Sunday, February 04, 2007

Selling yourself: Building your Resume

The last few months have been about job hunting. I had been editing, re-editing, and double editing my resume for nearly every job that I have applied for. In the process, I encountered many events. Interesting replies from potential employers, emails that were never replied from potential employers, and Malaysian government bureaucracy about hiring expatriates. Those juicy topics are best suited from another day cause I am not in the mood to bitch right now.

I want to tell you today about my experiences in putting together a resume. Firstly, I feel a resume should not be seen as a product goal but rather as a product process. This means, that your resume needs to grow with you. Each day, you take the chisel, and chop off bits, add little portions, and trim the edges. Thus, a resume should be a description of your life as it grows. I would consider it appropriate to consider a resume as something that evolves.

What are some of the things that helped me get the most out of my resume?

The sole purpose of the resume is to represent your skills, abilities and experience enough for the organization to contact you about a matching job which they might want to consider you for. This is essentially your marketing brochure, your personal advert, your marketing tool if you like. It is what helps you secure interviews. Just like all other advertisements, your resume is going to be one of many first impressions of you that a potential employer is going to have.

While building your resume, keep it to 3 pages or less and make sure that the layout is logical, simple, and covers all about yourself. Your resume should ideally be tailored for the position that your are applying for. This includes matching relevant information such as your experiences, referees, and skills. Typically I have applied for two kinds of jobs and maintain 2 resumes for each industry (one in Human Resources and one for the Human Services industry).

I have listed below some sections in the resume which i think are important. They are not arranged in any particular format or order, but reading it should give you an idea as to some of the things that you should include.

Personal Information
You might want to cover the following areas in your resume. Personal Information includes your name, address, contact numbers, e-mail. I also like including a profile which explains in one paragraph my strengths, type of work i am are looking for, any major achievements.

I have seen some resumes with information such as marital status, passport or national identity card number, number of children, insurance policy number, fathers car registration number, the number of times i have been to the church/mosque/temple/synagogue/(place where you pray if you belonged to a cult)/..insert any other strange information. Believe you me, that this information is not necessary. Keep your personal details short and expand on the rest. People want to hire you based on your skills and competencies, and not on how long your arm is (unless you are in…. lets not get there)

Education and Professional Qualifications
With regards to educational qualification, I like to include the most recent information. For example, if you have just finished an undergraduate degree, then state that and avoid information about your kindergarten and secondary school information. If you really want to highlight your secondary school because you studied at the school for little wizards then do your thing at the interview.

With regards to professional qualifications, awards received, or special training projects that you may have completed, i like to separate them with information about my formal education. Remember, they don’t have to be under one heading, just make sure they are inside your resume somewhere.

Technical Summary
You should include a summary of your technical skills, knowledge in computer applications, computer languages etc. Organizations tend to like candidates who are IT literate.

Work History
I like to use a reverse chronological order (most recent job first). Also, remember to indicate the year/month you started and ended each job. Ensure that you do not have unexplained gaps in your work history. Indicate some of the main tasks and responsibilities at organization that you worked for. Keep in mind, remember all the achievements (major projects, tasks, awards, etc) that you have completed along the way.

Organizations like people who are able to demonstrate that they lead a healthy work-life balance (if they don’t appreciate the balance, then don’t work for them). Describing what you do at your free time will help the potential employer see what kind of person you are. Do you support a charity? Do you take photographs? Do you dive? Tell them, people are better able to size you up more holistically.

I like to include contact information about the people who are able to be my referees. I typically have four of them listed in my resume. Two from the academic world, and two from the work world. But before you start slotting someone’s name inside your resume, make sure you inform that person and have his/her permission to do so (Psych students remember informed consent)

Look at the use of heading sizes, fonts underline some of the areas you want to stand out. Get your friends, to proof read it before sending it. From the tons of feedback that you get, change as you see fit, and get on the way grooming your resume. The cycle of edit – feedback – edit should ideally continue for as long as you want to update your resume.


Dr. Deborah Serani said...

And printing it on the most luxurious quality paper is a good thing too. Makes a classic impression.

David Stefanini said...

I love the blog that you have. I was wondering if you would link my blog to yours and in return I would do the same for your blog. If you want to, my site name is American Legends and the URL is:

If you want to do this just go to my blog and in one of the comments just write your blog name and the URL and I will add it to my site.


astrorat said...

Dear Dr. D,

Ohh Yes yes.. you are absolutely right. Beautiful paper and laser printing is a must :)

Dear David,

I would be happy to blogroll you.