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Resume writing not as easy as it once was

By: Art Garcia
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If you’ve been swept up in this economy's rash of worker layoffs and cutbacks, you probably have a current resume ready to fire at the first sign of a job opening. If you don’t, you should. But do you know how to play the new resume game, one refereed primarily by computers and readers and ruled by “key words” and proper formats? A chronological listing of jobs, positions, titles and duties won’t do in today’s “scientific” approach to resume reviews. In normal times, human resources departments, other company hiring executives and recruiters have no shortage of resumes to look over. In economic hard times like today, they’re swamped. So how are you going to make your resume pop out of the pile and catch someone’s eyes? First, be sure your employment history is arranged in reverse chronological order, i.e., list your most recent job first, citing titles, employers, city/state and dates, in month/year to month/year format, advises Deb Boogaard of Tailored Resume Services in Folsom. List all computer skills, including software and editing systems. “Rather than say ‘Microsoft Office’ and/or ‘Desktop Publishing,’ all software should be listed by name, for example Word, Excel, PowerPoint, FrontPage, Adobe Photoshop (and) Dreamweaver,” she added. Objective/Profile. “Your resume must include a specific and clear objective, although I typically refer to this section as a ‘Profile.’ This statement must be tailored as necessary for each job/company applied for and including a few bullet points of expertise that qualify you for the job,” said Boogaard, who earned a master’s degree in vocational counseling from Southern Illinois University. She also was assistant director/career counselor at the San Jose State University Career Planning and Placement Center. “Absence of an objective or use of a vague/generic objective screams ‘I don’t know what I want to do.’ You will hear some advice that suggests you omit the ‘Objective;’ that’s because most objectives are written so poorly and offer nothing meaningful to employers,” she said. “It is not the employer’s responsibility to figure out what job is a good match for you.”  An employer may skim through 100 or more resumes in an hour, spending only 20-30 seconds on each one. Large organizations scan resumes into their computer and when needed, retrieve them by using key words included in the resume, such as budget development, building or expanding a department or division — anything related to helping the company grow new business and/or profits. About a third of the 70 recruiters at a recent CareerBuilder.com workshop said they do not read cover letters. They would get a strong argument from Boogaard. “Resumes should always be accompanied by a cover letter unless you are presenting the resume in person,” she said, noting that cover letters should: • Whenever possible be addressed to a name. You may have to do some research to figure out the recipient, but it is time worth spent. If you cannot get a name, address the letter to a title (e.g., “Dear Sales Manager”). Never use “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir.” • If requested to submit your documents to HR, also try to get a resume and cover letter in the hands of the person with the power to hire you; again, this may require a little homework. • Cover letters should be marketing-oriented documents that motivate employers to want to read your resume. They should be three to four paragraphs in length. • Tailor every letter to include the job title and name of the company, and to address specific qualifications mentioned in the employment advertisement. Don’ts: • Don’t call attention to shortcomings. • Don’t end by saying, “If you think I’m qualified.” • Don’t wait for the employer to call you; indicate that you will follow up with the employer and then do so. • Don’t go over one page for your cover letter.