Writing Resumes That Get Interviews

Have you ever wondered why a particular candidate is selected from among a tall stack of resumes? His or her resume pre-sold the candidate. I’ll tell you how to have this edge in your new resume.

Employers typically use resumes to screen candidates for employment. Some read a thousand resumes a year, and typically only give about fifteen seconds of reading for each resume they review for screening. These weary readers encounter many candidates with the basic job qualification, yet they perceive only a few as “right” for the opening. So, that all-important printed page may open or close the door to your career advancement.Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to write a resume. They make it too long because they want to tell the “full story.” A resume is not an autobiography! It’s a brief, alluring description of your background relevant to the job in question; its purpose is solely to elicit an interview.Fortunately, you can learn to write effective resumes. I use the plural – resumes – because that is just what you will write. No single resume is appropriate for all openings. So, plan to tailor each one to a specific job opportunity. Here’s how to go about it.

Identify a specific, appropriate, “qualified” job opportunity.

A “qualified” job opportunity is one, which will lead to an interview because it conforms to your long-term career plan. This qualified job not only holds the right title to serve as a stepping-stone or rung on your ladder; it will train you for your next move. The hiring firm must be reputable – even prestigious, if possible – so that their name on your resume is another plus in establishing your reputation within your field.

Match your qualifications with those from the job

On a separate page, list every detail you can find about the requirements for the position you seek. Keep in mind that good “chemistry” is a powerful element in determining most hiring decisions, often going further in securing a position than having the right technical skills. By researching your potential employer before writing your resume, you’ll be ready to present the pertinent facets of your experience, interests, and enthusiasms. Try to identify “hot buttons” – key qualifications particularly meaningful to the employer, i.e. alumni of the same university, personal hobbies, work habits, and so on. Come up with a clear, specific job description and match yourself against it. On a second page, list your qualifications and experience for this job. Name every qualification you can think of that supports your “rightness,” highlighting those qualifications that match employer “hot buttons.” Get help from others so you don’t overlook anything. On a final page, match your personal list of qualifications with the list of job qualifications. Include all attributes that make you right for the job. Omit attributes that are irrelevant, even if they are fine things in themselves. Organize your list with the most preferred qualities first.

Write the “right” resume for the job

Be aware that most employers don’t read beyond the first few paragraphs of most resumes, so you have a limited time to arouse interest. Keep it to one page, if possible. Use a simple, easy-to-read format. Remember: your purpose is to get a job interview, not to give a complete history of your working career. List facts, skills, and accomplishments without lengthy explanations. Give the impression you’re an accomplished, confident, understated professional, but never lie or exaggerate – reference checking will almost always expose you. Lure the reader into giving you a personal interview to learn more about you.

Put your full name, address, and telephone number at the top of the page, listing both home and current work address and phone numbers if the resume screener may contact you at either address. Date your resume with the current month and year only if it will clarify your current position.

Describe precisely the job for which you are applying, including job title and locale of your prospective employer. This lets the interviewer know you are sure of what you want: the job they offer, in their location.List remaining headings in order of their importance to the employer in question, based on what hot buttons match best with your background.The next section should contain your work history, including employment dates, employer names and locations, job titles, and responsibilities and accomplishments, which emphasize your matched capabilities and experiences. List them in reverse chronological order. Also list your ten greatest work accomplishments, and how they would benefit your new employer. Prioritize them so that the benefits are easily perceived.Be brief; avoid unnecessary jargon or discussion of the mechanics of your jobs. Begin sentences with active verbs, and avoids the pronoun “I.” Stress your interaction with people by using verbs such as lead, manage, motivate and organize, and adjectives like dependable and supportive. Stress those skills and accomplishments that have made and make you a success.Group miscellaneous experience or jobs more than fifteen years old, under headings such as EARLIER EXPERIENCE, or PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE. Exclude information irrelevant to the job opening.Education is often less valued than work experience with the exception to jobs that require a professional degree or a specific educational background to perform the job. If this is the case than education should be the second heading. Otherwise make education the third heading.List any college or trade degrees you have earned or are in the process of earning. Mention professional registrations, certificates, courses, workshops, and academic honors or awards pertinent to the job opening. Give degrees, schools, dates, and locations. If you have a college degree, do not list your high school.Finally, in the last section, briefly mention your interests, hobbies, publications, awards, speeches, trade organization memberships, offices, and personal accomplishments or special recognition. Do not put your current salary, race, religion, or health. Include community involvement, especially if you hold a leadership position. Here you have a grand opportunity to present personal traits that enhance your character, attitude, and reputation but be selective. Show that you’ve got the right chemistry to thrive in the job.

Sample resume:

Arthur T. Advancer
62 Flamingo Street
Orlando, FL 28730

Chief estimator for a mid-sized general contractor of commercial and residential buildings in the Tampa area.

