Revamping Your Resume

By Catherine McNulty

April 29, 2011 5 min read

Your r?sum? is more than just a laundry list of your jobs and duties; it's the first impression a potential employer has of you. Gone are the days when you could just walk into an office and talk to a human resources representative. Even calling to inquire about jobs is pass?. As the world has gone digital, so has the job search. The Web is the first place most people search for employment, at sites such as Jobster, and even Craigslist. A quick Internet search will bring up dozens more.

So if a job is listed digitally, most likely you will be submitting your r?sum? digitally, as well. Think about it; for every job listed, hundreds of r?sum?s are submitted. At the most, your r?sum? will get a 20- to 30-second scan. You need to make sure that your r?sum? gives the best, most tantalizing portrait of who you are and makes potential employers do a double take.

Before you begin a major r?sum? revamp, you have to ask yourself, What is the point of a r?sum?? At its most distilled essence, a r?sum? is an advertisement of your skills, accomplishments and abilities. It is the gateway to an interview. It needs to prove you are exactly the person to fulfill the job listed. So how can you guarantee that potential employers will give it the once-over twice?

Employment experts and HR managers agree that there are several common ways in which potential employees sabotage themselves on their r?sum?s. There are actually people who submit r?sum?s without their most up-to-date contact information. Why apply for a job if the company can't contact you? Only use the present tense if you are currently employed; all other jobs should be in the past tense. Highlight your most relevant experiences; don't list every piece of software you ever have touched or every mundane duty you fulfilled.

Additionally, make sure your r?sum? isn't too long. One page is standard for most jobs. When describing jobs you had long ago, highlight only major experiences/duties; be much more detailed about current and recent jobs. If you were a contract employee for a short time, make sure that is clear on the r?sum? so it doesn't look as though you have a history of job hopping.

Now that you know what not to do, what should you do?

Much has changed in recent years regarding r?sum?s. With unemployment still high, employers can have their pick of whom to hire. And who gets the interviews? The people with clean and savvy r?sum?s. Rote and boring details are gone. Accomplishments and creative turns of phrase are much more attention-grabbing. You need to -- quickly and efficiently -- explain what you accomplished and why you were so indispensable in your most recent position.

If you are using a r?sum? template, make sure it is one you are comfortable with. You may need to tailor your r?sum? to different jobs you apply to, which is easier if you have a user-friendly template. The interface should be clean and readable; use at least a 12-point font. Speaking of fonts, don't just default to Times New Roman, which many consider dated. Similar and easy to read but more contemporary are Helvetica, Verdana and Arial.

If you can afford it, consider having a r?sum? done professionally. Often another point of view is invaluable, so even if it's just from friends or family, make sure you get feedback.

Now that you have the template and font, should you list everything chronologically, functionally or using a combination of both? Chronologically speaks for itself; it's a list of your jobs/experiences in chronological order. Functional r?sum?s are ones that highlight skills and abilities over job history and typically are used by new graduates and other people with less on-the-job experience. A combination is exactly that, a combo of the two. Look at examples online, and ask your friends to see their r?sum?s. See what speaks to you.

A last bit of advice to take to heart: Proofread, proofread, proofread. Nothing will turn a potential employer off like misspelled words, bad grammar and messiness. Your r?sum? represents the best possible version of you. Make sure it's something you proudly would show anyone.

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