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by R. Karl Hebenstreit | March 10, 2009

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An important part of self-presentation (in addition to the "elevator speech" discussed in October's article) is your resume, which will have to speak for you when you are not present to market yourself.

Many people think that the chronological resume is the best way to go, but that is not true in all cases. It can be particularly detrimental if you are attempting to get started in a new field or change career paths and do not have the relevant experience to show.

In both functional and chronological resume styles, a job-seeker presents:

  • Her name, address, telephone and e-mail contact information.
  • An Objective (if she's starting out or changing fields) or Summary (if she's experienced and looking to progress to the next level). This is usually about one sentence long.
  • Education/certifications, which should be listed right after the objective if recently attained or following the work experience section if the job seeker possesses relevant work experience. Dates are sometimes not advised as they may hint at your age. Those dates will be asked for on the employment application, anyway.

At this point, the resume can take one of two paths:

Chronological:

  • Under the heading of "Work Experience," list your current or most recent employer along with the location of the job and the dates worked. Below this header, start each bulleted results-oriented job accomplishment statement with an action verb. State quantifiable results as much as possible, for example, reduced turnover by 30 percent, increased revenue by $5,000,000, etc.
  • List other employers in reverse chronological order, along with the location, dates, and the results accomplished in each position.

~Functional:

  • Determine the three to five "Key Competencies" required for the successful performance of the job you're seeking, e.g. project management, supervisory skills, negotiation skills, etc. You can get these from job descriptions posted on various job posting web sites such as Vault.com's Job Board.
  • For each of these key competencies, provide three to five bulleted accomplishment statements (remember that they should still be results-oriented and not task-focused) from your work, school, family, or community experience, that reveal your mastery of that area. Skills are transferable, and you can easily show how the knowledge you have acquired in one segment of your past can apply to the new situation.
  • Create a section called "Employment History" in which you list the name of each company for which you worked, location, job title (there's usually some creative license afforded here), and your dates of employment.

In both resume styles, you may now choose to list any "Awards and Accomplishments" that are job- or career-relevant. Close with a statement along the lines of "References available upon request." There's no need to provide this information up-front, but do have a separate sheet printed out and ready with at least three references (name, business name, title, telephone number), as you may be asked to provide it. Your references should come from professional associates or prior supervisors but can also include community leaders, professors, etc. who know you and your work style and ethic. It's a good idea to let all your references know if you've given out their contact information for a particular job in case they get called. That way they're not caught off-guard and will have a framework from which to speak to the recruiter or hiring manager about you.

Remember NEVER to list personal information such as hobbies, marriage status, personal characteristics (age, weight, height, children), religious affiliation, sexual orientation, etc. All of these are (or should be) irrelevant to the qualifications needed for the successful performance of the prospective job and may result in discrimination (if not overt, then possibly subconscious).

Furthermore, if you are e-mailing your resume, it's a better idea to send a text version of it in the body of the e-mail rather than as an attachment that may contain a virus or may not be able to be opened by different software. A text resume also offers a greater probability that the resume will be picked up in a database search, due to scanning techniques. You can always bring the pretty, formatted version to the interview.

As long as you are honest, clear, and concise and insure that all of the information on your resume is accurate and job-relevant, you should feel comfortable that you have put your best foot forward.

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