The right résumé takes time, revisions but is key to finding a job

CorrespondentApril 20, 2013 

  • Tips for making your application work

    Christine Tutor, a consultant at Right Management of Raleigh, often works with job seekers who haven’t written résumés in decades. Here are some of her tips for résumés and cover letters:

    Résumés

    • Check for spelling and grammatical errors.

    • Focus on your most recent work experience; stick with the last 10 to 15 years.

    • Avoid first-person pronouns; it’s understood.

    • Use key words that pertain to the position you want.

    • Highlight the value and benefits you offer prospective employers.

    • Focus on accomplishments. Review letters of recommendation and old job reviews, and interview former peers and former bosses to remind you of past accomplishments.

    • Use the current best practices for résumé writing. Create a brief job-scope statement or paragraph. Set the stage for accomplishments. Include the number of people supervised, annual revenue, sales volume and other facts or figures that show your impact.

    • Use the “CAR” method: highlight challenges, actions and results.

    Cover letters

    Just as one’s résumé should be tailored for a specific type of role rather than a “one-size-fits-all” document that can be submitted for any position, each cover letter should be tailored to the specific job opening.

    • Make certain that the introductory paragraph clearly indicates the type of professional you are and the role for which you are applying. Capture the reader’s attention by briefly highlighting your record of success, focusing on those benefits that will be of most interest to the prospective employer.

    • Make certain your cover letter provides an overview of your most important qualifications, skills, and achievements for the position you are applying for. If you are applying for a role in response to a published job posting, use the job posting as a guide to determine which aspects of your career background and specific qualifications to highlight in the cover letter.

    • Demonstrate the value you can bring to the prospective employer by including a few key career accomplishments in your cover letter. Include those accomplishments that are the most relevant to the prospective employer.

    • If you are familiar with the company, indicate why you are attracted to working there. If you know specific challenges the company or hiring manager is currently facing, describe how you can help resolve those issues.

    • Keep your cover letter short and to the point – ideally no more than one page – and be certain to indicate your interest in an interview.

    Christine Tutor can be reached for résumé consultations at christine@tutorresumes.com She charges $185 for entry-level positions to $350 for executive and management positions.

    Bridgette Lacy

  • Résumé Classes

    Wake Tech’s Human Resources Development department offers several résumé writing workshops.

    •  Jump Start Your Résumé is a 12-hour workshop offered at locations where computers are not available. Students learn the fundamentals of résumé writing, which include content, organization, design and format.

    •  Make Your Résumé Work for You is a seven-hour workshop designed to further assist job seekers with tailoring their résumés to targeted jobs and employers. Students are able to work on creating clear and concise résumé content. The second day of the workshop is spent in a computer lab so that learners leave with customized résumés.

    •  Career Assistance Labs: Students needing additional one-on-one assistance are referred to one of the many labs occurring regularly throughout the county. Some individuals may opt to create several different résumés so they can apply for positions in a variety of fields. The open entry/open exit labs enable job seekers to obtain further help as they apply for various jobs and customize their résumés. These labs are held at local area libraries, churches, Wake Tech campuses and agencies within Wake County.

    •  Get an Edge on the Competition: Electronic Résumé Techniques is the newest résumé writing workshop. The course is geared toward the specifics of electronic résumés. Students learn how to format their résumés so that the text can be transmitted electronically to employers. It also emphasizes keyword selection to generate the highest number of key word hits from résumé-search software.

    These courses are free to those who are unemployed or underemployed. To learn more about any of them, visit www.hrd.waketech.edu

    Bridgette Lacy

Raleigh resident Allison Kenny had more than six versions of her résumé when she took a résumé writing class at Wake Technical Community College.

Kenny, 40, was having a hard time showcasing her varied work experience, including television producer, documentarian, international public speaker and professional dancer, into a cohesive document.

The common mistake many people make is a one-size-fits-all résumé,” says Terri Craig, who teaches “Make Your Résumé Work for You” at Wake Tech and helped Kenny with her résumé.

“Allison was very frustrated that her résumés weren’t getting her any results,” Craig says. “… Once she focused specifically on program management positions and recrafted her résumé, she had immediate results.”

Kenny found a job one week after changing her résumé.

“Nothing really changed but the résumé – not the work experience, not me,” Kenny says. “I made it less intimidating to read. With my old résumé, the person was going to do a lot of work. It would take time to dig through my résumé. I changed it to simple sentences and kept each bullet item on the same line.”

But it took several rewrites to get there.

“I hadn’t written a résumé in eight years,” Kenny says.

Among the many challenges facing the unemployed in recent years have been the changes in job hunting since they last had to look for work. The recession hit experienced workers – many who had climbed up the professional ladder – hard. When they were laid off, they entered a world of online job hunts and Web-based job applications for the first time. Their idea of a proper résumé and what many companies wanted in a résumé were drastically different.

“Résumé writing trends have changed dramatically over the past 20 years,” says Lynn E. Kavcsak, director of human resources development at Wake Tech. In the past, a great deal of personal information was included in the résumé, including marital status, number of children, religious affiliation and leisurely pursuits, she says.

That’s not the case anymore.

“Résumés today focus on the qualifications necessary for the job,” Kavcsak says. “In addition, résumés are normally scanned by software that searches for key words before being read by a hiring manager. As such, it is essential that candidates include specific words and phrases that are relevant to the position for which they are applying.”

Craig says job seekers need to match what the employer is looking for by using the same phrasing as job postings. Employers only take 10 seconds to review the résumé, so you need to grab them with a qualification summary that targets who you are and how you fit into their companies, she says. Then you should support the opening statement with more specifics about your accomplishments in the body of the résumé: Did you bring cost savings to the company? Did you help them win awards? Did you solve problems?

Kenny said Craig taught her that “it’s not about you personally. You have to show them you are a match. It’s not about bragging about your work history, but making it about the employer and how you can improve productivity or make their company shine.”

She also condensed her résumé.

“It was too wordy, several pages,” Kenny said.

She removed some older positions, reduced her bullet points to three instead of eight to 10. She then focused her skills to reflect those most prominent in the job descriptions.

Tanja Bean, 45, who had been laid off from her position as a grant manager, also noticed a different response from employers after she revised her résumé during Craig’s class. Bean is still searching for a job, but now she’s getting more calls to come back for interviews. She credits that to describing her skills so they are a perfect match for the job posting.

She also added a quick snapshot of accomplishments ahead of a chronological listing of her previous positions.

“I don’t have a lot of time to grab someone’s attention,” she says.

Bean also streamlined her work experience and beefed up the verbiage on the most recent position. Her résumé is still two pages long, but it covers more ground, such as additional education, certifications, additional skills and related volunteer work.

Once you have your foundation résumé complete, you still may have to tweak it to create a tighter match for the position you’re applying for, Craig says. You aren’t done until you have a job. And until then, you are one in a stack of hundreds of résumés.

“Everyone looks the same on an 81/2-by-11-inch piece of paper,” she says. “You want to make your résumé stand out.”

Lacy can be reached at RIFworker@gmail.com, or follow on Twitter @RIFworker

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