The goal of a movie trailer is to put movie goers in theater seats. The goal of the resume is to put the job seeker in the interviewee seat. The trailer does this by piquing the viewer’s interest enough to want to pay to see the movie. The resume does this by piquing the reviewer’s interest enough to want to talk further with the candidate. The trailer does not go into the details of the plot, rather it suggests a possible plot line and shows dramatic and/or funny highlights in 30 to 90 seconds. The resume needs to do the same in the 10 to 15 seconds the typical reviewer will devote to scanning any given resume. The trailer is focused on a mass audience with similar interests. The resume is focused on a number of individuals with widely divergent interests. So what is one to do?
Your resume needs to be a highlight reel that focuses on what is important to the target company. You are not trying to recount your career history in detail; you are trying to attract the reviewer’s professional attention. Job duties may be inferred from your job titles. You want your resume to focus on your skill sets and accomplishments. These are what will grab the attention of the reviewer. Your resume also needs to be tailored to a specific company or job listing, which means that the salient information must be centralized, so it can be easily changed for a specific submission and easily read in a limited time frame. Here is a format that meets all these criteria:
The resume starts with a section titled “Executive Summary”. This section is no more than 3 to 5 sentences, written in the third person, that describes “what you bring to the table” (i.e. - your skill sets). The last sentence should be a broad description of the type(s) of position(s) you are seeking, with an emphasis on how you will positively impact the company’s results. If you are sending in a resume in response to a specific job listing, you should modify the skill set wording to reflect the key words in the job description.
The next section is titled “Selected Accomplishments". Select 5 to 7 accomplishments (as opposed to job duties) that you believe are the strongest and/or match the position for which you are applying. This is where you can quickly customize your resume for a specific opening, if you have previously generated a solid list of accomplishments. Accomplishments should cite hard numbers wherever possible.
These two sections along with your contact information should take up the top half of the page and are the meat of the resume.
The third section is titled “Professional Experience”. Here you list your work experience in reverse chronological order (you only need to go back 10 years or so). Include the name of the company, the city and state in which you worked, the years you worked there, and your job title. To avoid age discrimination, you may omit the dates, however, this will raise questions. Unless the job title does not infer your actual job duties, do not include a job description. The one exception to this would be if you had responsibilities that went well beyond your job description. Descriptions of the company are similarly unnecessary.
The fourth section is titled “Education and Training”. Do not list your high school or community college unless that is the highest level you have attained. If you are currently in school and expect to graduate in a finite amount of time, include that school along with the expected degree and graduation date. Do not list every training course or certification you have received. Only list those that are truly pertinent. If you went to a very prestigious school (i.e. - a service academy, MIT, Harvard, Yale, etc.) you might want to put this section ahead of “Professional Experience”. If you have extensive pertinent training, you might breakout Training into its own section.
The final section is titled "Volunteer Activities". It is an optional section than can be included to explain what you might have been doing during a prolonged period of unemployment. If the company to which you are applying is active in the community, this section may be the tie breaker between you and another candidate.
This format is easy to modify with the inclusion of key words and appropriate accomplishments. It is short, clean and very readable. Who knows, you may even get a job as a Hollywood PR person!
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