We will discuss, exclusively, chronological resumes. They are the most common, generally preferred by HR pros, and if you know how to create them, the easiest to write. They’re not well-suited to career changers, people with gaps in work, and possibly recent grads.

We all need to remember a basic tenet. Your resume is your marketing piece; your cover letter is a sales pitch. Keeping that in mind sets the tone of each document and helps you decide where to put what.

Use these points to prevent the most common mistakes, omissions, and oversights, and get your resume read and the interview scheduled.

  1. Grammar and spelling. Hard to believe, in this age of spell check and grammar check (not infallible but a good start) that these types of errors are found on 40% of all resumes. The solution is to have an editor. Ask your sister the English teacher, your colleague the nitpicker, or hire an editor. Keep in mind many errors are really typos. If your keyboarding skills are not at a professional level, have your resume typed by someone who knows format, spacing, as well as has an objective, critical eye. It’s worth the cost and reduces stress. Nothing turns off a reader more than annoying visual blights.
  2. Contact information. The reader wants to put a name to the listed experience. Contact information such as where you live, your phone number, and e-mail are only important IF the reader wants to speak with you. Don’t waste precious space giving a line to each item. Stream it across the page, in a smaller size, below your name. Limit choices by listing one phone number, one e-mail address. Many people now have their resume posted on a personal website (great idea). This should also be part of the contact information. Choose a domain name that incorporates your name. The same can be said for your e-mail address. It goes without saying—never list your business e-mail on a resume. Just as important, create an e-mail address that, again, reflects you as a professional. Avoid hotmail and AOL. They are seen as amateurish. Go to Gmail or ideally create an e-mail address such as Chris@ChrisJohnson.com.
  3. Your marquee. Top marketers tell us the headline of an article, name of a product, or title of a movie is often more important than the actual content. Even if that’s only partially true, you need to spend considerable time crafting your marquee. What is the marquee? It’s the choice words, placed after your contact information that describes what you do, offer, and want. If you saw a headline that read “Online Gaming Marketer--Latin America Specialist,” would you have a pretty good idea what the person does? How about “Senior Financial Services Administrator--Compliance Expert”? You get the point? The challenge is how you find the words.

    There are two simple ways:

    a. Collect a minimum of 10 job postings. These should be positions that interest you but are not necessarily location or company appropriate. Create a keyword comparison. If 8/10 listings use the title “executive” then don’t call yourself “professional.”

    b. A free service called “Google Analytics” can tell you how often a word or phrase is used in searches. It also gives alternatives, which can help when you find yourself being redundant or at a loss.

  4. Core Competencies. Nothing describes your skills and knowledge better than keywords listed under the next category on the resume called “Core Competencies.” It’s here you state your areas of expertise and responsibility. They may be technical, people management, regulatory, or all of the above. Say to yourself, “If I could list only ten words to describe what I do, what would I say?” Core competencies are powerful because they are easy to understand and fall at the natural eye level of the reader. The same tactics you use to determine your marquee works for finding your core competencies—keywords.
  5. Your Current Experience. Employers want to know what you are doing now and are less interested in your past. That’s why emphasis and space needs to go to your current experience. Many people fail to detail all aspects of their work, leaving off important elements such as managing a team, fluency in a particular application, or creation of an efficiency or new product. Most resume writers don’t numerate or dollarize all aspects of their job; therefore, underplay their level, scope, and value. Try to give a good picture of your responsibilities, emphasizing results and achievements. The goal is to tell enough so the reader responds with “tell me more.”

These are what I see as the five initial and essential elements of any resume. Part 2 (available in the next issue) will address more aspects.

Are you saying to yourself, “This sounds exhausting, how can I find the time to get this done?” or “Maybe I’ll wait until I need a new resume.” My responses are, “Yes, you will,” and “Not a good idea.” Writing a resume, particularly your own, is a daunting task. It takes time that may be hard to find BUT waiting to write it when you get the e-mail asking you to “shoot me off your resume” is the worst moment to get started. That is one reason people hire a coach—to get assistance, an objective eye, and outside experience you can’t possible have. Even HR professionals who read resumes on a daily basis have come to me for guidance. Why don’t you have a coach?

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.