Creating a Résumé from Scratch

Dear, Anita,

Recent graduate here. I have filled out job applications in the past but I’ve never had to create a résumé before, and I don’t know where to start. It seems intimidating. Can you point me in the right direction?

Dear, Résumé Newbie,

Person Holding ResumeAccording to Dictionary.com, a résumé is a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience… prepared by an applicant for a job. With your recent school report-writing experience, this should be a snap. Think you don’t have enough to fill a page? C’mon, I’m sure you learned to stretch your thoughts to get to the word requirement for all those English essays.

I think Dictionary.com has the order backwards, though. If you have had any work experience at all, lead with that, followed by your education, with personal details at the bottom.

For your employment history, list the company name, date range of employment, and your job duties and responsibilities. Include summer jobs, babysitting gigs, stints as camp counselor, unpaid internships and yes, working in a family business even if paid only with your room and board.

What to do if you have absolutely zero employment history and are looking for your very first job? Beef up the education areas and mention classes that relate to your desired field (include grades, if they are stellar), outline any projects or reports that may be relevant, as well as any useful skills that you picked up along the way.  In fact, if you are particularly tech-savvy, break out “Computer Skills” as a subhead and list the programs in which you are well-versed.

Woman holding resume for a job interviewYou can bulk up a beginner’s résumé with personal information, such as skills, clubs, interests, awards, and community service. See my “Including Volunteer Work in Your Resume” post for more tips along these lines.

Another section to consider adding is References. “References upon request” is often seen on the bottom of jam-packed résumés, but for those without a “grip” of employment history, including the name and contact information for past teachers, bosses, church elders, or family friends who will give a glowing testimonial about your character is worth the space.

As for the format, keep it simple. Tempting as it may be to pimp out your résumé with a graphics program, many companies and job search sites such as Monster.com may require you to submit your résumé as a Word document. Word has dozens of résumé templates that you may download to give you a clean, professional look.

If you find you are not having success landing interviews, consider a professional résumé writing service such as CareerPerfect that can polish your rhinestone in the rough.

Readers: Readers, remember your first résumé? Did you learn anything about résumé-writing that can help our recent graduate?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Résumé Failures and Faux Pas

Good Morning, Readers!

Ever wonder if your résumé is up to the tough challenges of the current job market? With a large amount of top talent, like you, on the hunt for a new career, people are beginning to get a little creative with their résumés and cover letters to spark excitement.

While some spunk may grab the attention of the hiring manager, others are a downright no-go. Today, I couldn’t resist sharing a very interesting and rather baffling CareerBuilder survey I found called “Common and Not-So-Common Resume Mistakes That Can Cost You the Job.” Here are the unforgiveable blunders they discovered:iStock_000018568936Large

  • Résumé was submitted from a person the company just fired
  • Résumé’s “Skills” section was spelled “Skelze”
  • Résumé listed the candidate’s objective as “To work for someone who is not an alcoholic with three DUIs like my current employer”
  • Résumé included language typically seen in text messages (e.g., no capitalization and use of shortcuts like “u”)
  • Résumé consisted of one (run-on) sentence: “Hire me, I’m awesome”
  • Résumé listed the candidate’s online video gaming experience leading warrior “clans,” suggesting this passed for leadership experience
  • Résumé included pictures of the candidate from baby photos to adulthood
  • Résumé was written in Klingon language from Star Trek
  • Résumé was a music video
  • Résumé didn’t include the candidate’s name
  • On the job application, where it asks for your job title with a previous employer, the applicant wrote “Mr.”
  • Résumé included time spent in jail for assaulting a former boss

Do your résumés have any of these formidable faux pas? If so, time to do a serious round of editing to get it up to snuff! Take a look at my post, Reasons for No Résumé Responses, for more helpful hints.

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

Reasons for No Résumé Responses

A reader writes…

Anita,

I am desperately seeking a job and I feel as though I am sending out résumés left and right with no response. I have experience in a variety of fields and have been stretching the boundaries just to find some type of employment. What am I doing wrong?

Hi, Craving Call-backs,

Thanks for the question. I have a feeling many of you out there are experiencing this problem in your job search. With the lagging economy, fewer employers are actively hiring large numbers of people and the competition for those jobs is much steeper.Keyboard Bite

I have come up with a list of 8 reasons why you may not be getting the “we must hire them” response. Check them out below.

