s screening process (requisite educational level, number years’ experience, etc.), to give basic facts which might favorably influence the employer (companies worked for, political affiliations, racial minority, etc.). To provide contact information: an up-to-date address and a telephone number (a telephone number which will always be answered during business hours).
- To establish you as a professional person with high standards and excellent writing skills, based on the fact that the resume is so well done (clear, well-organized, well-written, well-designed, of the highest professional grades of printing and paper). For persons in the art, advertising, marketing, or writing professions, the resume can serve as a sample of their skills.
- To have something to give to potential employers, your job-hunting contacts and professional references, to provide background information, to give out in “informational interviews” with the request for a critique (a concrete creative way to cultivate the support of this new person), to send a contact as an excuse for follow-up contact, and to keep in your briefcase to give to people you meet casually – as another form of “business card.”
- To use as a covering piece or addendum to another form of job application, as part of a grant or contract proposal, as an accompaniment to graduate school or other application.
- To put in an employer’s personnel files.
- To help you clarify your direction, qualifications, and strengths, boost your confidence, or to start the process of commiting to a job or career change.
WHAT IT ISN’T
It is a mistake to think of your resume as a history of your past, as a personal statement or as some sort of self expression. Sure, most of the content of any resume is focused on your job history. But write from the intention to create interest, to persuade the employer to call you. If you write with that goal, your final product will be very different than if you write to inform or catalog your job history.
Most people write a resume because everyone knows that you have to have one to get a job. They write their resume grudgingly, to fulfill this obligation. Writing the resume is only slightly above filling out income tax forms in the hierarchy of worldly delights. If you realize that a great resume can be your ticket to getting exactly the job you want, you may be able to muster some genuine enthusiasm for creating a real masterpiece, rather than the feeble products most people turn out.
WHAT IF I’M NOT SURE OF MY JOB TARGET?
If you are hunting for a job but are not sure you are on a career path that is perfect for you, you are probably going to wind up doing something that doesn’t fit you very well, that you are not going to find fulfilling, and that you will most likely leave within five years. Doesn’t sound like much of a life to me. How about you? Are you willing to keep putting up with pinning your fate on the random turnings of the wheel?
Part 2 – HOW TO KNOCK THEIR SOCKS OFF
Research shows that only one interview is granted for every 200 resumes received by the average employer. Research also tells us that your resume will be quickly scanned, rather than read. Ten to 20 seconds is all the time you have to persuade a prospective employer to read further. What this means is that the decision to interview a candidate is usually based on an overall first impression of the resume, a quick screening that so impresses the reader and convinces them of the candidate’s qualifications that an interview results. As a result, the top half of the first page of your resume will either make you or break you. By the time they have read the first few lines, you have either caught their interest, or your resume has failed. That is why we say that your resume is an ad. You hope it will have the same result as a well-written ad: to get the reader to respond.
To write an effective resume, you have to learn how to write powerful but subtle advertising copy. Not only that, but you must sell a product in which you have a large personal investment: you. What’s worse, given the fact that most of us do not think in a marketing-oriented way naturally, you are probably not looking forward to selling anything, let alone yourself. But if you want to increase your job hunting effectiveness as much as possible, you would be wise to learn to write a spectacular resume.
You do not need to hard sell or make any claims that are not absolutely true. You do need to get over your modesty and unwillingness to toot your own horn. People more often buy the best advertised product than the best product. That is good news if you are willing to learn to create an excellent resume. With a little extra effort, you will usually get a better response from prospective employers than people with better credentials.
FOCUS ON THE EMPLOYER’S NEEDS, NOT YOURS
Imagine that you are the person doing the hiring. This person is not some anonymous paper pusher deep in the bowels of the personnel department. Usually, the person who makes the hiring decision is also the person who is responsible for the bottom line productivity of the project or group you hope to join. This is a person who cares deeply how well the job will be done. You need to write your resume to appeal directly to them.
Ask yourself: What would make someone the perfect candidate? What does the employer really want? What special abilities would this person have? What would set a truly exceptional candidate apart from a merely good one?
If you are seeking a job in a field you know well, you probably already know what would make someone a superior candidate. If you are not sure, you can gather hints from the help-wanted ad you are answering, from asking other people who work in the same company or the same field. You could even call the prospective employer and ask them what they want. Don’t make wild guesses unless you have to. It is very important to do this step well. If you are not addressing their real needs, they will not respond to your resume.
Putting yourself in the moccasins of the person doing the hiring is the first, and most important, step in writing a resume that markets you rather than describes your history or herstory. Every step in producing a finished document should be part of your overall intention to convey to the prospective employer that you are a truly exceptional candidate.
Focus your writing efforts. Get clear what the employer is looking for and what you have to offer before you begin your resume. Write your answers to the above mentioned question, “What would make someone the perfect candidate?” on notebook paper, one answer per page. Prioritize the sheets of paper, based on which qualities or abilities you think would be most important to the person doing the hiring.
Then, starting with the top priority page, fill the rest of that page, or as much of it as you can, with brainstorming about why you are the person who best fulfills the employer’s needs. Write down everything you have ever done that demonstrates that you fit perfectly with what is wanted and needed by the prospective employer.
