Resume and Cover Letter Q&As
Normally, one only has 10 to 15 seconds to make the kind of impression that will keep your reader interested. Here are a few questions and answers that may help you produce a "Number One Pick" resume.

Q. How do "tough times" affect your resume?
A. More applicants for fewer jobs means there's more pressure on your resume. It must make an excellent first impression. And quickly. Your window of opportunity to grab the reader's attention is between 10 to 15 seconds.

Q. Does one resume fit all?
A. No. Think of your resume as a toolbox from which to draw specific skills for a specific job. Think of your resume as the solution to a problem within the hiring organization. Write a resume from your toolbox for each job you are applying for.

Use lots of resources to super-sleuth each opening so you can present your resume as the answer to an organization's problem(s). Find out everything you can from friends within the organization, colleagues, business associates, professional associations, and by calling the company and asking for the name of the supervisor for the position now open. Don't be shy, call and request an exploratory interview. Have a business associate or friend introduce you.

Tailor your resume to that specific job.

Q. How should I structure my resume?
A. Grab your reader's attention immediately by listing your skills right under your name and contact information. Rework this list of not more than four or five skills. Use action verbs and, whenever possible, use real, hard numbers. Put these skills in boldface type.

Q. What kind of resume format is best after my skills statement? A. There are three kinds of resumes: chronological, from most recent to oldest experience; functional, listing experience by type; and creative, for those seeking creative jobs.

Chronological is most frequently used, and is based on time sequence. Use it when you're pursuing traditional jobs, your work history shows a strong growth pattern, your title progression is impressive, you're continuing the same career path, and your last employer is impressive.

Functional is best when you're changing careers, entering the job market, reentering the job market, or your experience lacks a demonstrated direction. Use it, too, if you're a consultant, your latest position appears to be a demotion, or your experience is unconnected to the position you're applying for.

Creative resumes work best if you're in the creative arts: artist, actor, graphic designer, computer expert, or photographer. Use the medium and the format that showcases your skills. This could include video, audio, and/or special graphics.

Q. In "tough times" is it OK to "enhance" my experience just a little bit?
A. NO! "Enhancing" or misrepresenting facts about your experience can result in big trouble. Be meticulously truthful. And don't omit facts about your background when asked, but give a brief explanation. And, be sure to put your best skills forward. Analyze your own capabilities so you can present them in the strongest verbiage.

Edit, edit, edit. Remove extra words; remove adverbs.

Q. In "tough times" are there other ways to help myself get extra points?
A. Create a website that features papers you have had published, awards (with samples) you have won, community service projects you are active in, etc. List on your website further details of the positions you've held. List your educational and personal interests here that will help to connect the dots and present you as a person with much to offer.

Q. What about personal pronouns? Should I use first person, second or third?
A. None of the above. Remove the personal pronouns -- "I, me, she, he." Make your resume concise and to the point. List accomplishments in bulleted style:

  • Increased sales by 32%
  • Reduced errors by 12%
  • Won the approval of 96% of reviewers
Q. How can I be sure my resume is the best it can be?
A. Ask yourself these questions:
Are my statements clear and concise?
Have I removed all unnecessary words, especially adverbs and weak adjectives?
Have I eliminated everything that isn't needed?
Is it easy to follow?
Are my accomplishments well showcased?
Have I included all my contact information?
Ask for comments from people whose opinion you trust.

Q. What's the formula for writing the best cover letter ever?
A. Remember, it's a sales letter.

Find out who has the power to hire, and address it to him by name.

Learn as much about the opening as possible, and identify the problem(s) the organization is trying to solve.

Present yourself as the solution, listing one or two precise skills in your opening sentence: "I increased production by 46% at..."

Keep it short. Cut to the chase.

Take some risks. Tell him why he should interview you.

Refer him to your website for examples of your writing, more information, and details of your training and education.

Demonstrate enthusiasm; be innovative; close leaving the next move up to you: "I'll call you next week to arrange a time for an interview."

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