Composing the Perfect Resume

Advice & Stories
on May 29, 2012

Even in a weakened economy, prospective employers expect to receive resumes from people who apply to open positions. What they see is a snapshot of what they will get if a job offer is made and accepted. Hundreds of resumes come across hiring managers desks each month. This causes many to look for an excuse to whittle down the pile. When writing your resume, you want to have a polished presentation. How well (or poorly) this is done can have a direct impact on whether you receive a response.

Avoid making common mistakes such as misspelled words and poor formatting. Your resume will stand out for all the wrong reasons and end up in the infamous file 13. Your objective for composing the perfect resume depends on how well-written, professional and attractive it appears.

Perfection is in the eye of the hiring manager. Your resume is a document that speaks for you before the interview. What it says about you will largely determine whether you receive a telephone call for an interview. Advancing to the interview stage, especially in a competitive job market, requires making a bold statement that the hiring manager wants to hear. What are the chances that your resume is not tossed in the reject pile?

Hiring managers review resumes to match a job applicant’s work experience, education and skills to an open position. While different hiring managers look for different things, no two resumes are exactly the same. Even if you have the same educational degree as other applicants, your work history, career objective and strengths are not identical.

It is to your advantage to customize your resume. Think of it as a 10 second brand statement for hiring managers to read. Your goal is to promote your accomplishments without embellishing details. A good resume takes time to write and might get some attention. A perfect resume gets attention from the right hiring manager and results in an interview. The following advice will help present who you are and what you can offer in a positive, professional manner.

Make it Personal

Personal details that include your full name and contact information should be visible, ideally at the top of the resume. A professional sounding email is better than one that represents your high school nickname.

Career Objective

The career objective is listed below your personal details. Typically, this is a one or two sentence statement that explains your career goals. This can also tell the hiring manager why you are a match for the position. Some resume experts suggest that the career objective is not necessary when you include a cover letter.

Chronological or Functional Resume Format?

Most hiring managers prefer a chronological resume, which presents your work history in sequential order starting with the most recent position. This format presents a clear, easy to read flow of the types of jobs you have had or currently hold.

A functional resume is appropriate if you have had multiple, unrelated jobs. The functional format emphasizes key skills rather than a disjointed look at your work history. Skills are grouped under headings to place the focus on your accomplishments rather than employment gaps.

Education, Education, Education

Your education and other professional qualifications are listed after the work history. In reverse order, include the names of educational institutions and the dates that you attended. If you are a recent college grad, include your GPA and any certifications or special recognitions such as graduating magna cum laude.

Additionally, include computer and foreign language skills. Recent training and development courses relevant to the position are also beneficial for hiring managers to see.

Other Miscellaneous Information

The best information is never saved for last. Hiring managers want to quickly review resumes, not search for what you have to offer. Hobbies and special interests can be included, but are typically better at the end of the resume. Unless requested, salary information is not required on your resume.

The Finishing Touch

Make sure you proofread your resume before printing it on quality paper or emailing it to prospective employers. Checking and rechecking for spelling and grammatical errors is a great way to demonstrate that you are a detail-oriented professional. Ask a friend or family member to review your resume. Two sets of eyes are better than one.

Remember, your resume is a statement about who you are and what you will offer a prospective employer. Do not be shy to demonstrate how you are different from the competition. Just demonstrate this in a good way.

When writing and formatting your resume, you are creating a marketing tool for prospective employers. A clear and easy to read resume tells hiring managers that you have something to offer. With careful attention, you can hope to guarantee a spot on the short list rather than the reject pile.

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