The whole idea is to loosen up your thinking enough so that you will be able to see some new connections between what you have done and what the employer is looking for. You need not confine yourself to work-related accomplishments. Use your entire life as the palette to paint with. If Sunday school or your former gang are the only places you have had a chance to demonstrate your special gift for teaching and leadership, fine. The point is to cover all possible ways of thinking about and communicating what you do well. What are the talents you bring to the market place? What do you have to offer the prospective employer?
If you are making a career change or are a young person and new to the job market, you are going to have to be especially creative in getting across what makes you stand out. These brainstorming pages will be the raw material from which you craft your resume. One important part of the planning process is to decide which resume format fits your needs best. Don’t automatically assume that a traditional format will work best for you. More about that later.
A GREAT RESUME HAS TWO SECTIONS
In the first, you make assertions about your abilities, qualities and achievements. You write powerful, but honest, advertising copy that makes the reader immediately perk up and realize that you are someone special.
The second section, the evidence section, is where you back up your assertions with evidence that you actually did what you said you did. This is where you list and describe the jobs you have held, your education, etc. This is all the stuff you are obliged to include.
Most resumes are just the evidence section, with no assertions. If you have trouble getting to sleep, just read a few resumes each night before going to bed. Nothing puts people to sleep better than the average resume.
The juice is in the assertions section. When a prospective employer finishes reading your resume, you want them to immediately reach for the phone to invite you in to interview. The resumes you have written in the past have probably been a gallant effort to inform the reader. You don’t want them informed. You want them interested and excited.
In fact, it is best to only hint at some things. Leave the reader wanting more. Leave them with a bit of mystery. That way, they have even more reason to reach for the phone. The assertions section usually has two or three sections. In all of them, your job is to communicate, assert and declare that you are the best possible candidate for the job and that you are hotter than a picnic on Mercury.
You start by naming your intended job. This may be in a separate Objective section, or may be folded into the second section, the Summary. If you are making a change to a new field, or are a young person not fully established in a career, start with a separate Objective section.
Ideally, your resume should be pointed toward conveying why you are the perfect candidate for one specific job or job title. Good advertising is directed toward a very specific target audience.
When a car company is trying to sell their inexpensive compact to an older audience, they show grandpa and grandma stuffing the car with happy, shiny grandchildren and talk about how safe and economical the car is. When they advertise the exact same car to the youth market, they show it going around corners on two wheels, with plenty of drums and power chords thundering in the background. You want to focus your resume just as specifically.
Targeting your resume requires that you be absolutely clear about your career direction–or at least that you appear to be clear. If you aren’t clear where you are going, you wind up wherever the winds of chance blow you. You would be wise to use this time of change to design your future career so you have a clear target that will meet your goals and be personally fulfilling. Even if you are a little vague about what you are looking for, you cannot let your uncertainty show. With a nonexistent, vague or overly broad objective, the first statement you make to a prospective employer says you are not sure this is the job for you.
The way to demonstrate your clarity of direction or apparent clarity is to have the first major topic of your resume be your OBJECTIVE.
Let’s look at a real world example. Suppose the owner of a small software company puts an ad in the paper seeking an experienced software sales person. A week later they have received 500 resumes. The applicants have a bewildering variety of backgrounds. The employer has no way of knowing whether any of them are really interested in selling software.
They remember all the jobs they applied for that they didn’t really want. They know that many of the resumes they received are from people who are just using a shotgun approach, casting their seed to the winds. Then they come across a resume in the pile that starts with the following:
OBJECTIVE – a software sales position in an organization seeking an extraordinary record of generating new accounts, exceeding sales targets and enthusiastic customer relations.
This wakes them up. They are immediately interested. This first sentence conveys some very important and powerful messages: “I want exactly the job you are offering. I am a superior candidate because I recognize the qualities that are most important to you, and I have them. I want to make a contribution to your company.” This works well because the employer is smart enough to know that someone who wants to do exactly what they are offering will be much more likely to succeed than someone who doesn’t. And that person will probably be a lot more pleasant to work with as well.
Secondly, this candidate has done a good job of establishing why they are the perfect candidate in their first sentence. They have thought about what qualities would make a candidate stand out. They have started communicating that they are that person immediately. What’s more, they are communicating from the point of view of making a contribution to the employer.
They are not writing from a self-centered point of view. Even when people are savvy enough to have an objective, they often make the mistake of saying something like, “a position where I can hone my skill as a scissors sharpener.” or something similar. The employer is interested in hiring you for what you can do for them, not for fulfilling your private goals and agenda.
Here’s how to write your objective. First of all, decide on a specific job title for your objective. Go back to your list of answers to the question “How can I demonstrate that I am the perfect candidate?” What are the two or three qualities, abilities or achievements that would make a candidate stand out as truly exceptional for that specific job?
The person in the above example recognized that the prospective employer, being a small, growing software company, would be very interested in candidates with an ability to generate new accounts. So they made that the very first point they got across in their resume.
Be sure the objective is to the point. Do not use fluffy phrases that are obvious or do not mean anything, such as: “allowing the ability to enhance potential and utilize experience in new challenges.” An objective may be broad and still somewhat undefined in some cases, such as: “a mid-level management position in the hospitality or entertainment industry.”
Remember, your resume will only get a few seconds attention, at best! You have to generate interest right away, in the first sentence they lay their eyes on. Having an objective statement that really sizzles is highly effective. And it’s simple to do. One format is:
OBJECTIVE: An xxx position in an organization where yyy and zzz would be needed (or, in an organization seeking yyy and zzz).
