Frankenoid just posted a diary with some good resume tips (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/1/5/16508/01959/920/680480). Here are some very general thoughts about resumes, based upon 10 years of big corporate HR experience, 15 years consulting, and acting as partner in an executive search firm:
- Label a resume file firstname lastname resume.doc. You may have 10 different versions of your resume, but the swamped recruiter only cares about the one you send. Your name and "resume" will help them find it if they are disorganized but remember your name.
- Choose one readable font (at least 10 point). There are few things worse than having to acknowledge that you can't read the fine print without glasses.
- Instead of an "objective" write a "summary" of no more than 3 lines.
Objectives are focused, which is good, but may not be a match for the job (recruiter says, "wow, this person is great - too bad their objective doesn't quite fit our job."), may be just one of many objectives that you'd be comfortable with (if you've sent your resume into two different jobs with different objectives, doesn't that say you are actually flexible about your objective?) and may not be appropriate given your experience ("my objective is to be CEO of GE. I have my AA degree and one year of experience (manager at Subway)).
The "Summary" statement should be distinctive, reflecting your uniqueness, and realistic enough that you can relate a few true stories that support your summary claims. Think about special accomplishments (achievements that made you feel really good), or times when others thanked you for doing a good job. What did you do that was surprising or unexpected or "above and beyond"? Do you have competing qualities that can be expressed in combination ("organized rule-breaker", "detail-oriented big-picture thinker", "thinking conservative"). Such phrases might help the recruiter remember you - if they are both clever and accurate.
The keys to a successful summary statement are: short (3 lines), distinctive/memorable, and true.
- Use a standard format. Recruiters have trouble with unusual formats when they have hundreds of resumes to review. If you make it harder for them, it may just fall out of the "possible" pile. Stick to a chronological or functional resume if you can - other formats are a last resort. Elements include: Contact information block, summary, experience, education, (optional - community involvement).
- Remember that your resume is there to sell you. It is not a comprehensive life or employment history. It should tell specific stories about things you did to help your employer (or meet your own goals). Interviewers trained in "behavioral interviewing" will want to know what the situation was, how you responded (action) and what was the result. Using this framework (Situation, Action, Result) for writing about your key accomplishments will help prepare you for an interview - and will also be a very powerful way to present your contributions to a recruiter. It shows that you are speaking based on real experiences, and that you care about results. Both things are appealing to recruiters, and will help make you memorable.
When you stay away from generalities and descriptions of duties, your resume will be more believable. Compare these statements: "did payroll data entry," and "improved employee morale by reducing payroll errors through rapid and error-free data entry." They tell different things about the writer. In the latter case, I'd think the writer knew that data entry was important - it was tied to business success in a tangible way. In contrast, the former description shows a lack of interest and commitment to the bigger goals. Who would you rather hire?
- The resume is a sample of your behavior - just like an interview. It is filled with "non-verbal" information. Format, grammatical errors, spelling, the way you describe situations and jobs. All says something about who you are. You can shape that by choosing to look at the bigger picture of who you are and what you did. Writing a resume can be really fulfilling when you take the time to think about the bigger meaning of who you are and what your work contributed.
- Your resume is important - fix all the formatting, grammatical and spelling errors. Rewrite your duties in the context of Situation, Action and Results. Have someone who loves you read it. Don't sell yourself short in the summary. But don't labor over it excessively. To get a job, you need to network, network, network.
UPDATE: Good comments below. What is "standard" does vary by industry, level of job and expected experience. No-one expects a senior executive or even a middle manager to have a one page resume. It's not always true that "shorter is better." Using Linkedin and other networking sites is another demonstration of one's competence....