Once you stop applying for jobs and start searching for a career, you'll need more than an application to get noticed. The key to getting an interview is to have a great resume. Writing a quality resume is no easy task. It takes planning, patience and several revisions.
The resume is your way to put your best foot forward and get employers interested in you. Keep it short. This is just to introduce you; it's not your autobiography. If you are just out of school, your resume should be no more than a single page.
Obviously, the most important information on your resume is your contact information. Don't laugh! It's amazing how many people forget to include this necessary information. Be sure the top of your resume includes your:
• Home address (including city, state and ZIP)
• Phone number (including area code)
• E-mail address
2. E-mail Addresses
It's important to remember that if you include an e-mail address, it should be professional. Your name (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) is always appropriate. Your alias for playing video games (e.g. email@example.com) is not.
3. Web Pages
As with the e-mail address, keep your web page professional. Treat it like an extension of your resume. Don't include a web address that could be considered unprofessional. Using a web site like www (dot) i_h8_my_neighbor (dot) com is a surefire way to never get an interview.
Even if you don't include your web address on your resume, some prospective employers may search for your name on the Internet and come across your page. Consider what kind of image you are projecting. Be businesslike, not social.
Don't use your name on a web page that shows you partying or trying to get a date. Avoid personal pages that read like an open diary. Also, keep your name off of pages that champion your political or social beliefs. You never know what might offend an employer. In short, be completely professional wherever your name appears online.
4. Career Objective
The objective of your resume is to get an interview, but what is your career objective? What is your 5-year plan? Let potential employers know up-front what your professional objectives are and how their position fits into your goal.
"My career goal is to utilize my programming skills in a corporate IT position."
If you see the job as a mere stepping stone until something in your field opens up, keep your objective professional and generic, filling in the appropriate places with your personal details:
"My career objective is to use my [specific talents] in a [professional or creative] setting."
Just remember to focus on what really matters to you. If you can't write a good objective for the position you are applying for, perhaps it isn't the right position for you.
Unless you have been working in your chosen field for awhile, it's best to avoid a resume that focuses on experience. Your summers working for a lawn service or your stint at the local burger joint are not likely to be applicable when you first enter the corporate world. Instead, you'll want a resume that will highlight your skills and make it possible for employers to see your potential.
Now is not the time to hide your light under a bushel. You need to let an employer see what you do well and how you can excel in the position you want. Brag, but in a professional tone, about all the things you know how to do.
List the skills you have learned that are applicable to the job for which you are applying. Skills should be at the top of your resume, beneath your career objective. Be sure to use bullet points and action verbs when creating lists. Always start each line with a powerful verb. This will set your resume apart from others. For example, your list could include:
• Familiar with Dreamweaver
• Experienced with HTML and CSS
• Adept at Photoshop and Adobe Creative Suite
• Proficient in all Microsoft Office products
Don't fudge your experience. If you have no experience with ABC software, don't tell them you do. It will probably come out in the interview and damage your chances of getting the job.
Now that you've hooked your potential employer with your skills, it's time to discuss your experience. Be sure to list experience in reverse chronological order (most recent experience at the top). List any internships under experience, even if it was through your school.
What experience you should include is up to you. If you have a lot of small, part-time jobs, it might be best to choose only those that are relevant to the job you want. If you worked for years before getting your education, avoid listing any job more than 10 years old. Be aware of large gaps in your history. If you had no job for 3 years while you traveled Europe, be prepared to explain that gap.
7. Education & Certification
When listing your education, include the name of your college along with the city and state where it is located. Be sure to add your graduation date (or expected graduation date, if you are still taking classes).
If you received professional certification as a part of your education, be sure to list what certification you received. If you are in a profession (like nursing) where certification must be renewed periodically, include the dates of your certification.
Do not include your high school unless you have not attended any postsecondary education.
8. Professional Groups
If you still have room (remember, don't go over one page if you're just out of school!), it's okay to let your prospective employer know a little bit about you. If you are involved with a professional organization, list it. Professional organizations might include professional associations, business organizations or chambers of commerce. Remember to list the dates of your involvement with the group and any position of importance you may have held.
9. Community Activities
Community activities showcase your interest in the surrounding area and let potential employers know you like to stay busy. Your best bet is to list any community activities (charity work, etc.) that showcase your professional skills. For instance, if you are applying for a job as a web designer and you are the web master for the local humane society, be sure to note it.
Don't be shy! If you have received any professional awards, add them to your resume. As with the skills list, remember to be professional and begin each line with an action verb:
• Won Best in Show for Design – 2007 Springfield Webbies
• Received Mach 5 Award of Excellence in Auto Repair – 2007
After you write your resume, set it aside for a week. Come back later with fresh interest and look for weaknesses. Are there dates that don't make sense? Could you pick a better word? If you have parents, teachers or mentors with business experience, have them look over the resume. Ask them for honest feedback. Be prepared to revise your resume several times.
When you are finished, you will have a resume you should be proud to send to employers. Remember that your resume is only a calling card. The goal is to get an interview and discuss your strengths with an employer face-to-face.