Do It Yourself Guide To Job Resumes

You might see a hurdle to leap over. Or a hoop to jump through. Or a barrier to knock down. That is how many people think of resumes, application forms, cover letters, and interviews. But you do not have to think of them that way. They are not ways to keep you from a job; they are ways for you to show an employer what you know and what you can do. After all, you are going to get a job. It is just a question of which one.

Employers want to hire people who can do the job. To learn who these people are, they use resumes, application forms, written tests, performance tests, medical examinations, and interviews. You can use each of these different evaluation procedures to your advantage. You might not be able to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but at least you can show what a good ear you have.

Creating Effective Resumes and Application Forms

Resumes and application forms are two ways to achieve the same goal: To give the employer written evidence of your qualifications. When creating a resume or completing an application form, you need two different kinds of information: Facts about yourself and facts about the job you want. With this information in hand, you can present the facts about yourself in terms of the job. You have more freedom with a resume, you can put your best points first and avoid blanks. But, even on application forms, you can describe your qualifications in terms of the job's duties. Know thyself. Begin by assembling information about yourself. Some items appear on virtually every resume or application form, including the following:

  • Current address and phone number - if you are rarely at home during business hours, try to give the phone number of a friend or relative who will take messages for you.
  • Job sought or career goal.
  • Experience (paid and volunteer) - date of employment, name and full address of the employer, job title, starting and finishing salary, and reason for leaving (moving, returning to school, and seeking a better position are among the readily accepted reasons).
  • Education - the school's name, the city in which it is located, the years you attended it, the diploma or certificate you earned, and the course of studies you pursued.
  • Other qualifications - hobbies, organizations you belong to, honors you have received, and leadership positions you have held.
  • Office machines, tools, and equipment you have used and skills that you possess.

Other information, such as your Social Security number, is often asked for on application forms but is rarely presented on resumes. Application forms might also ask for a record of past addresses and for information that you would rather not reveal, such as a record of convictions. If asked for such information, you must be honest. Honesty does not, however, require that you reveal disabilities that do not affect your overall qualifications for a job. Check out lots of free resume samples on

Know Thy Job.

Next, gather specific information about the jobs you are applying for. You need to know the pay range (so you can make their top your bottom ), education and experience usually required, hours and shifts usually worked. Most importantly, you need to know the job duties (so that you can describe your experience in terms. of those duties). Study the job description. Some job announcements, especially those issued by a government, even have a checklist that assigns a numerical weight to different qualifications so that you can be certain as to which is the most important; looking at such announcements will give you an idea of what employers look for even if you do not wish to apply for a government job. If the announcement or ad is vague, call the employer to learn what is sought.

Once you have the information you need, you can prepare a resume. You may need to prepare more than one master resume if you are going to look for different kinds of jobs. Otherwise, your resume will not fit the job you seek.

Two Kinds of Resumes.

The way you arrange your resume depends on how well your experience seems to prepare you for the position you want. Basically, you can either describe your most recent job first and work backwards (reverse chronology) or group similar skills together. No matter which format you use, the following advice applies generally.

  • Use specifics. A vague description of your duties will make only a vague impression.
  • Identify accomplishments. If you headed a project, improved productivity, reduced costs, increased membership, or achieved some other goal, say so.
  • Type your resume, using a standard typeface. (Printed resumes are becoming more common, but employers do not indicate a preference for them.)
  • Keep the length down to two pages at the most.
  • Remember your mother's advice not to say anything if you cannot say something nice. Leave all embarrassing or negative information off the resume, but be ready to deal with it in a positive fashion at the interview.
  • Proofread the master copy carefully.
  • Have someone else proofread the master copy carefully.
  • Have a third person proofread the master copy carefully.
  • Use the best quality photocopying machine and good white or off-white paper.

The following information appears on almost every resume:

  • Name.
  • Phone number at which you can be reached or receive messages.
  • Address.
  • Job or career sought.
  • References - often just a statement that references are available suffices. If your references are likely to be known by the person who reads the resume, however, their names are worth listing.
  • Experience.
  • Education.
  • Special talents.
  • Personal information--height, weight, marital status, physical condition. Although this information appears on virtually every sample resume I have ever seen, it is not important according to recruiters. In fact, employers are prohibited by law from asking for some of it. If some of this information is directly job related, the height and weight of a bouncer is important to a disco owner, for example, list it. Otherwise, save space and put in more information about your skills.

Reverse chronology is the easiest method to use. It is also the least effective because it makes when you did something more important than what you can do. It is an especially poor format if you have gaps in your work history, if the job you seek is very different from the job you currently hold, or if you are just entering the job market. About the only time you would want to use such a resume is when you have progressed up a clearly defined career ladder and want to move up a rung.

Resumes that are not chronological may be called functional, analytical, skill oriented, creative, or some other name. The differences are less important than the similarity, which is that all stress what you can do. The advantage to a potential employer and, therefore, to your job campaign should be obvious. The employer can see immediately how you will fit the job. This format also has advantages for many job hunters because it camouflages gaps in paid employment and avoids giving prominence to irrelevant jobs. You begin writing a functional resume by determining the skills the employer is looking for. Again, study the job description for this information. Next, review your experience and education to see when you demonstrated the ability sought. Then prepare the resume itself, putting first the information that relates most obviously to the job. The result will be a resume with headings such as "Engineering," "Computer Languages," "Communications Skills," or "Design Experience." These headings will have much more impact than the dates that you would use on a chronological resume.