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A good resume versus a great resume

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How to make a great resume

In today's tough market, it is hard enough to land a job -- let alone imagine and launch the career of your dreams. The problem is that while people are scrambling for success, they don't take the time to figure out what job is the right fit or what their true calling is. The Play of Your Life author Colleen Sabatino helps yet you started on the right foot, right here, with a great resume.

What makes a resume great?

There are clear differences between a good resume and a great resume.

  • A good resume is a glorified application. This type of resume explains to the hiring manager the following information in this order: dates of employment, companies, titles held, and job functions. It concludes with when and where you received your education. It is good because the hiring manager can get a clear summation of your past experience and education.
  • A great resume is a marketing brochure. This resume highlights the scope and depth of your experience. It describes the expertise you have developed throughout your career that relates to your future employer's needs. A great resume communicates a compelling reason for the prospective employer to need and want your services.

Good resumes identify where you went to school, the jobs you have had, and your responsibility in those jobs. Great resumes extract the relevant accomplishments from your past experiences and highlight them. This prompts the interviewer to ask about them with the future in mind.

Great resumes also pave the way for great interviews. A well-crafted resume will prompt the interviewer to target specific areas that are most relevant to the open position. A resume that lists everything you have ever done requires you to be prepared to talk about all these things in an interview. It is difficult to prepare for such an extensive interview and can lead the interview astray.

Create a great resume

Once you have adopted a future-focused orientation, you are ready to create your resume. The presentation of your information, the layout, and the language you use to communicate value are extremely important. There are only two things you can be sure a hiring manager will do when reviewing your resume: (1) Hiring managers will begin reviewing a resume by starting at the top, and they will read the lines from left to right. (2) Their first impression will have the greatest impact and will influence how they perceive you. It creates the lens through which all other information is filtered.

Based on these principles, it is essential that the most relevant, important information be presented at the top and along the left side of your resume. The least important information should be at the bottom and along the right side.

Resume format

In order to transform your resume from a good resume to a great resume, concentrate on using your layout and language most effectively. Here's how.

1Headings

The main heading is where you provide contact information for the hiring managers. Your main heading lets them know who you are and where you can be reached. This section should be designed like a professional letterhead. Resumes are formal documents, so you should not use abbreviations here.

Example:

Fran C. Smith

1153 Terry Avenue - Atlanta, Georgia 30306 - francsmith@aol.com - 404-555-1234

The main heading highlights your name and provides the contact information on one line, followed by a divider line. This format saves space that can be dedicated to communicating more of your strengths. Notice that it is not necessary to label the phone number or e-mail address; these items are understood. Be as concise as possible.

Use the same heading on your references page, cover letters, and thank-you letters. By creating a professional-looking letterhead, you offer a consistent image to the hiring manager. It also allows the hiring manager to quickly access your contact information on every document.

Section headings are titles you assign to different areas of your resume. For example, your employment section will have one heading. Your education and community activities sections will have their own headings.

Section headings are extremely important. A section name influences how the hiring manager perceives the information within the heading. If you use an objective statement as your first section heading, you communicate your needs to the hiring manager. You are saying to the hiring manager, "My objective is to get a job."

2Summary of qualifications

If your first section is a summary of qualifications, your section heading communicates the value you offer the hiring manager. You focus the reader on the ways you will meet the company's needs. This heading also tells the hiring manager you are indeed "qualified" for the position. You summarize the qualifications that will be explained in detail in the remainder of the resume.

A summary of qualifications should be confined to three high-impact statements.

  • The first statement should highlight your years of experience in the profession and industry.
  • The second statement should identify the areas of expertise you want to emphasize.
  • The third statement should identify personal attributes that are important to the role and company.

Example:

Summary of Qualifications

Offers more than 10 years of progressive advancement in the manufacturing industry, serving as an operations executive. Demonstrates a proven record of success in leading as many as 250 associates, streamlining business processes, and managing multiple projects delivered on time and within budget. Possesses exceptional communication skills and the ability to develop high-performance teams.

While "Summary of Qualifications" is the best section heading to begin your resume, there are several exceptions to the rule. If you fall into one of these exceptions, then you need to consider beginning your resume with an objective statement.

Exception 1: Clarity. If you are making a transition by applying for a position that diverges from your past experience, an objective statement is needed, since your skills are not an obvious or solid match for the position. Use the objective statement to clarify your interest in the position and show that your skills are transferable.

Exception 2: Intent. If you do not use a cover letter to introduce your purpose in sending the resume, an objective statement is appropriate. The objective statement communicates the purpose of your resume. In this circumstance, the objective should be very direct and specific to the prospective company and position.

Up next: More resume tips >>

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