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Resume 101

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Last week, I had an interesting conversation with my coworkers about reviewing résumés that were excellent, poorly-written, and even inappropriate, and how important a résumé can be in making a good first impression with an employer. This inspired me to share some lessons for creating and maintaining a professional résumé.

To start: Think like an employer.

What are employers looking for in a résumé?

Employers review dozens, sometimes hundreds, of résumés at once. They are looking for someone who "stands out" from the crowd using information that is accurate, concise, interesting, and professional in a clean, easy-to-read format.

How do you make your résumé stand out in a clean, concise, and professional way? Here are a few tips.

1. Don't forget about the format: This includes fonts, sizes, and spacing. A résumé written in size 18, curly font, doubled-spaced with 2 inch margins may get the attention of an employer, but not in a good way. Use a "standard" font, such as Arial, Calibri, or New Times Roman in a "normal" size, 10, 11, or 12. You want your résumé to be neat and clean. Templates can help you get a start, but should not be copied verbatim. Remember, while you want your résumé to stand out, it should not look like a 2nd grade art project.

2. Watch for typos, spelling errors, and other grammatical issues. Your résumé shouldn't embarrass your 7th grade English teacher (even more so if you want to be an English teacher). Run the spell check. Read your résumé out loud. Have a friend look over it. I can't even begin to share with you how many résumés I've reviewed with common spelling and grammatical errors.

3. Be Professional. Your résumé should not include your photo, funny borders, curse words, glitter and perfume (yes-I have seen résumés accented with glitter and perfume), or informal language such as LOL, TTFN, or BRB.

4. Not all organizations and jobs are the same. Personalizing your résumé and cover letter is a must.

5. Accuracy is important. Don't make things up, stretch the truth, or exclude important facts on your résumé. It is unethical, and you're likely to get caught. For example, millions of people lie on their résumés about graduating from college, but this information can be fact checked with a simple phone call. I was involved in one case with an employee who lied about graduating. These situations are uncomfortable for everyone.

6. Content is important-Use the right words. Many recruiters search résumés looking for key words. For instance, if a school district receives 200 résumés for a specialist position in their HR department, they may do a quick keyword search and pull out résumés with references to HIPPA, COBRA, and FMLA. Review job descriptions, the organization's website, and other resources to identify keywords that can make your résumé stand out.

7. Include enough information, but not too much. Achieving this balance is very difficult. If you have good information, include it. Don't worry about using multiple pages. At the same time, don't fill up your résumé with big flashy terms and fluff. Let the facts speak for themselves.

So, what should you include?
The goal is to demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and abilities though your experiences. Also, make sure to provide any information requested by the employer. This should include education, work history, licenses or certifications, and professional associations and memberships. You should also list relevant technical skills and volunteer experience, as well as personal information, such as your address, phone number, and email. However, make sure your email address is professional (e.g. [email protected]) and not an email like [email protected] that you may have created for fun when you were 15 years old.

8. There is also some information you should NOT include. Your age (this includes your high school graduation year-which can be easily used to determine your age), race, color, sex (including pregnancy, martial or family status), religion, nationality, genetic information, health or physical abilities, and disability are all considered to be protected information by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For this reason, you should never be asked to provide a photo of yourself for a potential employer. Many expert recruiters do not use social media in selection because it includes protected information. I have friends who are recruiters that will throw a résumé away if it includes any protected information regardless of how qualified the applicant may appear.

9. Make yourself standout.
Like I mentioned in a previous blog, Six Things to Remember in Your Job Search, you MUST be memorable. It can be difficult to leave a memorable impression during an interview let alone via a piece of paper.

Remember, everyone has a story. What can set you apart is the ability to share it. For current students and those who will graduate soon, your story isn't your degree. That IS important and should be on your résumé, but make sure to highlight other relevant experiences and accomplishments. Employers want to know that you have something different to bring to the table and that you will fit well into their culture.

There are many great resources providing recommendations about what and what not to include on a résumé. Just remember to check your sources and always have a friend take a look before you hit "send"!


For more information on human resources and talent management practices, tools, articles, and more, follow me on Twitter: @emilydouglasHC

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