Five Best Resume Tips

Asperger’s & NLD Career Letter, March, 2016

Earlier this month I participated in the Autism Services & Resources Connecticut annual conference. Following my keynote address, I presented a workshop with information about how to write an effective resume.

Whenever I speak about this topic, I engage a member of the audience to help me unfold 25 resumes that I have taped together. Then I watch the faces of the other participants as they watch several feet of paper unfurl!

My intention is to underscore (in a dramatic way) the importance of a resume that clearly communicates how a job seeker fills an employer’s need. A singe job opening can generate hundreds of resumes from candidates. Even if screening software is used, at some point a human being will look at a stack of resumes and decide who to call for an interview. According to numerous studies, human resources and hiring managers spend about 10 seconds screening a resume.

Whether you are nearing graduation and seeking your first job, or are an experienced worker looking for a new position, here are my five best tips for writing an effective resume.

#1 Include an objective or summary of qualifications. The person reading your resume should understand what you do … immediately. Avoid a vague objective such as, “To obtain employment with a reputable business where I can apply my education and experience to an employer’s benefit.” This says nothing about your skills or the type of position you are looking for.

Make is easy for the employer to know how you will contribute, as in this example: “To apply the knowledge acquired through a bachelor’s degree in marketing and communications and two summer internships at a public relations agency to an entry-level marketing or PR position.”

#2 Edit content to match the job you want now. A resume is a marketing document. Its purpose is to highlight skills and accomplishments that are relevant to the job you are seeking. It is not a review of every task you have performed at every job, or every course you took during college.

In most cases, your resume should be one page, unless you are seeking a more senior role, where two pages are necessary.

Avoid empty phrases and qualifiers. “Was trained in, and performed, the administrator job” is an empty phrase that states the obvious: employees are assumed to be trained to carry out job duties. Qualifiers modify your proficiency in a certain area: “limited experience with;” “some knowledge of.” If you feel the need to qualify a skill, it probably shouldn’t be on your resume.

Whenever possible, include skills used and results achieved. There is a big difference between saying, “operated a cash register,” and, “accurately handled an average of 35 transactions per hour.”

#3 Use plain language. Very formal prose and esoteric words make you seem pompous and unapproachable. Employers want to hire people who work well with others. Can you imagine trying to interact with someone who is, “Seeking heretofore an opportunity so oriented as to incorporate numeric acumen that will ultimately lead to application of more rarefied facets of financial management?!”

#4 Avoid “The Dreaded Disconnect.” Greg’s resume began with the following summary of qualifications: “Experienced researcher and writer of historical biographies. Skilled at utilizing census data, biographical dictionaries, deeds, wills and other archival material to produce richly detailed narratives.” Next, under the heading of Work Experience he listed “Sales Associate, Fashion Rite Clothing.”

Screech! That is the sound of incongruity stopping a reader in his tracks. Greg’s job as a sales associate was not related to writing. He made the mistake of sticking with the common, chronological resume format even though it didn’t work. Greg and I reworked his resume so that Writing Experience was the first heading after his objective. He had written many articles on a volunteer basis for publications and Web sites. His current job at the clothing store was de- emphasized under the heading Other Experience.

#5 Proof read carefully. It is imperative that your resume is free of typographical errors and formatting inconsistencies. Such errors communicate to an employer that you are a careless worker, and will probably disqualify you as a candidate. I have seen many resumes from clients that mention “detail orientation,” yet contain several typo’s! Ideally you will have two or three people review your resume for errors.

Bonus tip. Your email address should be professional, such as your first initial and last name. People sometimes resist this advice, insisting that clever or unusual addresses make them unique. It is fine to use an address such as BikerDude@ for your personal correspondence. But do create a separate email for your job search activities.

Copyright 2016, Barbara Bissonnette, Forward Motion Coaching