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How can I make my resume appealing to employers?

resume1Shane from Red Rocks Community College asked:

I have been out of the workforce for almost three years.  I have been taking classes to pursue a degree and now that my course load will slow down to half time, I want to get some part time employment in my chosen field. I am concerned about my resume.  It does not reflect any experience in this field and does show the gap in my employment. What are some creative and truthful ways to dress my resume for success so that a potential employer can see I am strong candidate candidate?

Hi Shane –

The first thing to remember is that your resume is a marketing document, not an informational document.

Its purpose is NOT to present a general summary of everything there is to know about you.

Rather, its purpose is to present the most relevant information about your qualifications (education, experience, skills and characteristics) in meaningful and accessible ways.

Here are some quick tips:

Your Contact Information

Provide your name, email address and one phone number.  If you have a LinkedIn account and you maintain that account, you should also list the URL to your LinkedIn profile in your contact information.  Don’t provide multiple email addresses or phone numbers, and only include your mailing or physical address if you can find a compelling reason to do so.

Warning! I saw it on a resume template is NOT a compelling reason!

Ask yourself:  Does a potential employer really need to see this information in order to consider me for employment?  If the answer is “no,” leave it off your resume.

Your Education

If you are using your education at the catalyst for a significant change in your career path, put your education before your experience.  It is more relevant to where you want to go with your career, so it will be of greater importance to potential employers.  I assume that you are pursuing a degree that related to your chosen field. (I certainly hope so!).  Use your Education section to highlight relevant coursework, experiential class projects, academic achievement, etc.

Don’t assume that potential employers know anything about the degree you are pursuing.  You have to explain it to them.

Ask yourself: What about my education do employers need to know in order to consider me for employment?  Focus on that information in your resume.

Your Experience

Your past experience may not be directly relevant to the types of jobs you wish to pursue, but it does say something about your maturity, dependability, professionalism, ability to work well with others, ability to deliver quality service, and a variety of other skills and characteristics employers value and seek in potential employees.  Use your Experience section to illustrate (through examples) the qualities, skills, and characteristics you offer.

Don’t simply list job description information!  Job descriptions say nothing about you – they are all about the job itself.  Your resume should be about you.

In describing your experience, focus on YOU and not on the the positions you held.

Your Time Away from the Workforce

You mention that you have been out of the workforce for three years AND that you have just transitioned from being a full-time student to being a part-time student.

Be ready to have that conversation with potential employers.

Be ready to talk about how you are using the opportunity away from the workforce to get more education, to become more skilled and to become skilled in new areas.

Whether you left a job to go back to school or your job left you, you decided to take advantage of the opportunity to become more employable!  THAT is a good story!  That is the kind of story potential employers like to hear.

Your Interests and Hobbies

Be careful including hobbies and interests on your resume.  Make sure they are serving a legitimate purpose.

They show I am a well-rounded person with diverse interests is not a strong enough reason to include hobbies and interests on your resume.

If you are a very competitive person, and competitiveness is a characteristic employers in your field seek in potential employees, including a hobby that fuels your competitive spirit can be a good thing. Competitive sports, for example.

If you are a history buff and a rich knowledge of history is a beneficial in your chosen field, include this information on your resume.

If you are a marathon runner, and you are seeking employment in fields that require personal discipline, endurance, individual effort and perseverance, include this information on your resume.

Get the idea? Everything on your resume must serve a specific purpose.  If it doesn’t serve a purpose – take it off your resume!

Answer this One Simple Question

You stated in your question that you want employers reading your resume to see that you are a strong candidate.  Look at everything you are thinking of putting on your resume and ask yourself:

How does this information show employers that I am a strong candidate?

If you don’t like your answer, see if you can refine/restate the information truthfully so that it will show you are a strong candidate.

If you can’t find a way to effectively refine/restate the information truthfully, it probably doesn’t belong on your resume.

Two last bits of advice:

  1. Seek out the assistance from the career coaches and counselors on your college campus.  You will find they can be really helpful.
  2. Check out my Resume Writing Guide and the sample resumes in my Resume Gallery.  Combined they offer a lot of examples of how to effectively present your qualifications in resume format.

Good luck!

matt-signature

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