By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS
Halloween is a time that many use to dress up in costume with a theme that invokes fear, whether it is a zombie with a knife and blood dripping down, a witch with sallow skin and a long, wart-covered nose or a ghost or goblin. That same fear rears its ugly head for some people when they think about writing their resume!  This post is designed to help take “the scary” out of the resume writing process.

The first thing I recommend is that you take a deep breath, close your eyes, and transform yourself into an advertising executive. “What?” you say.  Yes, an advertising executive!  No matter what your industry, profession, or job title, if you are in job search, you have entered the world of advertising. Your resume must be looked at from this perspective. It is a tool that will convey information about your product, which is you!

So, how do you start this process? The first thing that I recommend is that you gather all of your information and write it down in one spot so that you don’t have to be running around ripping apart files to figure out when you worked at what job, what year your promotion took place, when you took a special certification course and what the titles of the awards were that you received that are further evidence of your expertise.  Think of all of the information that is relevant to you and put it in one spot.

Whether you have done your resume before and are looking to give it a fresh face, you have never done a resume or haven’t done one in 20 years, it is time to talk about the physical appearance of your resume.  What should it look like?  Well, while there are no resume police out there, you want to give your resume a modern format and this means certain things.  Let’s start with your contact information.  The standard information- name and address go without saying.  Your telephone number should be a number that you can be reached at as quickly as possible.  Timing is everything in a career campaign. For most people this is their cell phone number instead of their home number.  Just remember that if you have a casual voice mail, you need to update it to one that is more professional sounding.  Also, your email address belongs in your contact information. I recommend that you have a dedicated email that is more business-like or professional sounding such as your name If you have a LinkedIn profile (which you should), please include your LinkedIn vanity url for that, and if you are establishing yourself as an expert on Twitter, including your Twitter handle as this shows that you are current and tech savvy.

A few more housekeeping rules that must be considered start with neatness and typos. They count.  You do not want your resume to look like a solid brick of text. Use bullet points and paragraphing. This provides resting spots and air space so that an interviewer can rest their eyes along the way and have a chance to process what they are reading.   Use a fresh font like Calibri and keep it to 11 pt.   If you are going to upload your resume to a job board, sometimes you may have to convert it to RTF or Rich Text Format that strips out the formatting. This is okay. Everyone else is going through the same process as you. But however you do it, take the time to proofread to make sure that all is in order. If you are not good at that, ask a friend or read it to yourself out loud to try to catch mistakes.

Now that you have inserted all of your contact information, it is time to get into the body of the resume itself.  Start with an abbreviated version of your Value Proposition. The category title above it can be the name of the position that you are applying for, your specific title, or the word “Profile.”  Do not use the word “Objective” as in today’s economy, employers are not concerned about your objective.  They care about what you are going to do for them and how you are going to help them solve their needs.

When you insert your Value Proposition, please load it with the key words that you have done that match the responsibilities in the job posting or you have done in your career.  We all know that today, technology is the first responder in recruiting so your resume will, in many instances, travel through a filter that is in search for the keywords of the position. If you can honestly, ethically and professionally say that you did it then include it. Also, at the end of this paragraph include your core competencies. This gives you another opportunity to get your resume tagged by the filter because your core competencies include words that the computer is looking for.  If a human eye is looking your resume over, the core competencies help provide a person glancing quickly at your resume with vital information that they can glean quickly. Yes, unfortunately, your resume will most likely be given no more than a 30 second glance to see if the person actually looking at feels it should go on to the next level.

Next stop in resume creation is the body of your resume. If you are fresh out of college and do not have much in terms of work experience, you may start with your education and special activities, awards, and GPA.  However, once you have your first job, I would put this information at the end to place the focus on your work experience. If you have been out in the workplace, your work experience should be the next category. Include work experience that is from the last 10-15 years. This is what most resume reviewers are concerned with. If you have worked at one company for a while and been promoted, show this by delineating each position with dates.  If you have work experience that extends beyond the 10-15 year range, include a section that is titled “Previous Experience.” Here you can list names and industries or anything pertinent to what you are going for.

As you are writing the text of your work experience, remember that in today’s resume, employers are looking to see your accomplishments because they transition this to the things that they need from the candidate.  For example, if you are a medical billing manager it might look like “Supervised 8 staff members processing 100,000 claims per year with 10 providers having a denial rate of less than 10%.” Compare this to reading a resume that just says, “Supervised medical billing.”

But what happens if you started in business and never contemplated metrics before? Sit down and take some time to think about it.   If you cannot quantify in numbers, think about times you improved, increased, decreased, something. Then see how you can describe the outcome some that you provide concrete information rather than a statement that says, “I did X.”

Another point to contemplate is that you are using your resume to engage the reader. As a result, mix it up!  Don’t always start with an action verb. Lead off with a metric. Put yourself in the place of the person reading hundreds of resumes. If you can distinguish yourself, you will remain top-of-mind with the reader who may be the hiring manager or HR person.

After your work experience, include the category of your education and licensure. Include any special training or certificate programs to show that you are constantly a work in progress always upgrading your knowledge base. Any licensure that you have, JD, CPA, CFA or whatever it is should tie in if you have this type of alphabet soup of initials after your name in your contact information.

Professional affiliations should come next and should reflect organizations that you belong to that support the type of work and background that you are looking to highlight.  Examples would include the state, national and local Bar Associations if you are a lawyer along with industry groups that apply to the work that you do.

Technical Skills should highlight the fact that your skills are current and match the requirements of the position you are looking for.  If you are not very well-versed in a certain program, there are ways to improve so that you do not lack confidence on an interview about this.  Go to YouTube and search on whatever the program is. There you can get training videos to help you on you upgrade your skills and your confidence.

Last tips, if you have applicable volunteer experience, I would put it in a Volunteer category. If you sit on the board of a charity, or serve as the head of a committee, this confirms your leadership abilities. Also, do not put “References Furnished Upon Request.”  This is expected and a waste of valuable space.

I hope that I have taken the “scary” out of the resume process by providing you with concepts and tips to help you create the best advertising promo that you can. Here’s to landing your next job!

As always, if you need help with your search, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] or 203-323-9977.

Every success –