The Truth About Resumes
Most college students utter an audible grunt the first time the "resume reality" hits them: "Uugghhh. I gotta do that resume thing." The tendency is to wait until the last minute, then crank out the basics just so you can go on to the next step. But if you properly understand what the resume is and where it fits into the entry level hiring process, you will see that it requires a great deal more thought and preparation than just "cranking it out."
Many Hiring Managers will contend that they take as little as three seconds to review a resume. What they really mean is that the minimum amount of time is three seconds. Successful resumes will be reviewed much longer. The key is to capture and hold an audience long enough to accomplish your specific purpose. And that purpose is to get to the next step in the process--the interview. But don't ever believe that the resume alone will score the interview. Or the job. The truth about resumes is that they are very limited. The resume will not find the interview for you. The resume will not find the job for you. The resume is not your job search. But it can provide you with the starting point for your job search. If you can't sell yourself on paper, you probably won't be able to sell yourself in person.
From the perspective of the hiring company, your resume is your initial marketing brochure. Period. Nothing more and nothing less. Once you start looking at the resume from a marketing perspective, you will be on your way to a more effective resume. It cannot "make the sale" any more than a marketing brochure can sell you a car--there still has to be the test drive, a look under the hood, a chance to kick the tires, etc. But if the marketing brochure is effective, you have already been pre-sold on the car before you arrive in the showroom. Same for resumes.
Your resume is a professional reflection of you as the potential product. Professional resume, professional product. Sloppy resume, sloppy product. Take the time to develop your resume as the very best reflection of you.
Most resume books tell you that, as the first step, you should "take a piece of paper and begin listing all your positive attributes" or something to that effect. Why? I thought you wanted to write a resume? If you want to develop an exhaustive list of all your positive attributes, go ask your mother--moms are great in the "positive attributes in spite of all else" category. This practice in "positive attribute development" futility might be okay for little Johnny who is about to graduate from high school and wants to figure out what he wants to do with his life, but hey--are we not college students? Why don't we take that quantum leap and just start putting together the actual information on disk in resume format where it can be used?
Successful resumes generate information as they are created. Think about it. Do you ever write a term paper from scratch? Not usually (unless you are using a typewriter--any typists still out there?). You use either a template file with all the information and codes already set up (like the standard format for the bibliography section that comes at the end of every term paper), or you reuse the basic information from a previous paper (that's why you handed in your Psych paper with last October's date on it).
The same principle applies to resumes. The very best way to create your resume is online, real-time--on the screen, right in front of you, capturing information as you go. And updating as necessary over time. Don't have a PC? This is a good time to make your pilgrimage to the campus Computer Lab. Take two blank disks with you--one to use as your working copy and one as your backup for that inevitable point in the future when you destroy the first disk. Usually when you need it most.
A note of caution: don't have your resume done by a "professional resume service." It may seem like the easy out, but resume services will typically just crunch your data into their cookie cutter format (and then often seek to charge you an additional $50 to 100 above their already hefty "basic service" price for copies on their pretty paper). Don't pay someone else to write your resume. Tom Clancy may be able to write a better novel, but you can outwrite even Tom Clancy when it comes to your personal resume. Do it yourself. If you are in need of a sample format to follow, send for the SASE offer at the end of the column.
Hiring Manager's #1 complaint about entry level resumes? Lack of a specific objective. This is by far the most important feature of an entry level resume. Without it, you are destined to languish in the sea of mediocrity, swallowed up by your own lack of direction. I do not mean the wishy-washy: "Position with a progressive organization that will fully utilize my talents and skills..." objective that tells me absolutely nothing about what you are looking for. Your objective has to be clear and concise. If someone told you not to use an objective because it is too limiting, that person is obviously out of touch with the reality of the entry level job market. If you are not specific and directed, you lose. Plain and simple.
Note that a well-written and well-focused Objective section is what often will set you apart when your resume is compared to those with no objective or a wishy-washy one.
Once you have your resume assembled, please don't crank up the copying machine for mass production. Stay close to this column for advice on how to make the most productive use of your resume in your job search.
And remember to get a copy of your resume to your campus Placement Center for inclusion in their resume booklets.