Resumes and cover letters should be designed to get you an interview. If you’re a fairly well qualified candidate and you aren’t getting interviews, or if your rate of getting interviews is low, then your resume and cover letter are probably your problems. Well qualified candidates should be getting interviews at least fifty percent of the time that you send them off. If you aren’t getting this kind of action, then you need to revise your resume and letter.
The people who screen resumes are busy. They often receive hundreds of resumes for a single job posting. It may take experienced screeners only 30 to 45 seconds to review a resume. Therefore, you must immediately catch and hold their attention. Developing your resume requires a strategy.
The most common mistakes that candidates make in preparing their resume are that they follow out-dated rules. You should not: (1) limit your resume to one page; (2) start the resume with an objective; and (3) follow a strict order of categories (education, certification, professional experience…). No, no, no. Another mistake is when your resume reads like a job description. The reader already knows what a teacher or an assistant principal does. Instead, your resume and cover letter need to clearly describe your accomplishments. What special experiences, skills and knowledge do you possess that will make you uniquely qualified to do this specific job, in this specific school-community?
Most job seekers struggle to identify their most significant accomplishments. Your greatest accomplishments may not be directly related to your professional experiences. Accomplishments may also define your true character or speak to a skill set or knowledge base that few candidates possess. A good career coach can stimulate your thinking and help you define yourself. I often advise my clients to add a category to their resume that might be labelled interests and activities. I recall, as an example, a candidate who was seeking a leadership position who served as a chief of his local volunteer fire department. He supervised and trained scores of fire fighters.
Here are some additional cautions and suggestions. Never fictionalize or inflate your credentials or accomplishments. In education, there are only a few degrees of separation between your past experiences and your new one. Oftentimes, you are too close to your own resume to be objective. Have your paperwork reviewed by a well informed and respected mentor, colleague or coach, and get objective feedback. Your resume and cover letter are works in progress. Continuously revise them depending on feedback, the uniqueness of the position for which you are applying, and the results you are getting as measured by how many interviews you are getting.
Here are my guidelines for writing resumes that get action:
- Less is more—state your accomplishments briefly in bullet statements
- Accomplishments; Not Job Description
- Lead with Your Strengths (list them near the top—catch attention)
- Ignore Most Rules (omit objective; determine your own sequence of categories and timeline; keep format simple)
- Start Bullet Statements with Action Verbs (past tense)
- Emphasize Accomplishments that Match Job Posting –make them the top bullets
- Omit Irrelevant Activities and Experiences for the Position
- Interests & Activities Can Capture Attention– acting, kickboxing, interesting hobbies (visits to Presidents’ birth sites), unique travel experiences, speak foreign languages
- Tailor for Different Demographics (urban, affluent or blue-collar community, small town, rural)
- Set Maximum Number of Bullets– current position 5-8; prior 3-5; before that 2-3
- Sweat the Mechanics– spelling, subject-verb agreement, capitalization and punctuation; grammar; word selection; consistent format; readable font size
- Cover Letter– 3-4 paragraphs– always required but seldom read
- References upon Request
- Get Authoritative Feedback—friends and family are well-meaning but often lead you astray
- Never Confuse or Mislead the Reader– clear timeline; short and simple sentences
- Never Lie
- TELL YOUR STORY
Dr. Aronstein provides one-on-one coaching for leaders and aspiring leaders. His e-book is available at: http://www.e-junkie.com/schoolleadership20/product/495531.php#YOU%2…
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