A well-crafted professional resume is a key weapon in any job hunter’s arsenal. Prospective employers can readily discern the difference between professional paperwork and slipshod effort. Adept, proper, and strategic presentation of one’s credentials is often the first impression that leads to an introduction or interview.
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What does it take to produce a professional resume that grabs employers’ attention and points an applicant towards employment success?
Try these top ten professional resume writing tips for job-hunting success.
What is a professional resume?
Basically, a professional resume is a passport to a first interview. Without an impressive professional resume, many a job seeker may never be invited inside to meet with prospective employers, where he or she might have had an opportunity to showcase skills and talents and ask for the job.
A professional resume is a short document that highlights an employment applicant’s professional background, experience and education. Usually, the professional resume will include information about the individual’s important abilities and achievements, particularly as these relate to the job he or she seeks.
A glowing professional resume may distinguish one employment candidate from many others, vying for a coveted employment opportunity.
Surprisingly, many employment applicants seem ill informed, when it comes to producing an acceptable professional resume to land that job. Certain items simply must be included in such a document. Here are the top ten must-do’s for professional resumes:
A professional resume must begin with accurate content information.
A professional resume must always list the subject’s full legal name and current mailing address at the very top of the first page. The resume writer must include a current telephone number and email address as well. This information must be spot-on accurate, making it easy for prospective employers to locate and contact the employment applicant, especially during regular business hours.
A professional resume must include important information.
Several blocks of important information will follow this data on the professional resume. In the very least, these will include Professional Experience and Education. Often, employment applicants will include additional sections, as applicable.
The Professional Experience section should state relevant professional internships and employment positions (or job titles) the applicant has held, along with the correct company and division names (with addresses). A simple, straightforward listing of general responsibilities is helpful here. The most dynamic professional resumes list applicants’ achievements and results achieved in each position held.
Generally, professional resumes list positions in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recent job and working backwards.
The Education portion should indicate any earned degrees (including graduation years), academic or technical majors, and the names and addresses of schools attended. A professional resume need not mention high school, unless it is the highest level of education an applicant has completed.
A professional resume must display the employment applicant’s best assets.
Without bordering on cute or contrived, the smartest employment applicants look for ways to show off their best talents, traits and interests on their professional resumes.
Some employment applicants choose to include a Personal Qualities section on their professional resumes. Such a section might highlight career-relevant personal traits, such as leadership, solid work ethic, initiative, willingness to learn, creativity and more.
This section may be considered optional, but it can be a helpful way for a candidate who may still be gaining initial experience and training to beef up his or her professional resume and land that job.
A professional resume must consider organizational matters, such as readability.
All too often, an employment applicant will include far too many words on a professional resume. Full paragraphs should not be used, if bulleted lists can suit the bill.
By employing outlines and lists, job applicants can break up big blocks of type on their professional resumes. Strategic use of empty space actually helps to highlight the contents, while providing room for prospective employers to jot down margin notations.
Prospective employers appreciate brevity. Wordiness does not equal worthiness, especially when it comes to professional resumes.
In addition, professional resumes need not employ excessively advanced vocabulary. An applicant’s use of five-syllable words will not necessarily impress a potential employer. A simple, but straightforward, presentation of the applicant’s credentials is the most important asset of the professional resume.
A professional resume must adhere to acceptable formatting.
Fancy scrolled typefaces have no place on a professional resume. Most successful professional resume writers choose a simple font (such as Arial, Garamond, Times New Roman or Verdana).
Although the headings may be printed slightly larger, the basic text of the professional resume ought to be 11-point or 12-point. This makes the contents inviting, clear and readable to prospective employers.
A professional resume must aim for a polished, but professional, appearance.
Appearances do count, particularly with professional resumes. In today’s competitive workplace, a prospective employer might receive dozens (or even hundreds) of professional resumes for a single job opening.
Savvy employment applicants will consider the value of producing professional resumes on quality paper stock. Wrinkles, smears, stains and other disfiguring marks do not belong on a professional resume.
By all means, a professional resume must be printed on neutral bond paper, such as white, ivory, light tan, or grey. In most cases, black ink should be used. Rarely, a very dark brown, navy or charcoal ink might be chosen, if it coordinates subtly with the paper stock.
A professional resume must stay short and simple.
Human relations pundits perennially debate the page-length question. Must a professional resume be limited to a single page? Generally, for an entry-level job, a single page professional resume ought to suffice. For a middle- to upper-management slot, a two-page resume may be acceptable.
Anything over two pages is considered superfluous. Even if a highly qualified individual seeks a Presidential Cabinet position, his or her professional resume need not exceed two pages.
Prospective employers simply will not read multiple pages, particularly when they must wade through countless candidates’ submissions.
A professional resume must be proofread carefully.
Nothing can disqualify an employment applicant faster, in virtually any career field, than a professional resume filled with grammatical errors and misspelled words. Employment applicants must proofread their professional resumes carefully, using their computers’ spell check programs, reading and re-reading and enlisting the assistance of other capable readers to check for any unspotted mistakes.
A professional resume must include a well-written cover letter.
Because the professional resume is a straightforward document, using no first-person (“I,” “me” or “mine”) or second-person (“you,” “your” or “yours”) pronouns, it is almost universally submitted with an accompanying cover letter.
The cover letter offers the employment applicant an opportunity to demonstrate both creativity and personality, within accepted boundaries. Beginning with a statement of interest in a particular career path or job opening, the cover letter then highlights two to three key features from the professional resume. Finally, the letter asks for an opportunity to interview for the job and indicates when and how the employment applicant will follow up with the letter’s recipient.
A professional resume must have a targeted audience.
Even the most professional resume of all can never be effective, unless it is placed in the proper hands. A bit of research can help an employment applicant determine where potential jobs may exist and to whom he or she ought to direct an inquiry.
When the professional resume is submitted, the accompanying cover letter ought to be addressed to the person who actually has authority to make an offer of employment. Of course, his person’s name must be spelled correctly, and his or her current job title ought to be included.
Far too many employment applicants simply fire off professional resumes to every advertisement in the local newspaper classifieds. Others post their professional resumes somewhat blindly in response to a myriad of online job listings.
Here’s a simple guideline. If an applicant is not even remotely qualified for a position, it is fruitless to apply for the job. In fact, by doing so, that individual may undermine his or her own career credibility.
However, an applicant who does a little digging and discovers specific ways his or her background and experience may benefit a potential employer is much more likely to gain a positive response to an employment inquiry.
A professional resume is the passport to a first interview.
If these ten steps are followed, the employment applicant will be well-equipped to request an employment interview and potentially receive an opportunity to present his or her capabilities and character in person.
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