Your Resume: Key to Success

A resume is a resume is a resume -- right? Not quite! Today's job market is competitive and your resume can be your chance to stand out.

Submitting your resume for review is the initial step in obtaining a new job. Since an employer's review of a resume almost always precedes an interview, it is critical that the information you wish to convey is properly constructed.

When a person is seeking a new employment opportunity, many elements have to be considered. For example, does the job sound challenging or fun? How far is the commute? What about the compensation? Does the company have the kind of reputation and corporate values you can identify with?

However, these important questions should not consume your entire focus.

The immediate goal for any potential applicant should be to obtain an interview for the job in question. How should this objective be accomplished? Traditionally, it will be achieved by carefully preparing a resume or summary of qualifications which outline your related work experience and education.

David Hutchinson is the vice-president of a consulting firm that helps companies meet their staffing requirements. He says it is important to read the job description before sending in your resume.

"Part of it is making sure your resume reflects the type of job you're applying for. Resumes that don't fit the description of the job they're applying for usually get tossed to the side," he says.

If employers do not read the entire resume, what are they looking for? That's simple: as self-taught, speed-reading reviewers, they scan the volumes of resumes for key words and phrases relating to the job description they have before them.

The purpose of a resume is not to get the job, but to get the interview, says Nancy Johnston, a program manager from a university co-operative education department. She leads a self-directed work search program for her students.

Johnston sees resumes, cover letters and interviews as communication tools. You have to frame what you include and how you deliver the information differently, depending on the job.

"We tend to ask, 'What's the purpose? Who's the audience? What are their needs?'" Johnston says. When writing your resume and cover letter, you should answer these questions.

With a resume, the purpose is to get the interview, the audience is the specific employer, and their needs may have been stated in the job description.

You should consider the job interview to be like a locked room and your resume as a key to that room. Before you can enter this room, it must be unlocked. Many keys will be tried; only a few will unlock the door.

A properly crafted resume will serve as the key, allowing your successful passage into the interview process.

Therefore, rule number one is to write a specific resume for each opening you respond to. That is not to say that you cannot use a basic resume and customize it to suit your needs. It does mean that mass mailing a generic resume will not get you the results you are looking for, say industry experts.

Here is a simple checklist of items which can be used as a foundation for creating or improving your resume:

  • Clearly define your objective
  • Provide a summary of qualifications at the top using key words or phrases
  • Use clear concise bullet statements to describe your pertinent experience
  • List all related educational achievements or completed courses, starting with the most recent
  • Offer to provide professional and personal references at the bottom

Since a resume precedes the person who submits it, the applicant must be aware that first impressions begin with the resume, not the new suit or dress being worn at the interview.

"After having written more than 20,000 resumes since 1970, I am convinced that it is truly the resume and covering letter that makes the difference. Take great pains to make yours 'the perfect resume,'" says David Klot, president of a company specializing in resume writing.

There is more than just the resume -- a cover letter is also a must. Once again, a customized cover letter is most preferable. Ideally, it will be addressed to the person who is doing the hiring. This may be either the hiring manager or the head of the human resources department. Try to do some research. This may be as easy as a phone call, to find out to whom you should address the letter.

Using the actual position title, the company name, and making reference to the industry which the company is a part of will send a message to the employer that you are plugged in to what they are doing.

You do not have to look far to understand the importance of being able to write a good resume.

A properly constructed resume will serve as your principal tool for obtaining that all-important interview. It will precede you into the first round of interviews and will follow you through the remainder of the hiring process.

As your skill set, work experience and educational accomplishments expand over time, your resume will need to be revised to keep pace with your ever-increasing skill set. Should you decide to look for a new job or change your career, your resume will be one of the determining factors in achieving success.

Your ability to construct and maintain a meaningful resume should be as important to you as getting that next job.