Xxx is the name of the position you are applying for. Yyy and zzz are the most compelling qualities, abilities or achievements that will really make you stand out above the crowd of applicants. Your previous research to find out what is most important to the employer will provide the information to fill in yyy and zzz.
If you are applying for several different positions, you should adapt your resume to each one. There is nothing wrong with having several different resumes, each with a different objective, each specifically crafted for a different type of position. You may even want to change some parts of your resume for each job you apply for. Have an objective that is perfectly matched with the job you are applying for. Remember, you are writing advertising copy, not your life story.
It is sometimes appropriate to include your Objective in your Summary section rather than have a separate Objective section. (Examples to follow.) The point of using an Objective is to create a specific psychological response in the mind of the reader.
If you are making a career change or have a limited work history, you want the employer to immediately focus on where you are going, rather than where you have been. If you are looking for another job in your present field, it is more important to stress your qualities, achievements and abilities first.
A few examples of separate Objective sections:
- Vice president of marketing in an organization where a strong track record of expanding market share and internet savvy is needed.
- Senior staff position with a bank that offers the opportunity to use my expertise in commercial real estate lending and strategic management.
- An entry-level position in the hospitality industry where a background in advertising and public relations would be needed.
- A position teaching English as a second language where a special ability to motivate and communicate effectively with students would be needed.
- Divemaster in an organization where an extensive knowledge of Carribean sea life and a record of leaving customers feeling they have had a once-in-a lifetime experience is needed.
The “Summary” or “Summary of Qualifications” consists of several concise statements that focus the reader’s attention on the most important qualities, achievements and abilities you have to offer. Those qualities should be the most compelling demonstrations of why they should hire you instead of the other candidates. It gives you a brief opportunity to telegraph a few of your most sterling qualities. It is your one and only chance to attract and hold their attention, to get across what is most important, and to entice the employer to keep reading.
This is the spiciest part of the resume. This may be the only section fully read by the employer, so it should be very strong and convincing. The Summary is the one place to include professional characteristics (extremely energetic, a gift for solving complex problems in a fast-paced environment, a natural salesman, exceptional interpersonal skills, committed to excellence, etc.) which may be helpful in winning the interview. Gear every word in the Summary to your targeted goal.
How to write a Summary? Go back to your lists that answer the question, What would make someone the ideal candidate? Look for the qualities the employer will care about most. Then look at what you wrote about why you are the perfect person to fill their need. Pick the stuff that best demonstrates why they should hire you. Assemble it into your Summary section.
The most common ingredients of a well-written Summary are as follows. Of course, you would not use all these ingredients in one Summary. Use the ones that highlight you best.
- A short phrase describing your profession
- Followed by a statement of broad or specialized expertise
- Followed by two or three additional statements related to any of the following:
- breadth or depth of skills
- unique mix of skills
- range of environments in which you have experience
- a special or well-documented accomplishment
- a history of awards, promotions, or superior performance commendations
- One or more professional or appropriate personal characteristics
- A sentence describing professional objective or interest.
Notice that the examples below show how to include your objective in the Summary section. If you are making a career change, your Summary section should show how what you have done in the past prepares you to do what you seek to do in the future. If you are a young person new to the job market, your Summary will be based more on ability than experience.
A few examples of Summary sections:
- Highly motivated, creative and versatile real estate executive with seven years of experience in property acquisition, development and construction, as well as the management of large apartment complexes. Especially skilled at building effective, productive working relationships with clients and staff. Excellent management, negotiation and public relations skills. Seeking a challenging management position in the real estate field that offers extensive contact with the public.
- Over 10 years as an organizational catalyst/training design consultant with a track record of producing extraordinary results for more than 20 national and community based organizations. A commitment to human development and community service. Energetic self-starter with excellent analytical, organizational, and creative skills.
- Financial Management Executive with nearly ten years of experience in banking and international trade, finance, investments and economic policy. Innovative in structuring credit enhancement for corporate and municipal financing. Skilled negotiator with strong management, sales and marketing background. Areas of expertise include (a bulleted list would follow this paragraph.)
- Health Care Professional experienced in management, program development and policy making in the United States as well as in several developing countries. Expertise in emergency medical services. A talent for analyzing problems, developing and simplifying procedures, and finding innovative solutions. Proven ability to motivate and work effectively with persons from other cultures and all walks of life. Skilled in working within a foreign environment with limited resources.
- Commander – Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Navy, Atlantic Fleet. Expertise in all areas of management, with a proven record of unprecedented accomplishment. History of the highest naval awards and rapid promotion. Proven senior-level experience in executive decision-making, policy direction, strategic business planning, Congressional relations, financial and personnel management, research and development, and aerospace engineering. Extensive knowledge of government military requirements in systems and equipment. Committed to the highest levels of professional and personal excellence.
- Performing artist with a rich baritone voice and unusual range, specializing in classical, spiritual, gospel and rap music. Featured soloist for two nationally televised events. Accomplished pianist. Extensive performance experience includes television, concert tours and club acts. Available for commercial recording and live performances.
SKILLS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
In this final part of the assertions section of your resume, you go into more detail. You are still writing to sell yourself to the reader, not to inform them. Basically, you do exactly what you did in the previous section, except that you go into more detail.
In the summary, you focused on your most special highlights. Now you tell the rest of the best of your story. Let them know what results you produced, what happened as a result of your efforts, what you are especially gifted or experienced at doing. Flesh out the most important highlights in your summary.
