Effective Resumes

It is said that human resource professionals only look at a resume for an average of 30 seconds. So you only have 30 seconds to stand out from a crowd and make a great first impression!

How do you do that? Here are a few pointers to get you started.

Formatting

While everyone seems to have their own personal opinion on format, the truth is really it’s about the content. If you need help or a starting point, there are a number of websites that offer different templates and resume suggestions. Here are a few formatting suggestions:

  • Keep it clear and concise – use headings for your sections (ex. Experience, Education, etc.) and rather than paragraphs use bullet points to explain your experience
  • For someone with a lot of experience, it is OK to have a two page resume – if you haven’t had a lot of experience, a one page resume is appropriate (if you have a curriculum vitae or research background different guidelines apply)
  • Layout can and should vary – if you are a new graduate you should consider beginning with your education; if you are a professional with some good experience to showcase begin with that – whichever way, be sure that each section is listed in reverse chronological order
  • Unless references are asked for, do not include them on your resume – also, it is not necessary to state “References available upon request” at the bottom. Most employers will not hesitate to ask for references if they need them and including this statement on your resume is just stating the obvious.

Contact Information

A common mistake that is easy to avoid is an unprofessional email address. Don’t think that this just students or young professionals; there are plenty of experienced professionals with inappropriate or unprofessional personal e-mail addresses as well. Also, include contact information that you can actually be contacted at.

If you are currently in a job, we strongly advise that you do not give out your company email or office phone number as contact information for prospective employers. You never know when an employer may contact you.

Content

Focus on measurable – rather than providing the employer with a job description of past roles, focus on your accomplishments. Use statements that include action words, such as attract, make, save, etc.

Some examples of measurable statements are:

  • Grew sales by X% in a nine state territory to an annual sales revenue of $X.
  • Led X number of people in a department that oversaw the marketing of X number of products.
  • Successfully attracted X number of new customers within one year, an increase of X% to the overall customer database in the Eastern region.

Some people like to include a career objective or skills profile within their resume, while this is something that is not standard it can sometimes be helpful to quickly give a snapshot of abilities. If you choose to include something like this, be sure that it is tailored to the job that you are applying for. Using keywords in these introduction sections that have been featured in the job postings can be an easy way to catch an employer’s interest.

It can be difficult to know how far to go back in your work history. If you are a seasoned professionally this can be particularly important to avoid any type of age discrimination. As a general rule, it is most appropriate to include the past 15 years of experience. As a young professional, if you have built up some good work experience, don’t feel that you need to include your part time work from high school unless it directly relates to the position that you are interested in. If you are struggling for good work experience content, you can use your part time work and try to draw again on the measurable or business skills that you picked up.

If you have a gap in your resume the best place to explain the reasons is in your cover letter. If it was a minimal amount of time you can sometimes cover these gaps by using years rather than months when including dates in your work experience.

Resume Databases

If you post your resume to a database, there are things that can be done to get your resume recognized. First of all, be sure to keep your resume up-to-date. Many resume databases will remove or deactivate resumes that haven’t been updated in three to six months.

Use keywords within your resume that an employer might use to search for candidates with your qualifications and skills. You can use current job postings that may be of interest to you – look at the words used in those and select a few keywords that you can use in your resume. Keywords can be incorporated into your resume in you past work experience and/or your career objective.

While we hope you are happy in your current job and will not need your resume, it does not hurt to keep it fresh. Updating your resume is much easier as you go.

For more information, email AgCareers.com at agcareers@agcareers.com.


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