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Why write a resume?

If you’re like most people, you have two main thoughts about resumes: 1) they don’t predict how well you’ll do on a job; and 2) you detest writing them.  If you share these sentiments, join the club.  I’ve worked with hundreds of candidates, and most agree resumes are unreliable, out-of-date, and agony to write.

If resumes don’t work, why do we still use them?

Tradition. Pure and simple.  We continue to use resumes because people are familiar with them.   Hopefully, this will change.  Given the potential of new media, all kinds of exciting formats could replace resumes.  Think about it. Wouldn’t videos, audios, photographs, and online publications better express who we are and what we can do (not to mention being more fun to produce)?

The trouble is, we’re not there yet.  A general movement toward replacing resumes, though developing in some places, has been stalled by today’s economy.  For each open position, applicants are many, competition is fierce, and it’s hard getting recruiters to read past the first page of a resume.  Unfortunately, asking them to review something more complex would probably backfire. And what savvy candidate wants to take that risk?

So there you have it. You need to write a resume that will work in today’s market.  But how? Where do you start?

Not so fast . . .

I’ll spell out the details in later postings, but first I want to share some general but critical thoughts.  Keep the following points in mind as you develop your resume.

1. The purpose of a resume is to get an invitation to meet with someone in person.

Your first reader will probably be someone other than the hiring manager.  Your #1 goal is to engage that person so he or she will lobby to get you an interview.  Keep this individual in mind as you make each writing decision. From what font to use to what achievements to include.

2. Your resume is not about you – it’s about the employer.

True, the document describes your work, but it should list only those parts that will excite a perspective employer.  Be a tough editor.  If a training you conducted at XYZ Corp has nothing to do with what ABC Corp wants, don’t include it.  You’re crafting your resume for the reader’s need to visualize you in the job, not for your need to look cool.

3. Your resume is not a statement about your past – it’s a statement about your future.

Again, be selective.  Include skills and abilities the employer is looking for, but only if you want to keep using them in the future.  Your resume is a statement of what you offer. It’s not a document about what you’ve done but aren’t willing to continue.  Include the skills you’d list in a Yellow Pages ad.

4. Scrutinize the job description, then repeat some phrases and paraphrase others.

The tone of your resume needs to demonstrate you’d fit in.  But achieving this is tricky.  On one hand, you want to use some of the employer’s exact words so your resume will bypass electronic scanners designed to weed out applicants.  On the other hand, you don’t want it to duplicate what’s posted online.  Find a good balance. Select and use certain words that appear the job description and paraphrase the rest.  You want your resume to demonstrate not only that you know the language, but also that you’d add value.

Review the italicized points above.  Internalize them.  They can keep you on track as you write your resume.  They will also help you ace the interviews you land.

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