You are still writing to do what every good advertisement does, communicating the following: if you buy this product, you will get these direct benefits. If it doesn’t contribute to furthering this communication, don’t bother to say it. Remember, not too much detail. Preserve a bit of mystery. Don’t tell them everything.
Sometimes the “Skills and Accomplishments” sections is a separate section. In a chronological resume, it becomes the first few phrases of the descriptions of the various jobs you have held. We will cover that in a few minutes, when we discuss the different types of resumes. When it is a separate section, it can have several possible titles, depending on your situation:
- SKILLS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
- SUMMARY OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS
- SELECTED ACCOMPLISHMENTS
- RECENT ACCOMPLISHMENTS
- AREAS OF ACCOMPLISHMENT AND EXPERIENCE
- AREAS OF EXPERTISE
- CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
- PROFESSIONAL HIGHLIGHTS
- ADDITIONAL SKILLS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
There are a number of different ways to structure “Skills and Accomplishments” sections. In all of these styles, put your skills and accomplishments in order of importance for the desired career goal. If you have many skills, the last skill paragraph might be called “Additional Skills.”
Here are a few ways you could structure your “Skills and Accomplishments” section:
1. A listing of skills or accomplishments or a combination of both, with bullets
SELECTED SKILLS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
- Raised $1900 in 21 days in canvassing and advocacy on environmental, health and consumer issues.
- Conducted legal research for four Assistant U.S. Attorneys, for the U.S. Attorney’s office
- Coordinated Board of Directors and Community Advisory Board of community mental health center. Later commended as “the best thing that ever happened to that job.”
2. A listing of major skill headings with accomplishments under each. The accomplishments can be a bulleted list or in paragraph form. The material under the headings should include mention of accomplishments which prove each skill.
National Training Project / Conference Management.
- Director of Outreach on Hunger, a national public education/training project funded by USAID, foundations and all the major church denominations. Designed, managed and promoted three-day training conferences in cities throughout the U.S. Planned and managed 32 nationwide training seminars and a five-day annual conference for university vice-presidents and business executives.
Program Design: Universities.
- Invited by Duke University President Terry Sanford to develop new directions and programs for the University’s Office of Summer Educational Programs, first Director of Duke’s “Pre-college Program,” first editor of “Summer at Duke.” Designed and successfully proposed a center for the study of creativity at The George Washington University.
3. A list of bulleted accomplishments or skill paragraphs under each job (in a chronological resume).
Director of Sales and Marketing
DELAWARE TRADE INTERNATIONAL, INC. Wilmington, DE
- Promoted from Sales Representative within one year of joining company to Director of Sales and Marketing. Responsible for international sales of raw materials, as well as printing and graphic arts equipment. Oversaw five sales managers. Was in charge of direct sales and marketing in 17 countries throughout Europe and the Middle East.
- Recruited, trained and managed sales staff. Developed marketing strategy, prepared sales projections and established quotas. Selected and contracted with overseas sub-agents to achieve international market penetration.
- Negotiated and finalized long-term contractual agreements with suppliers on behalf of clients. Oversaw all aspects of transactions, including letters of credit, international financing, preparation of import/export documentation, and shipping/freight forwarding.
- Planned and administered sales and marketing budget, and maintained sole profit/loss responsibility. Within first year, doubled company’s revenues, and produced $7-9 million in annual sales during the next eight years.
BASIC RESUME FORMATS
There are three basic types of resumes: Chronological, Functional, and “combined” Chronological – Functional. To see what these styles look like, get a resume book. They are usually terrible guides for how to write an excellent resume, but they are good to see different formats. We would love to show you what complete resumes look like but your web browser would probably do unspeakable things to the formatting.
The chronological resume is the more traditional structure for a resume. The Experience section is the focus of the resume; each job (or the last several jobs) is described in some detail, and there is no major section of skills or accomplishments at the beginning of the resume. This structure is primarily used when you are staying in the same profession, in the same type of work, particularly in very conservative fields. It is also used in certain fields such as law and academia. It is recommended that the chronological resume always have an Objective or Summary, to focus the reader.
The advantages: May appeal to older, more traditional readers and be best in very conservative fields. Makes it easier to understand what you did in what job. May help the name of the employer stand out more, if this is impressive. The disadvantage is that it is much more difficult to highlight what you do best. This format is rarely appropriate for someone making a career change.
The functional resume highlights your major skills and accomplishments from the very beginning. It helps the reader see clearly what you can do for them, rather than having to read through the job descriptions to find out. It helps target the resume into a new direction or field, by lifting up from all past jobs the key skills and qualifications to help prove you will be successful in this new direction or field. Actual company names and positions are in a subordinate position, with no description under each. There are many different types of formats for functional resumes. The functional resume is a must for career changers, but is very appropriate for generalists, for those with spotty or divergent careers, for those with a wide range of skills in their given profession, for students, for military officers, for homemakers returning to the job market, and for those who want to make slight shifts in their career direction.
Advantages: It will help you most in reaching for a new goal or direction. It is a very effective type of resume, and is highly recommended. The disadvantage is that it is hard for the employer to know exactly what you did in which job, which may be a problem for some conservative interviewers.
A combined resume includes elements of both the chronological and functional formats. It may be a shorter chronology of job descriptions preceded by a short “Skills and Accomplishments” section (or with a longer Summary including a skills list or a list of “qualifications”); or, it may be a standard functional resume with the accomplishments under headings of different jobs held.
