FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Is it difficult for you to take credit for doing a project well? Don't like to brag? The resume is your opportunity to deliver a written advertisement as to why the employer should hire only you.
Employers concentrate on reading the top half of the first page of the resume; make your best case for hiring there.
There are five major sections of a resume: the heading (contact information), the objective (job goal), the qualifications section (paid and unpaid skills and abilities), the experience section (paid and unpaid work), and the education section (academics, training on-job and "picked-up").
Some resumes add other sections; professional affiliation, publications and community service are a few. Use the objective to state your desired position, such as "A Retail Department Manager position that will utilize my merchandising and supervision skills."
Most employers realize that a resume becomes a legal document as soon as you're hired, an understanding of terms of employment. Avoid stating conditions that an employer can't guarantee, such as "A secretary position offering further education and professional growth in a friendly office environment." The employer is not in business to educate you.
Your idea of "friendly" might be in-office visiting with doughnuts and coffee on Fridays. Your employer's idea might be a yearly company picnic. An employer pays to get work done that brings in money or continues client services. Both are money! Save "soft" qualifications, such as "team-player," "good communication skills," "positive attitude," "professional and reliable" to show forth on the interview.
Record skills that result in a document or production item. If you use a technique, regulation, or tool, write the tool and the function, such as "Create business correspondence using Microsoft Word," "Chart and maintain nursing records in compliance with AR 40-407." "Operate electric trimmers and edgers to trim lawn around trees, landscape, and sidewalks." On the resume, take credit for work that you perform in coordination with others. You're not applying for the job for anyone else. Avoid using wording such as: "assisted in computing payroll," "co-presented briefings," and "was supervised by the department head." These phrases do not show you performing the work.
For the resume, write that you do the payroll if you and another clerk calculate pay and then do a read-back to each other to check for accuracy. Besides the job interview, the resume is one of those times that the employer expects you to "toot your own horn."
There are some jobs that require certification or licensing to qualify (social worker, architect, physician are some), but there are jobs for which only your ability to perform the task is required. Even unpaid work counts.
If you painted the walls in your home, you could qualify as an "interior wall painter"; list it as a qualification if you're applying for home repair or construction work.
Many employers read only the first sentence of each job description, so begin with an action verb that describes the work at your highest performance (without repeating the job title, if possible). A manager of an automotive repair shop might begin the job description by stating: "Supervise three auto mechanics; oversee repairs, business operations, customer service, and inventory control in a busy shop servicing 120-plus cars each month."
For volunteer work, use a job position title that would be appropriate for your work if paid. For example, a volunteer who answers the telephone, sets up meetings, types correspondence and files documents, could use the title of business support specialist, office assistant or any number of others.
Examine and refine your resume until there are no spelling or grammatical errors ... remember that the intent is to show the employer that your resume has no mistakes because you're the best candidate. The finished resume will be the script to your play (interview), and you'll be the star of the show.
Carolyn Bennett is the director of the Fort Lewis ACS Employment Readiness Program. This article appeared in Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.