Résumé Building: Creating a Résumé for 2011

Published in CareersConnect, February 2011

By April Silverthorn Southward

How exciting-It's a new year and you've decided it's time for a new position. While the journey you are about to embark on can be difficult, it can also be quite easy with the right preparation. One of the most critical parts of your job search is your résumé. Your résumé is the tool that will present who you are to potential employers, and will make the determination on your selection for an interview. Therefore, it's essential that you put together a great résumé.

While you would think most job seekers spend time working to perfect their résumés, that is not the reality. By simply taking the time to plan out an eye-catching and reader-friendly résumé, you will set yourself apart from the competition. Take the initiative to get ahead by following these three easy steps:

1. Find an Appealing Template,
2. Remember: Less is More, and
3. Make Your Effort Count.

1. Find an Appealing Template
Rather than updating the résumé you put together a couple of years ago, you really need to start from scratch. The attention span of the average individual has dropped to just 10 seconds.* Take a look at your current résumé; as an outsider, what would you really learn in 10 seconds? For many of you, the answer may be "not much."

As you begin the process of creating your résumé, you need to begin by locating an appealing template to serve as the structure of your résumé. Since you have just 10 seconds to engage the reader, it's critical that your résumé be easy to skim. Readers will only read the rest of your résumé if they are interested in what they see.

To find a template, just search online; several websites offer downloadable templates. One of the best sites I have found is in the Microsoft Office online forums. The site offers an online community with a continually growing résumé template section; to check it out, click here. If you cannot find exactly what you are looking for here, search résumé keywords like "eye-catching résumé" on Google Images. Since it pulls in several hundred images at a time, you are bound to find a résumé format that catches your eye. If you cannot download the template, simply build it; if you are not skilled at building templates, ask someone who is skilled for his or her help. Odds are that he or she will be happy to help.

2. Remember: Less Is More
This is something especially challenging for most contracts professionals. With many of you having been trained to document the details, it's a challenge for some of you to write a short and to-the-point résumé. I took a look at a handful of recently uploaded résumés from our database and was overwhelmed at the length of the résumés being submitted. The shortest résumé I found was four pages, twice the appropriate length, and the longest résumé I managed to locate was 23 pages, or the equivalent of 12 ideal-length résumés.

Imagine that you are a recruiter with 65 résumés in your inbox for a contracts manager position. You need to review the applications and get interviews scheduled for about 5-7 individuals ASAP. What do you think you would do with the 10-page monstrosity? I guarantee you would place it straight into the trash. Hiring managers and recruiters are no different.

In 2011, less really is more. Your résumé shouldn't spell out all othe details of everything you manage; instead, it should be focused on what you've actually accomplished. When your primary focus is on your responsibilities, there is no way for the reader to know if you actually handled those responsibilities well.

How do you go about implementing this in your résumé? Begin by focusing on numbers and statistical values in order to show the reader how outstanding you are. Instead of putting this information into paragraph form, where it will get lost, stick to short bullet points. For each position you should list between 3-7 bullets along with a key contribution. All of the other information you used to include should be removed. When it comes time to interview, you will have the opportunity to discuss some of the information you may have had to drop from your old résumé.

3. Make Your Efforts Count
Finally, with so much work going into perfecting your résumé, you need to be sure that the reader is able to see the masterpiece you created. If you are accustomed to sending a Microsoft Word document, you need to reconsider that practice. The issue with a non-fixed-format document, such as Microsoft Word, is that the document's formatting will likely change from your version of Word to the reader's version of Word. By saving your final version as an Adobe PDF file, for example, you'll ensure that your résumé will look great when it's opened by the reader.

If you don't currently have Adobe PDF, you can download it here. Having Adobe Standard on your computer will allow you to print a document as an Adobe PDF file directly from Microsoft Word. If you prefer not to download the program, simply take your final résumé on a thumb drive to your local library. Most libraries have computers with the ability to create an Adobe PDF file, and an entire visit will take less than ten minutes!

* Information obtained through Google Answers.

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