There are obvious advantages to this combined approach: It maximizes the advantages of both kinds of resumes, avoiding potential negative effects of either type. One disadvantage is that it tends to be a longer resume. Another is that it can be repetitious: Accomplishments and skills may have to be repeated in both the “functional” section and the “chronological” job descriptions.
Part 3 – THE EVIDENCE SECTION – HOW TO PRESENT YOUR WORK HISTORY, EDUCATION, ETC.
Most resumes are not much more than a collection of “evidence,” various facts about your past. By evidence, we mean all the mandatory information you must include on your resume: work history with descriptions, dates, education, affiliations, list of software mastered, etc. If you put this toward the top of your resume, anyone reading it will feel like they are reading an income tax form. Let’s face it, this stuff is boring no matter how extraordinary you are. All this evidence is best placed in the second half of the resume. Put the hot stuff in the beginning, and all this less exciting information afterward.
We divided the resume into a “hot” assertions section, and a more staid “evidence” section for the sake of communicating that a great resume is not information but advertising. A great resume is all one big assertions section. In other words, every single word, even the basic facts about your history, are crafted to have the desired effect, to get them to pick up the phone and call you. The decisions you make on what information to emphasize and what to de-emphasize should be based on considering every word of your resume to be an important part of the assertions section. The evidence includes some or all of the following:
List jobs in reverse chronological order. Don’t go into detail on the jobs early in your career; focus on the most recent and/or relevant jobs. (Summarize a number of the earliest jobs in one line or very short paragraph, or list only the bare facts with no position description.) Decide which is, overall, more impressive – your job titles or the names of the firms you worked for – then consistently begin with the more impressive of the two, perhaps using boldface type.
You may want to describe the firm in a phrase in parentheses if this will impress the reader. Put dates in italics at the end of the job, to de-emphasize them; don’t include months, unless the job was held less than a year. Include military service, internships, and major volunteer roles if desired; because the section is labeled “Experience.” It does not mean that you were paid.
Other headings: “Professional History,” “Professional Experience”–not “Employment” or “Work History,” both of which sound more lower-level.
List education in reverse chronological order, degrees or licenses first, followed by certificates and advanced training. Set degrees apart so they are easily seen. Put in boldface whatever will be most impressive. Don’t include any details about college except your major and distinctions or awards you have won, unless you are still in college or just recently graduated. Include grade-point average only if over 3.4. List selected course work if this will help convince the reader of your qualifications for the targeted job.
Do include advanced training, but be selective with the information, summarizing the information and including only what will be impressive for the reader.
No degree received yet? If you are working on an uncompleted degree, include the degree and afterwards, in parentheses, the expected date of completion: B.S. (expected 200_).
If you didn’t finish college, start with a phrase describing the field studied, then the school, then the dates (the fact that there was no degree may be missed).
Other headings might be “Education and Training,” “Education and Licenses,” “Legal Education / Undergraduate Education” (for attorneys).
If the only awards received were in school, put these under the Education section. Mention what the award was for if you can (or just “for outstanding accomplishment” or “outstanding performance”). This section is almost a must, if you have received awards. If you have received commendations or praise from some very senior source, you could call this section, “Awards and Commendations.” In that case, go ahead and quote the source.
Include only those that are current, relevant and impressive. Include leadership roles if appropriate. This is a good section for communicating your status as a member of a minority targeted for special consideration by employers, or for showing your membership in an association that would enhance your appeal as a prospective employee. This section can be combined with “Civic / Community Leadership” as “Professional and Community Memberships.”
CIVIC / COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP
This is good to include if the leadership roles or accomplishments are related to the job target and can show skills acquired, for example, a loan officer hoping to become a financial investment counselor who was Financial Manager of a community organization charged with investing its funds. Any Board of Directors membership or “chairmanship” would be good to include. Be careful with political affiliations, as they could be a plus or minus with an employer or company.
Include only if published. Summarize if there are many.
COMMENTS FROM SUPERVISORS
Include only if very exceptional. Heavily edit for key phrases.
Advantages: Personal interests can indicate a skill or area or knowledge that is related to the goal, such as photography for someone in public relations, or carpentry and wood-working for someone in construction management. This section can show well-roundedness, good physical health, or knowledge of a subject related to the goal. It can also create common ground or spark conversation in an interview.
Disadvantages: Personal interests are usually irrelevant to the job goal and purpose of the resume, and they may be meaningless or an interview turn-off (“TV and Reading,” “Fund raising for the Hell’s Angels”).
You probably should not include a personal interests section. Your reason for including it is most likely that you want to tell them about you. But, as you know, this is an ad. If this section would powerfully move the employer to understand why you would be the best candidate, include it; otherwise, forget about it.
May also be called “Interests and Hobbies,” or just “Interests.”
You may put “References available upon request” at the end of your resume, if you wish. This is a standard close (centered at bottom in italics), but is not necessary: It is usually assumed. Do not include actual names of references. You can bring a separate sheet of references to the interview, to be given to the employer upon request.
Part 4 – A FEW GUIDELINES FOR A BETTER PRESENTATION
The resume is visually enticing, a work of art. Simple clean structure. Very easy to read. Symmetrical. Balanced. Uncrowded. As much white space between sections of writing as possible; sections of writing that are no longer than six lines, and shorter if possible.