1. Applying for a job you are not qualified for. Many of you are looking to find any job available and have tried applying to jobs for which you do not meet the minimum requirements. It seems like it is worth a shot, right? Wrong. Unbeknownst to the masses, job descriptions do serve a higher purpose than just putting some text out hoping to hook a few applicants. They clearly spell out the necessary skills, training, education, duties, and responsibilities of the job. If a company is looking for a person with 5-7 years’ experience in the automotive sales industry and you have 2 years of sales experience and love cars, odds are you won’t get the call-back. It’s better not to waste your time or theirs by submitting your résumé. See my advice on when to go for it and when to forgo it in my blog  Applying for a Job When Not 100% Qualified.

2. Generic cover letter and résumés. Employers are well aware of job seekers that work on autopilot, distributing the same résumé whenever they feel even the slightest pulse. Before you send out a résumé or cover letter, take the time to tailor it to the job you are applying for. For a full list of tips on how to do this visit my post How to Tailor Your Résumé. As for cover letters, do your research and include the hiring manager’s name, company name, and business address, even when it is an email. If you need more pointers, see my other post called Covering the Cover Letter. Remember, it is the little things that get you noticed.

3. Generic job title. As we have seen in the previous section, generic is not the way to go. It can come off as lazy or disinterested. If the job description says they are looking for the Director of First Impressions (or receptionist, in layman’s terms), by all means put that as the job you are striving to obtain!

4. You don’t live there. If you are looking for a job in a city other than where you reside, you will most likely be pushed to the wayside. Employers do not want to pay for relocation and do not want to interview a candidate they know Lost in the Pileis not in the area. If you have friends or family who live near the job location, use their address on your résumé. Check out my post Landing a Job Long Distance for more advice.

5. Keywords in job description not included. With the large influx of résumés coming in for advertised positions, many companies do not have the time to read them all. It is common practice now to feed résumés through software programs that pick up keywords that apply to that position. If you do not reach the set number of keywords necessary to move to the next round, your résumé will be discarded. A great way to lower your chances of this happening is to skim the job description and include as many keywords as you can without being grammatically incorrect or overly obvious. See ATS 101: Demystifying Applicant Tracking Systems.

6. Didn’t follow instructions. Be sure to read the job description very carefully. Some employers have very strict standards and procedures on how they accept applications, résumés, and other materials. If they request that you send your résumé in Word and you send them a PDF, right off the bat, you have shown you cannot follow directions. Who wants a person like that as an employee? If they require that you submit three references and you submit two, odds are that you will be rejected before you can say “hire me.” By the way, this includes salary requirements. I know it seems you’ll be pricing yourself too low or too high, but there are ways to give a number and then indicate you’re flexible.

7. Focused on duties, not accomplishments. Employers want to see what you have accomplished, not what you did on a daily basis. Accomplishments show drive, ambition, productivity, and more. List actions that you can take credit for. Try to use words like managed, implemented, developed, applied, created, etc.

8. Typos in résumés. Punctuation problems, misspelled words, and goofed-up grammar force many employers to slam on their brakes. With computers, spell-check, and (I know I will sound old here) plenty of dictionaries, there is almost no excuse for you to have grammatical errors and typos in your résumé. Do not always trust spell-check; go through the entire document from bottom to top and read every word. Proofread it over and over again and ask for feedback from professionals you trust. If you notice a typo after the fact, do not send a corrected version, but definitely fix your résumé before sending it out to the next opening.  Be sure to check for these common mistakes I find all the time:

  • Is the correct word there, their, or they’re? It’s or its? Where or wear? Figure it out, and be right!
  • Bulleted items should only end in a period if they are complete sentences.
  • Jobs, activities, and accomplishments you have had in the past are in past tense. Those that are current are in the present tense (manage vs. managed, raise vs. raised, negotiates vs. negotiated).

I hope with these tips you can begin to see the résumé response from employers you are looking for. It is also important to remember that recruiters and employers are swamped with job inquiries. Give it about 1-2 weeks before following up with that prospect or putting that position behind you. Keep your chin up and your attitude positive!

Readers, have you had trouble getting résumé responses from potential employers? What have you found to be the best trick to get the call-backs rolling in?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Happy Hunting,

Anita

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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