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Nationally recognized resume expert Kevin Donlin offers tips and advice on putting your best foot forward with your resume.  Kevin has been featured in the Wall Street Journal's Career Journal, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Career Magazine, and Time Digital Magazine.  Have 1 Day Resumes help you - click here!

Here's how you can write a resume that works ... by NOT writing one that sucks. 

  1. Avoid sins of commission ... 
    Typos in your resume can short-circuit your entire job or paid internships, because many readers have zero tolerance for them.  One misspelled word or grammatical error can land your resume in the trash.  Solution?  Get a friend (or three) to read through your resume for mistakes.  Because you're too close to the action to catch them all yourself. 

  2. ... and of omission 
    Missing data in your resume is just as costly as wrong data.  I'm always amazed whenever I see a resume with no dates or job duties in the experience section, for example.  Again, show your resume to friends for input on this one. 

  3. Three- and four-page resumes 
    You and your mother are the only two people in North America who will read every word of your resume if it's longer than two pages.  There are other resume writers who say a three-page resume is OK, but because I've offered my clients an unconditional money-back guarantee since 1996, I have to go with what works.  So I insist on two pages as the maximum length for 99.9% of all resumes.  As an experienced recruiter once told me: "The goal of your resume isn't to hit them over the head with everything you've ever done. The goal is getting a job interview." 

  4. Blather 
    You won't bore anyone into hiring you. Obvious, no? Then tell it to the writer of this: 

    "Utilize knowledge of established contracting techniques, principles, and practices, and utilize knowledge of procurement regulations to develop, coordinate and award a variety of concurrent or sequential contract actions." 

    To avoid plodding, preposterous platitudes, read your resume out loud.  If you find yourself gasping for breath, break the offending sentence in two (or three). 

  5. Disorder 
    Your resume should follow a logical sequence, from most important and most relevant, to least.  For example, if you're just finishing school with a degree in the field you want to work in, put your education section near the top of the resume. 

There are other errors to avoid, but these are some of the worst and most common. Here's hoping your next resume is a winner. 

On-Line Resumes

This week, I interviewed a career professional to get the inside scoop on posting resumes online.  

The rules for this seem to change almost daily.  What can you expect when you post your resume on a job board like Monster.com?  What should you avoid doing? And what about privacy?  I posed these and other questions to Rob Thomas, of Haas and Associates, an Urbana, IL-based career management firm (www.haasrecruiting.com). Here's the text of that interview ...

Kevin: What's the one mistake most people make when posting their resumes online?

Rob: Formatting is the primary issue.  You must convert your resume to a plain text format first. If you're using MS Word, save the document as "text only," or copy and it into a text editor, such as Notepad.  Don't center the text -- align it to the left margin.  Second, carefully proofread the plain text version, because some characters can show up as question marks. It's a good idea to replace bullet points with asterisks (*), for example.

Kevin: Are there any other areas to watch out for?

Rob: Many resume sites will ask you about salary.  Consider putting your requested salary at or even slightly below your present rate.  Although everybody wants to make more money in their next job, don't knock yourself out of the running by asking for twice what you're making now.  You can always negotiate that later.

Kevin: What about privacy issues?

Rob: About 90% of resume Web sites let you control who sees your data.  You can always use a fictitious name, omit your phone number or change the name of your company.  But I've found that the more information you leave off, the lower your response will be.  It's best to carefully investigate each site and its privacy policies before posting your resume.

Kevin: What kind of results should people expect from posting their resume online? 

Rob: The more high-tech and in-demand your skills are, the more calls you'll get, of course.  My research tells me about 30-35% of high-tech professionals find jobs online, while it's about 10% for most other people. You can increase your response by offering to relocate.  And try posting on a site that's specific to your industry -- I've found resume Web sites for almost every profession, and that can really make a difference. 

Cover Letter Tip:

When you write a cover letter, does it hook employers and leave them no choice but to call you for a job interview?

If the answer is "No," you're not alone. 

To succeed, every sentence in your cover letter must be compelling and must prove that you -- and nobody else -- are right for the job. 

How do you achieve this? 

Take the "So, what?" test. It can actually force you to write better cover letters than ever before. 

It works like this. After reading every sentence in your next cover letter, ask yourself: "So, what?" Is that last sentence compelling, or fluff? Necessary? TRUE? If not, rewrite or remove it. Then ask yourself "So, what?" again.

Here are some real-world examples taken from cover letters I've seen just this week. 

"I am currently employed with Oxydyne Systems in Detroit in the Production Logistic Equipment Assembly Division as a Technical Support Manager. (SO, WHAT?) I am willing to take up any engineering post." SO, WHAT?

I am applying for a position where my eight years of engineering and end-user training experience will add value to logistical operations for your clients. 

In the AFTER example, the writer clearly states the type of job he's seeking, while promising to add value for the employer's clients. Much more powerful. 

"The message you are now reading is not a typical cover letter with an attached resume. Please, do not be afraid to continue reading because this evolving communique describes what I can do for Stanley Publishing (SP), if I am chosen as its new Marketing Manager." SO WHAT?

Stop! Don't take forever to appeal to an employer's self interest. Often, you can find better opening paragraphs halfway down the page, as in this AFTER example:

"I am energized by the opportunity to achieve significant things for your firm. Here's what I can give to Stanley Publishing:

* Five years of publication and marketing experience for Fortune 500 clientele, resulting in repeat business, 210% revenue growth and three industry awards."

This AFTER example came from the fifth and sixth paragraphs of the cover letter, but works much better as an opening. 

If every sentence passes the "So, what?" test, your cover letters will be concise, hard-hitting and irresistible to employers. 




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