There is uniformity and consistency in the use of italics, capital letters, bullets, boldface, and underlining. Absolute parallelism in design decisions. For example, if a period is at the end of one job’s dates, a period should be at the end of all jobs’ dates; if one degree is in boldface, all degrees should be in boldface.
As mentioned above, the resume’s first impression is most important. It should be exceptionally visually appealing, to be inviting to the reader. Remember to think of the resume as an advertisement.
There are absolutely no errors. No typographical errors. No spelling errors. No grammar, syntax, or punctuation errors. No errors of fact.
All the basic, expected information is included. A resume must have the following key information: your name, address, phone number, and your email address at the top of the first page, a listing of jobs held, in reverse chronological order, educational degrees including the highest degree received, in reverse chronological order. Additional, targeted information will of course accompany this. Much of the information people commonly put on a resume can be omitted, but these basics are mandatory.
Jobs listed include a title, the name of the firm, the city and state of the firm, and the years. Jobs earlier in a career can be summarized, or omitted if prior to the highest degree, and extra part-time jobs can be omitted. If no educational degrees have been completed, it is still expected to include some mention of education (professional study or training, partial study toward a degree, etc.) acquired after high school.
It is targeted. A resume should be targeted to your goal, to the ideal next step in your career. First you should get clear what your job goal is, what the ideal position or positions would be. Then you should figure out what key skills, areas of expertise or body of experience the employer will be looking for in the candidate. Gear the resume structure and content around this target, proving these key qualifications. If you have no clear goal, take the skills (or knowledge) you most enjoy or would like to use or develop in your next career step and build the resume around those.
Strengths are highlighted / weaknesses de-emphasized. Focus on whatever is strongest and most impressive. Make careful and strategic choices as to how to organize, order, and convey your skills and background. Consider: whether to include the information at all, placement in overall structure of the resume, location on the page itself or within a section, ordering of information, more impressive ways of phrasing the information, use of design elements (such as boldface to highlight, italics to minimize, ample surrounding space to draw the eye to certain things).
It has focus. A resume needs an initial focus to help the reader understand immediately. Don’t make the reader go through the whole resume to figure out what your profession is and what you can do. Think of the resume as an essay with a title and a summative opening sentence. An initial focus may be as simple as the name of your profession (“Commercial Real Estate Agent,” “Resume Writer”) centered under the name and address; it may be in the form of an Objective; it may be in the form of a Summary Statement or, better, a Summary Statement beginning with a phrase identifying your profession.
Use power words. For every skill, accomplishment, or job described, use the most active impressive verb you can think of (which is also accurate). Begin the sentence with this verb, except when you must vary the sentence structure to avoid repetitious writing.
Show you are results-oriented. Wherever possible, prove that you have the desired qualifications through clear strong statement of accomplishments, rather than a statement of potentials, talents, or responsibilities. Indicate results of work done, and quantify these accomplishments whenever appropriate. For example: “Initiated and directed complete automation of the Personnel Department, resulting in time-cost savings of over 25%.” Additionally, preface skill and experience statements with the adjectives “proven” and “demonstrated” to create this results-orientation.
Writing is concise and to the point. Keep sentences as short and direct as possible. Eliminate any extraneous information and any repetitions. Don’t use three examples when one will suffice. Say what you want to say in the most direct way possible, rather than trying to impress with bigger words or more complex sentences. For example: “coordinated eight city-wide fund-raising events, raising five times as much as the expected $50,000 goal” rather than “was involved in the coordination of six fund-raising dinners and two fund-raising walkathons which attracted participants throughout St. Louis and extremely successful.”
Vary long sentences (if these are really necessary) with short punchy sentences. Use phrases rather than full sentences when phrases are possible, and start sentences with verbs, eliminating pronouns (“I”, “he” or “she”). Vary words: Don’t repeat a “power” verb or adjective in the same paragraph. Use commas to clarify meaning and make reading easier. Remain consistent in writing decisions such as use of abbreviations and capitalizations.
Make it look great. Use a laser printer or an ink jet printer that produces high- quality results. A laser is best because the ink won’t run if it gets wet. It should look typeset. Do not compromise. If you do, your resume will look pathetic next to ones that have a perfect appearance. Use a standard conservative typeface (font) in 11 or 12 point. Don’t make them squint to read it. Use off-white, ivory or bright white 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper, in the highest quality affordable. If you are applying for a senior-level position, use Crane’s 100% rag paper and make sure the water-mark is facing the right way. Use absolutely clean paper without smudges, without staples and with a generous border. Don’t have your resume look like you squeezed too much on the page.
Shorter is usually better. Everyone freely gives advice on resume length. Most of these self-declared experts say a resume should always be one page. That makes no more sense than it does to say an ad or a poem should automatically be one page. Your resume can be 500 pages long if you can keep the reader’s undivided attention and interest that long, and at the same time create a psychological excitement that leads prospective employers to pick up the phone and call you when they finish your weighty tome. Don’t blindly follow rules! Do what works. Sometimes it is appropriate to have a three pager. But unless your life has been filled with a wide assortment of extraordinary achievements, make it shorter. One page is best if you can cram it all into one page. Most Fortune 500 C.E.O.s have a one- or two-page resume. It could be said that, the larger your accomplishments, the easier to communicate them in few words. Look to others in your profession to see if there is an established agreement about resume length in your field. The only useful rule is to not write one more word than you need to get them to pick up the phone and call you. Don’t bore them with the details. Leave them wanting more. Remember, this is an ad to market you, not your life history.