Work Experience:
4/95-present SASHA CONTRACTING, 141 Barry Ave, Orlando, Florida 28805
Senior Estimator responsible for pricing jobs, sub-contract negotiating, and supervising a four-person bid team on commercial projects throughout Florida. Implemented new MC2 computer programming for company estimates. Lead estimator on the following major projects awarded:
1) $25M Ruthbercy Hotel in Orlando
2) $33M Jacksonville Civic Center addition
3) $17M Fredericks Office Building in Orlando. Awarded company “employee of the year” for 1989.
1/91-4/95 J. JUNG CONSTRUCTION, 917 Sunridge Dr., Tampa, Florida 34234
Estimator responsible for material and labor takeoffs. Assisted chief estimator on mid-sized residential building estimates, including $4M Kara Resort Apartments, $7M Blue Sky Condos, and $1.7M Maruice Light residence.

12/90 B.S.C.E. cum laude Florida State University, Tampa, FL.
03/96 A.G.C. Two-week MC2 computer estimating workshop in Tampa, FL. 01/97 Registered Professional Engineer #020010 Florida.

Associations: Association of General Contractors – Orlando Toastmasters International – Orlando AAA Softball League – Orlando Civic Awards: 1998 “Young Leader of the Year” – A.G.C. 1996 AAA Softball League City Champions Publications: Article: “MC2 Computer Estimating” – Contractor Magazine June 15, 1997 Speeches: 1997 AGC Convention – “Gain the Edge in Estimating”

Cover letters are critical when submitting a resume. The cover letter gives you the opportunity to be more personal than is appropriate in a resume. It’s important to identify the person who you will be sending the letter to, and write a customized letter to create rapport and “like mindedness.”

Your cover letter should identify the job for which you are applying and give the reasons you are an ideal candidate for the job. Sell your most appropriate qualifications to the employer, and write about your attitude, ambitions and work philosophy. The cover letter gives you the opportunity to be more personal than is appropriate in a resume. In your letter, show your enthusiasm for the job. Always end with a direct request for a personal interview. Finally, keep is short by writing only a few paragraphs.When you have your cover letter, resume, and reference list typed, present them to a master of correct grammar and punctuation for editing. Never send anything that shows poor writing skills, or anything not proofread several times by more than one reader.

Have the final version typed and printed on high quality paper.

Avoid the temptation to use colored paper to make your resume “stand out.” It will, all right, but in the wrong way because color is a subjective preference. Use only white, light gray, or ecru bond paper. And make sure the typewriter or printer ribbon is dark and legible. Dot matrix printing should be of letter quality. Better yet, have it laser printed at a printer who can take your disk.

Prepare a list of references before you send out a resume.

It is best not to mention references on your resume, or to submit any references until requested by a potential employer. References are assumed to be good and are typically checked as a matter of due diligence rather than used to determine your appropriateness for a position.

However if you have an exception written reference that will not jeopardize your current employment, then you might submit one or two as an addendum to your resume and cover letter.When your reference are requested you should already have them prepared and ready to go. Now is the best time to submit any written letters of reference, letters of merit, articles, honors and good samples of your work. When submitting a reference list, make sure to include correct names, job titles, addresses, and telephone numbers of your references. Keep your references limited to business references and limit the list between three to six of your very best. Additional references can always be requested and submitted at a later date if necessary.You will also want to avoid submitting any personal references unless it is with someone well known in the industry. Personal references are rarely checked.Be sure to contact your references beforehand and communicate the points you want them to emphasize on your behalf. Remind them of your relevant skills and achievements. Let them know they are vital to your advancement. After they have been contacted, thank them personally. Your references can provide invaluable intelligence as you pursue your new position.Employers rarely expect references from a candidate’s current employer. They understand the need for confidentiality. Although they might check on your present responsibilities and performance through their network of contacts, you will rarely be required to provide official references from your current employer. If you must provide a confidential reference, however, select a friendly supplier, client, peer, ex-employee, or consultant familiar with your work. Never select a reference source that is in a position to retaliate or interfere with your present employment if your new job doesn’t materialize.Credible references can make all the difference in the final stages of the interview process. Always have a minimum of three reputable character references (that the employer would know and respect) and three work references for potential employers to contact. Ministers and relatives are regarded as poor references because employers assume they are biased in your favor.

Send mail first class or express.

Mail your resume package to the potential employer via first class mail marked “personal and confidential.” Express mail may be an even better choice to encourage immediate, positive consideration. Use a folder that allows you to keep your papers flat, and include a stiffener so they arrive unwrinkled. Don’t fold them into a letter-sized envelope. If practical, have the resume arrive during the middle of the week to avoid the flood of weekend mail, which will minimize your impact. At all times, remember the value of a good first impression.

Always follow-up with any resumes you send with a phone call.

Wait until three to four days after the employer has received your mailed package. Then follow up with a phone call to verify receipt and to answer any possible questions. End your call with a direct request for a personal meeting at a specific time. “I could meet you Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m., at your local trade association luncheon.” Suggest a time convenient for the interviewer.

Remember resumes are only used to obtain an interview.

Try to remember under no circumstances should your resume be a biography or history of your background and achievements. A resume should only be used as a “sixty second commercial” to interest an employer enough so that he or she desires to meet with you in person for a job interview. Keep your writing short (no longer than one or two pages in length), and strictly targeted to the job you are applying for. Do not to put your college math contest award on your resume if you are applying for a creative director position with the theater.

The article above was written by construction recruiter Frederick Hornberger, CPC, president of Hornberger Management Company in Wilmington, Delaware (www.hmc.com), a construction recruiter specializing in senior level, executive search.