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Secrets of a Selling Resume

Your resume is one of your most important initial job search tools. It is the key to getting an interview and opening the door to the job you want.

By the San Jose State University Career Center

Your resume is your advertisement. It promotes you by highlighting your skills, accomplishments, attributes and key capabilities in clear, concise and compelling statements.

There are varying opinions among professionals as to what constitutes a persuasive resume. Although there is no one right way of creating a resume, there are some key strategies you can follow to effectively communicate your value. Doing so will convince an employer that you can make a contribution to the organization and its goals.

Successful resumes have two key elements:

  • They include an employer-centered objective, which gives them direction.
  • They show evidence that you have the necessary background to do the job.

The Objective

Your objective is a short and realistic statement of interest, and it indicates the type of position you are seeking. It can be a list of functions you wish to perform, or can be a professional title such as "Structural Engineer" or "Software Development Intern" at XYZ Company. Often, the problem with objectives is that they are either too broad or too narrow. To avoid this pitfall, develop a targeted and balanced objective; e.g., "Pursuing a research and development position in chemical engineering." Include the job title and the name of the organization if you know them; e.g., "Seeking a position as an Electronic Systems Design Engineer at The Aerospace Corporation."

You should have a variety of objectives that you can use to tailor your resume. In fact, you'll probably have several different resumes because you'll want to emphasize your skills and experience differently depending on the type of position for which you're applying. Chances are that you have the skills to work in various environments and jobs-there may be multiple industries were you could pursue job opportunities. At some point in your career, you may decide to change fields altogether. The years of work experience you have in an unrelated field can definitely apply to another field.

Skills can easily transfer from one position to the next. For example, if you have worked in retail, your communication and organizational skills are applicable in any number of positions and industries. Highlighting and including transferable skills in your resume is a great way to market your value to a potential employer.

The Body of Your Resume

Your resume should feature information that highlights your qualifications and supports your objective. Provide specific examples of your accomplishments, skills and results.

Organize your resume according to categories or headings that best reflect your level of experience and background. Here are some examples of resume headings:

  • Objective
  • Education
  • Related Course Work
  • Projects
  • Experience
  • Skills
  • Activities
  • Awards/Honors
  • Related Experience
  • Other Employment
  • Military Experience
  • Volunteer Work
  • Community Service
  • Employment Summary
  • Accomplishments
  • Summary of Qualifications
  • Leadership Activities
  • Affiliations
  • Publications
  • Presentations
  • Certification/Licensure

Note that the bold headings on the list are generally the standard choices if you are seeking internship, co-op, summer or entry-level career positions. Refer to the sample resumes on page 36 for specific examples on how to build content within various headings.

Adding Muscle to Your Resume

It is a good idea to get your resume critiqued by a career services professional before you send it to employers. This service is available through nearly every campus career office. Here are some tips recommended by career counselors:

  • Start sentences with "power verbs".
  • Use present tense action words to describe current or in-progress experiences, and past tense action words to describe completed tasks.
  • Include keywords and descriptive words. Keywords may include job titles, specific technical or non-technical skills, personal traits, academic degrees, occupational functions and so on. If specific words and skills are emphasized in the job description, be sure to include them on your resume.
  • Quantify results whenever possible. Be specific in your descriptions. For example, if you helped process efficiency by 15%, state that.
  • Tailor your resume by changing the order of your headings to emphasize or deemphasize different aspects of your education and experience. Position the most relevant information near the top of your resume.
  • Limit your resume to one page. The most powerful and memorable advertisements are 30 seconds long.
  • Create accomplishment statements versus a "laundry list" of tasks. Provide results whenever possible.
  • Avoid resume killers-grammatical, punctuation and typographical errors, and excessive abbreviations.

Electronic Resume Strategies

Many organizations use electronic systems to store and access applicants' resumes. When you forward your resume via snail mail, fax, email or online application/resume template, it will most likely become a part of the organization's electronic resume bank.

At the heart of your electronic resume building strategy are keywords. These commonly used industry-specific terms will help catch the attention of resume screening software programs. To maximize your chances of being selected by the organization's "electronic eye," your resume needs a mix of keywords and skills that match various position requirements included in the employer's database.

Scanner Tips

If you know that a prospective employer will use scanning technology on your hard-copy resume, use the following guidelines:

  • Choose a font that's easy to read and professional looking, such as Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Keep your font size between 11 and 14 points, and don't compress spaces between letters.
  • Use white, standard-sized 81/2ý x 11ý paper printed on one side only.
  • Do not use italic text, script, underlined passages, tab indents or resume templates.
  • Avoid graphics, shading and boxes.
  • If your scan-able resume is longer than one page, place your name as the first readable item on each page.
  • Make everything on the page left-justified.
  • Use ALL CAPS to distinguish your name or section headers.

Tips for Electronic Resume Transmittals

Many organizations specify how they prefer to receive electronic resumes-you should follow those instructions. In other words, if a company requests that applicants paste a resume into an email cover letter, do so. The safest way to send your resume via email is to save it as a plain text document. Do not attach a word-processed version of your resume to an email message-you could unknowingly have a virus on your computer and pass it along to a potential employer. You can, however, save your resume as a PDF and attach it to an emailed cover letter. The PDF format doesn't support viruses. Also, virtually every employer can open a PDF file.

Here are some more tips:

  • Emphasize key items of your resume with asterisks (*) or capital letters instead of bold type, italics or bullets. These elements don't carry over to a text document.

  • Use a series of dashes to separate headings.

  • Keep lines at about 65 characters to avoid line wraps.

Adapted with permission, from San Jose State University's 2005-06 Job & Internship Guide. Copyright 2005 by the San Jose State University Career Center.


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