Length of consulting resumes. In a consulting resume, you are expected to shovel it as deep as you possibly can. If you are selling your own consulting services, make it sizzle, just like any other resume, but include a little more detail, such as a list of well-known clients, powerful quotes from former clients about how fantastic you are, etc. If you are seeking a job with a consulting firm that will be packaging you along with others as part of a proposal, get out your biggest shovel and go to town. Include everything except the name of your goldfish: A full list of publications, skills, assignments, other experience, and every bit of educational crapola that you can manage to make sound related to your work. The philosophy here is: more is better.
Watch your verb tense. Use either the first person (“I”) or the third person (”he,” “she”) point of view,but use whichever you choose consistently. Verb tenses are based on accurate reporting: If the accomplishment is completed, it should be past tense. If the task is still underway, it should be present tense. If the skill has been used in the past and will continue to be used, use present tense (“conduct presentations on member recruitment to professional and trade associations”). A way of “smoothing out” transitions is to use the past continuous (“have conducted more than 20 presentations…”).
Break it up. A good rule is to have no more than six lines of writing in any one writing “block” or paragraph (summary, skill section, accomplishment statement, job description, etc.). If any more than this is necessary, start a new section or a new paragraph.
Experience before education…usually. Experience sections should come first, before education, in most every case. This is because you have more qualifications developed from your experience than from your education. The exceptions would be 1) if you have just received or are completing a degree in a new professional field, if this new degree study proves stronger qualifications than does your work experience, 2) if you are a lawyer, with the peculiar professional tradition of listing your law degrees first, 3) if you are an undergraduate student, or 4) if you have just completed a particularly impressive degree from a particularly impressive school, even if you are staying in the same field, for example, an MBA from Harvard.
Telephone number that will be answered. Be sure the phone number on the resume will, without exception, be answered by a person or an answering machine Monday through Friday 8-5pm. You do not want to lose the prize interview merely because there was no answer to your phone, and the caller gave up. Include the area code of the telephone number. If you don’t have an answering machine, get one. Include e-mail and fax numbers, if you have them.
A FEW MORE TIPS
Try not to include anything on the resume that could turn the employer off, anything that is controversial (political, etc.) or could be taken in a negative light.
Put the most important information on the first line of a writing “block” or paragraph. The first line is read the most.
Use bold caps for your name on page one. Put your name at the top of page two on a two-page resume. Put section headings, skill headings, titles or companies (if impressive), degrees, and school name (if impressive), in boldface.
Spell out numbers under and including ten; use the numerical form for numbers over and including 11 (as a general rule), unless they are the first words in a sentence. Spell out abbreviations unless they are unquestionably obvious.
If you are not sure what sort of job you are looking for, you will most likely wind up in something that turns out to be just a “job.” In a “job” you exchange your life for money. It is possible to choose a career that will fit you so well that you do it because you like to go to work. At Rockport Institute we offer career counseling, coaching and testing programs for people committed to choosing a new career direction for a lifetime of satisfaction and success. Our services, available worldwide and consistently commended for excellence since 1981, are for people who realize that choosing the best possible career direction is one of the most important decisions they will ever make.
WHAT NOT TO PUT ON A RESUME
- The word “Resume” at the top of the resume
- Fluffy rambling “objective” statements
- Salary information
- Full addresses of former employers
- Reasons for leaving jobs
- A “Personal” section, or personal statistics (except in special cases)
- Names of supervisors
ACCURACY/ HONESTY/STRETCHING THE TRUTH
Make sure that you can back up what you say. Keep the claims you make within the range of your own integrity. There is nothing wrong with pumping things up in your resume so you communicate who you are and what you can do at your very best. Did you ever see an ad that didn’t pump up the features they hope will convince you to buy? In fact, you are being foolish if you seek to convey a careful, balanced portrayal of yourself. You want to knock their socks off!
WHAT IF I HAVE NOT PERFORMED BRILLIANTLY?
If you are not really exceptional at doing this job or at least potentially exceptional but inexperienced, maybe you are applying for the wrong job. Why would anyone want to spend their days doing something they did not excel at and didn’t really enjoy? Click the underlined text below and your computer will waft you off to a Rockport Institute web page that tells you about our programs and services for people who do not want to spend their life as a career zombie, stuck in a boring, lifeless job where each day you wish you were somewhere else.
QUESTIONS A PRO WOULD ASK YOU
What key qualifications will the employer be looking for?
What qualifications will be most important to them that you possess?
Which of these are your greatest strengths?
What are the highlights of your career to date that should be emphasized?
What should be de-emphasized?
What things about you and your background make you stand out?
What are your strongest areas of skill and expertise? Knowledge? Experience?
What are some other skills you possess–perhaps more auxiliary skills?
What are characteristics you possess that make you a strong candidate? (Things like “innovative, hard-working, strong interpersonal skills, ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously under tight deadlines”)
What are the three or four things you feel have been your greatest accomplishments?
What was produced as a result of your greatest accomplishments?
Can you quantify the results you produced in numerical or other specific terms?
What were the two or three accomplishments of that particular job?
What were the key skills you used in that job?
What did you do in each of those skill areas?
What sorts of results are particularly impressive to people in your field?
What results have you produced in these areas?
What are the “buzz words” that people in your field expect you to use in lieu of a secret club handshake, which should be included in your resume?
