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Resume Secrets

For those starting out on their career path, early jobs should be viewed as valuable learning experiences, not demands for financial compensation.

It’s been a while since addressed the subject of resumes in my column, so I thought this might be a good time to revisit this important aspect of job hunting by answering frequently asked questions.

Must I keep my resume to one page?
No. Although for a recent college graduate, one page should suffice. Someone with a more extensive employment history might well go to two pages in order to properly present his/her background. A resume should not be artificially extended (padded), nor should information be crammed onto one page through the creative use of margins. There should be enough white space to make it attractive and readable.
A recent survey of 150 executives from the nation’s 1,000 largest companies, conducted by Accountemps, resulted in 64% of those polled saying they preferred a two-page resume from candidates for executive positions, and 73% feeling that staff-level applications should stick with one page. The latter would obviously apply to college grads seeking entry-level jobs.

Will colored paper help my resume stand out?
If anything, it will detract, not attract. A conservative approach is never wrong when choosing paper for a resume. Stick to white or off-write.

Should I include personal information?
As little as possible. I’ve been collecting inappropriate items on resumes for years. I call them Resumania. A large percentage comes from sections on resumes labeled, Personal. Unless there is something personal that relates directly to your employment background and the job you’re going after, leave it off.

Should I include reasons for having left a previous job?
Again, Don’t volunteer this information. It’s better left for discussion during the job interview (if it comes up).

What should I emphasize on my resume?
Employers are looking to hire individuals who will bring some tangible benefit to their company. Being a job applicant’s first introduction to a hiring authority, your resume will never get you the job; however, it can lose you plenty of job offers. A resume only determines whether you’ll be asked to enter the traditional second phase of the hiring process, the interview. What you want to highlight on your resume are those skills are experiences that indicate your potential worth to an employer. That includes not only previous work experience (including relevant internships), but other demonstrable attributes such as civic involvement, participation in scholastic and/or professional associations, elected positions in such organizations, etc.

I’m just completing college and don’t have any previous work experience. What do I put on my resume?
You probably do have work experience, even if it involved only part-time summer jobs. Active participation in volunteer organizations also presents you as an energetic and involved entry-level professional with something to offer an employer.

Should my resume include activities in high school?
Absolutely. The longer you are in the workplace, the less important periods of life such as high school, and even college, become. But, for a college graduate, every relevant achievement that can be highlighted on a resume should be included.

To what extent can I embellish my resume to make it more compelling?
You shouldn’t embellish your resume at all. That’s not to say you shouldn’t put your best foot forward, however. You are, after all, selling yourself when seeking employment, and your resume should present you in the most positive light possible. But honesty is always the best policy. If you ‘re hired based upon a dishonest representation of who you are, chances are you’ll do poorly in that job. And, the risk is also very real that your “embellishments” will eventually be exposed, which could lead to being fired from your position.

Should I state my salary requirements on my resume?
No. A big mistake many otherwise qualified job seekers make is to tell employers what they, as candidates, expect from a job, rather than focusing on what they can do for their employer. For those starting out on their career path, early jobs should be viewed as valuable learning experiences. Yes, you’ll want to be fairly compensated for the work you perform. But, your resume is not the appropriate vehicle for stating your demands.

How do I ensure that my resume is properly written and free of errors?
Have as many eyes as possible read it before submitting it to employers. Make sure each line reads as you intend it to. Scrutinize every word for spelling errors, vagueness, improper punctuation, and awkward phrasing. Utilize your computer’s spellcheck, but don’t rely on it to catch misused words. Have people in the accounting field, instructors perhaps, review your resume and listen carefully to their criticisms.

Should I use a professional resume-writing service?
I wouldn’t. Resumes prepared by such firms, as good as they might be, tend to have a cookie-cutter look and feel to them. It’s your life and career on the line. Prepare your own resume and let it reflect who you truly are.

Non-Resume Resources on the Web:

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