Job seekers can write their résumés in so many different ways that they often land with loads of questions. They may wonder if they should use a résumé template, for example, or if they should list volunteer work. Here are some other commonly asked questions from recent graduates to senior-level professionals. The answers can help guide you as you put your résumé together for the first time, update it or simply work to improve it.
1. As a recent college graduate, I'm having trouble filling in my résumé with things employers would care about. What should I include?
As a new graduate, you should list the standard information: name and contact information, education, work, internship and volunteer experience and any professional associations to which you belong. There are pieces you can add to fill out your résumé. In the education section, you may want to include relevant coursework, awards and extracurricular activities. If you've attended seminars or conferences, or if you've written a thesis, include those items, too.
Think about your school years and how your teachers, professors and peers would describe you. It may help to talk to close friends and family to start this thought process. Translate your key skills in bullets describing your activities and experience or in a separate section named, "core competencies."
2. During my college years, I started a student organization, belonged to several clubs and graduated with honors. Should I include that information in my résumé?
These are all outstanding accomplishments, and if you're just starting out after college, include this information. If you graduated several years ago or more, and this extra information is going to push your résumé to more than two pages, delete it. Move those accomplishments to your LinkedIn profile. The only exception to the two-pages-or-less rule is if you're in the academic, scientific or medical field and have a curriculum vitae that's expected to be longer. Applications for overseas jobs and those in the federal government often call for a CV.
3. I feel like my résumé is just a list of my work experience. How can I make it stand out?
Add a tailored career profile at the top, just below your name and contact information. Read the job description closely -- particularly the required qualifications -- and answer how you fit those qualifications in two to three lines. For example, say the posting asks for five or more years of marketing experience, and you've got seven years under your belt. Include a statement like, "Seven years of marketing experience [at start-up firms]."
4. My job title does not totally define what I do every day. How can I make it reflect my work so employers won't gloss over my résumé?
It's not a good idea to alter your job title on your résumé where you list your work experience. A company that wants to give you an offer will likely check in with your past employers. You don't want to cause confusion or have your potential employer decide not to hire you if they detect misinformation.
Showcase that you've done more than what your title suggests in the bullets or career profile that headlines your résumé. Think about using a title ahead of your career profile that encompasses the work you've performed. For example, say you have the title of office manager, but you also contribute to sales and financial management. You could use a title there like, "business development and operations manager."
5. I've worked in the telecommunications industry for many years, and now I'm trying to get into real estate. What do I do?
Search for real estate jobs and titles that you're either interested in or possibly qualified for on Indeed or another job search engine. Read several of these posts, and then take a look through your résumé. What skills do you have, and what tasks have you performed in your telecommunications jobs that are valuable in the real estate industry? Those are the bullets you want to keep when applying to a job in the industry.
You may also want to consider a different résumé style. The most commonly used résumé is a chronological format that lists your jobs and experience in reverse order. A functional résumé can be ideal for a career transition, because it focuses on your skills and accomplishments. Typically, you would list relevant skills and specific examples of how you've demonstrated them in your jobs, and then you'd provide general information about each job below that (company, title, dates and location). Another option is a combined format in which you use elements of both résumé styles.
A relevant résumé that makes you stand out is not easy to write. However, these clues should help you land an entry-level job or transition to a different role. The most important thing is to make it applicable to the job to which you're applying.
As you read a job posting, pay close attention to the required and preferred qualifications. Find the matches between those and your background and skills. If you meet enough of the qualifications, you should apply. But don't leave it to the recruiter or human resources manager to figure out if there's a fit. Do the work for them, and make sure you clearly state why you're a match in the résumé you forward to that organization -- both in your bullets and the career profile.
Marcelle Yeager is the president of Career Valet, which delivers personalized career navigation services. Her goal is to enable people to recognize skills and job possibilities they didn't know they had to make a career change or progress in their current career. She worked for more than 10 years as a strategic communications consultant, including four years overseas. Marcelle holds an MBA from the University of Maryland.
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