Part 5 – I’M NOT SURE THE JOB I’M LOOKING FOR IS THE RIGHT ONE FOR ME
If you are concerned that the job you are seeking may not be right for you, or if you are not completely sure what job you are seeking, you have a bigger problem than just writing a great resume. You are handing over your future to chance and accident.
How you can I tell if it is right for me? If you are changing to a job that is pretty much the same as your current or most recent job, it is not too difficult to assess whether or not you need to just make a job change or consider a new career direction. The big question is: how much do or did you enjoy the actual work? If you liked the work itself but were not happy with the boss or the pay or other components of the job, you may just need to find a new job – a job where you can keep doing the same thing in a different setting. If the work itself was dull, routine, uninteresting, difficult, exasperating, or if you did not feel fully challanged by it, you may need to make a shift in your career direction.
If you are seeking a job that is somewhat different from what you did before, how can you know it will be better than what you have been doing?
Let’s take a look at your situation from a new point of view. What an employer pays you for is to perform some special function or functions. Everything one might do at work, from flipping burgers to understanding the most obscure abstract data, is a specific work function. Most careers involve combining a few different functions together. Everyone is born with a certain degree of talent for each of the hundreds of possible work functions. Think about it for a minute. Notice that there are some things that seem to come easily to you and others that are much more difficult to deal with. Your innate talent for any specific function may be anywhere from 100% to 1% on a scale of human ability.
Almost every person is naturally gifted at some things, adequate at others, and not so good at yet other functions. Your natural talents work together, like instruments in a band, to make your work harmonious and enjoyable. Those people who are very successful, who really like their work and have no trouble writing a powerful and sincere resume, are people who have discovered what they are naturally best at found a way to combine their talents and personality traits in a job that fits them like a custom-made suit.
It is as simple as that. If you uncover your natural talents and pick a job that combines them well, you will greatly increase the odds that you will wind up both very satisfied and very successful in your work. Then you can easily write a resume that honestly communicates that you are the best candidate for the job-because you know you are. The way to make this happen is to get your natural talents tested in our [Pathfinder Career Testing Program]LINK, a breakthrough method that has helped many thousands of people make the best possible career decisions.
We’ve been helping people like you choose and change to careers and jobs they love since 1981. Follow this link to find out more about [Rockport Institute’s programs and services for career changers and people making an original career selection]LINK.
Rockport provides career counseling, coaching, and leading-edge career testing services for people seeking a career change leading to increased career satisfaction and success as well as for younger people making an original career choice.
Our services are available worldwide and have been consistently commended for excellence since 1981.
They are for career changers and others who want to pick a new career direction that is not a compromise; who realize that the choices they make as they change to a new career will be some of the most important decisions they will ever make.
Our clients are intelligent, complex people who want to wake up in the morning looking forward to going to work, who realize that the way most people go about the career choice process is insufficient. Some of them know from first-hand experience that traditional career counseling methods are too primitive to be of much help.
If you are asking yourself any of the following questions, we invite you to explore the possibility of one of our programs.
- Where am I going with my life?
- What careers would best fit my talents and personality?
- Can I find a career that fits me perfectly, involves work I care about, is realistic and attainable?
Here are a few quotes from client letters that provide a sense of what you can achieve. Complete versions of these letters and many others are available. If you would like to have a copy of our “Letters From Clients” publication, please let us know.
“I just can’t thank you enough for the exciting changes your Career Choice Program (has) brought to my life.”
“I am much happier and earning much more than I was.”
“The Career Choice program greatly exceeded my expectations.”
“Tremendous effect…on my business and personal life.”
“This was a definite turning point in my life.”
“After several years of indecision, the program empowered me to make a specific career choice.”
“I needed a 180 degree shift and the Rockport Institute turned me in the right direction.” “Expert guidance.”
“I am eagerly looking forward to doing something with my life that really feels right for me.”
“Your genuine personal interest…helped me to make these changes. Never before has anyone believed in me so much.”
“Thank you for turning my life around!”
“The counseling sessions enabled me, step by step, to choose the one career and begin doing it.”
“Most of all, thank you for my power to decide, commit and act. I wish I had done this 25 years ago!” “…has helped me to choose to change my entire life–in a positive direction.”
“I was so pleased with the results of the program that I convinced my husband and several friends to also take the program. All of them have been equally satisfied.”
“I…warmly recommend the Rockport Institute to anyone who has a desire to make a career change or improve their present employment.”
“I was hoping for a miracle. I got one.”
“Many of the apprehensions about going into a new position have been eliminated.”
“I believe that the process at Rockport is a very successful way to face these issues, realize that one is not alone, and put what appears to be a crisis situation back into perspective. Only in that way can one begin to take action.”
“In my case, it did me a great deal of good to discover that many of my natural instincts in terms of career choice had been good all along; I just hadn’t had the self-confidence to trust them and move ahead.”
“The usefulness of my…program with Rockport continues to be apparent almost every day and the results have been extraordinary.”
“Very excited about this new career direction..”
“Since the program, the doubts which can be so immobilizing are gone, and now I know exactly what I’m going to do.”
Rockport also provides advanced training to career consulting professionals, psychologists and human resources specialists.
This resume writing guide is an excerpt from our national bestselling book
Part 6 – ADD POWER TO YOUR RESUME WITH POWERWORDS
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This resume writing guide is an excerpt from our national bestselling book on career change,
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