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Rules for Electronic Resumes

By Ream, Richard | Information Today, September 2000 | Go to article overview

Rules for Electronic Resumes


Ream, Richard, Information Today


The expectations are the same, but new media require different procedures

The job market is great, right? So why does it seem so difficult to get a response to that resume that you not only have dutifully been submitting to interesting companies, but have also posted on a variety of Internet job boards?

Have the rules changed? Perhaps they haven't, but computers and the Internet have created both new opportunities and traps. More importantly, in this world of short attention spans, where electronic spiders weave a confusing web of input that would overwhelm any mere mortal, not to mention a boss, you'll be lucky to get 1 minute of attention for professional consideration.

So let's take a look at how you can maximize your 60 seconds and get to that next step of an interview. Which of course you'll nail because you read the previous Hiring Line column (Information Today, May 2000, page 26).

Getting Started

"Know yourself" is probably the most important advice I can give anyone as they begin the process of thinking through a career change. Even if you're just graduating from college, you can begin the personal inventory of likes/dislikes, skills, et al., and then begin to quantify them. What do you do well? Describe skills you can begin to validate by citing specific examples. If you possess strong communication skills, high-light your English and communications grades. You get the idea.

For those of you a bit farther along careerwise it's important to take an inventory of your critical work skills. Assess your desires, abilities, assets, and temperament. Review the skills you currently use on the job. Which ones do you enjoy? Do you like problem solving, primary research, presenting search results to a group? Now the trick is to organize these under a "highlights of qualification" section that follows your objective section, which is always where to begin. A good way to start this process is to look at different types of skills:

* Transferable skills--writing, organizational, technical, communication, and mentoring

* Analytical skills--researching, analyzing, categorizing, evaluating, and problem-solving

(Remember, less can be more and you must be able to demonstrate or have a convincing example of each one noted.)

This process could lead to a resume highlight such as, "Ability to manage complex tasks and consistently meet deadlines led to rapid advancement and increased responsibility for mentoring others."

Cover Letters

Communication space, attention span, and time are all at a premium these days. I'm not a big fan of cover letters unless they can be quite specific. However, situations in which you wish to convey personal knowledge, direct your resume to contacts within the target company, or detail other information that cannot be easily listed in a resume are all legitimate times to use a cover letter. However, do not use a cover letter in lieu of taking the time to tailor your resume to each individual opportunity.

I have seen Reams (small pun) of cover letters littered with such generic, trite phrases as "excellent as both an individual contributor or team player," "seasoned executive with strong P&L performance," and "great motivator and team builder." Save some trees, increase your "stickiness," and skip the part that lets us all know what a grand person you are. Focus on what you want to do, relate it to the job at hand, and include a few bullet points that are relevant, such as the following:

* My expertise includes ...

* Relevant experience includes ...

* I have been recognized for ...

Focus, Focus, Focus

If your resume simply says you're looking for challenging work, then your biggest challenge may well be finding work.

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