Thursday, August 2, 2012

How to make and perfect your resume

PRESENTING THE BEST YOU: Tips for making your resume
stand out from the crowd
As we start into August, we thought it might be a good time to refresh your memory and rejuvenate your job search by sharing a few tips and strategies for presenting the best you possible.

One of the aspects of my job as Dean of Career Development Services is to help Peirce students and sometimes alumni find internships and co-op experiences, as well as to assist in the job search process. That includes imparting advice on everything from how to write effective resumes to interview etiquette and even what to do (and not to do) after landing your coveted position.

Constructing and perfecting your resume is often the first step in any job search. It can also be one of the most crucial steps, as what you present to future employers has to reflect your value in a language and format that is aligned with the job or industry you’re working towards. Below are a few tips for putting together the perfect resume that accurately portrays you and your abilities, whether you’re preparing for your first job, your dream job, or anywhere in between.

Illustrate what you have. Focus on separate skills and job titles. I suggest swapping a vague objectives statement to a very specific skills summary that speaks to what you have done or can contribute to the job. This changes your resume from focusing on what you want, to what you can contribute. I also suggest getting away from simply listing activities you’ve done and instead using that space to qualify skills and quantify results.

Think big picture. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, don’t fret. Include any relevant experience you have and create a functional resume, as opposed to the traditional chronological resume. A functional resume highlights the skills you possess. If you’d like to explain why there’s a gap in your work history, the best place to do this is in a cover letter. It allows you to acknowledge that you have a gap, and then get into the technical things you have done. Make sure your letter is written in a concise way.

Demonstrate your transferable knowledge. Align your transferrable knowledge with your career path. If you have some experience under your belt (whether or not it pertains to the industry you’re looking to work in), jot down the things you did as well as your accomplishments. Then identify the skills you gained or honed as a result of doing those jobs. These are your transferable skills and they are often relevant to several jobs and career paths.

Highlight your diverse skill set. If you're moving into a new career, try applying for experiential roles (jobs where you learn as you work) that will give you the opportunity to learn new skills and sharpen existing ones. Include those experiential roles, as well as the ones you’ve held in the past. Your array of experience can show that you’re well-rounded and open to trying new things.

Dare to be non-traditional. If you feel comfortable with technology, don’t be afraid to include some non-traditional elements in your resume. You can put a link to your LinkedIn profile. Just make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and complete. If you need some tips on how to do that, check out the free resource we created with Robb Pardee after our LinkedIn seminar this spring. Try to stay away from including social networks you use for mainly personal purposes, such as Facebook.

Always make sure it’s relevant. When deciding to add anything to a resume—a link to a website, a GPA, or even more bullets to a job description—a critical but simple question should be asked: how does this better explain my ability to do this job well? If it doesn't, chances are that it doesn’t belong on your resume.

At the end of the day, the blessing and burden of resume standards is that there isn’t a formula to designing an ideal resume. This gives you some latitude and flexibility in resume building. But if not carefully crafted, this kind of freedom can lead to trouble. My recommendation when building your resume is that less is more. It should be concise and should not require the reviewer to employ a lot of guesswork to determine if you meet the job's criteria.

So tailor your resume to fit each individual role. And while resumes are flexible, they must still have a backbone. Most reviewers who spend their days reading resumes agree that the backbone is built on skills, relevance, and conciseness. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be sure to stand out from the crowd when it comes to your resume.