Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Write a resume that generates results
Arvind Sharma

YOUR resume itself can get you off to a good or bad start while applying for a job. It will thus be in your interest to use your resume to bring to the prospective employer’s attention the reasons why you are suitable for the job and why you should be called for an interview.

Writing a great resume does not necessarily mean you should follow the rules you hear or read about. It does not have to be one page or follow a specific format. Every resume is a one-of-a-kind marketing communication. It should be appropriate to your situation and do exactly what you want it to do. Instead of a bunch of rules and tips, we are going to cut to the chase in this brief guide and offer you the most basic principles of writing a highly effective resume.

Remember that the application letter is a selling letter; it is a sales letter that sells your services. It must be worded in a very respectful and courteous manner. Specifically, it sells your ability, skills, knowledge, experience, training services and so on.

The good news and the bad

The good extra news is that, with a little effort, you can create a resume that makes you really stand out as a superior candidate for a job you are seeking. Not one resume in a hundred follows the principles that stir the interest of prospective employers. So, even if you face fierce competition, with a well-written resume you should be invited to interview more than many people more qualified than you.

The bad news is that present resume is probably much more inadequate than you now realise. You will have to learn how to think and write in a style that will be completely new to you.

Let’s take a look at the purpose of your resume. Why do you have a resume in the first place? What is it supposed to do for you?

Here’s an imaginary scenario. You apply for a job that seems absolutely perfect for you. You send your resume with a cover letter to the prospective employer. Plenty of other people think the job sounds great too and apply for the job. A few days later, the employer is staring at a pile of several hundred resumes. Several hundred? You ask. Isn’t that an inflated number? Not really. A job offer often attracts between 100 and 1000 resumes these days, so you are facing a great deal of competition.

Back to the imagined situation and the prospective employer staring at the huge stack of resumes: This person isn’t any more excited about going through this pile of dry, boring documents than you would be. But they have to do it, so they dig in. After a few minutes, they are getting sleepy. They are not really focusing any more. Then, they run across your resume. As soon as they start reading it, they perk up. The more they read, the more interested they become.

Most resumes in the pile have only got a quick glance. But yours gets read, from beginning to end. Then, it gets put on top of the tiny pile of resumes that make the first cut. These are the people who will be asked to come for the interview.

Purpose of a resume

The resume is a tool with one specific purpose: to win an interview. If it doesn’t do that, it isn’t an effective resume. A resume is an advertisement, nothing more, nothing less.

A great resume doesn’t just tell them what you have done but makes the same assertion that all good ads do: If you buy this product, you will get these specific, direct benefits. It presents you in the best light. It convinces the employer that you have what it takes to be successful in this new position or career.

It is so pleasing to the eye that the reader is enticed to pick it up and read it. It "whets the appetite", stimulates interest in meeting you and learning more about you. It inspires the prospective employer to pick up the phone and ask you to come in for an interview.

Other possible reasons

  • To pass the employer’s screening process (requisite educational level, number years’ experience, etc), to give basic facts, which might favourably influence the employer (companies worked for, political affiliations, racial minority, etc). To provide contact information: an up-to-date address and a telephone number (a telephone number which will always be answered during business hours).

  • To establish you as a professional person with high standards and excellent writing skills, based on the fact that the resume is so well done (clear, well organised, well-written, well-designed, of the highest professional grades of printing and paper). For persons in the arts, advertising, marketing, or writing professions, the resume can serve as a sample of their skills.

  • To have something to give to potential employers, your job-hunting contacts and professional references, to provide background information, to give out in "informational interviews" with the request for a critique (a concrete creative way to cultivate the support of this new person), to send a contact as an excuse for follow-up contact, and to keep in your briefcase to give to people you meet casually — as another form of "business card".

  • To use as a covering piece or addendum to another form of job application, as part of a grant or contract proposal, as an accompaniment to graduate school or other application.

  • To put in an employer’s personnel files.

  • To help you clarify your direction, qualifications, and strengths, boost your confidence, or to start the process of committing to a job or career change.

What it isn’t

It is a mistake to think of your resume as a history of your past, as a personal statement or as some sort of self-expression. Sure, most of the content of any resume is focused on your job history. But write with the intention to create interest, to persuade the employer to call you. If you write with that goal, your final product will be very different than if you write to inform or catalogue your job history.

Most people write a resume because everyone knows that you have to have one to get a job. They write their resume grudgingly, to fulfil this obligation. Writing the resume is only slightly above filling in income tax forms in the hierarchy of worldly delights. If you realise that a great resume can be your ticket to getting exactly the job you want, you may be able to muster some genuine enthusiasm for creating a real masterpiece, rather than the feeble products most people turn out.