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Yes, You Need a Terrific Resume, by William S. Frank

I once disliked resumes. Everyone had one, and I wanted to be different. Now I see that you can be different simply by having a top-notch resume. Most resumes are boring look-alikes. They don't attract attention. They often appear as though they've been thrown together—perhaps because many of them have.

Sine qua non means "an indispensable thing, an absolute prerequisite." The resume is the sine qua non of the job search. It's essential, like a black tie or formal dress at a dinner dance. You look foolish and out-of-place without one.

This doesn't mean you can never get a good job without a resume. In fact, I sometimes recommend trying it. It does mean, though, that if you don't use a high-impact resume, you could stall your job search.

What are you going to do, for instance, if a recruiter calls you at the office? Are you going to spend an hour in the middle of a hectic clinical day sorting through your work history? Wouldn't it be easier to drop a resume in the mail and then follow up with a phone call? You bet!

The truth is that you need an excellent resume, because resumes are the language of employment. Every want ad, every friend, and every interviewer asks for one. And most of your competitors have superb resumes. In reality, if you want good high-paying job, you can't get by without a professional, power-packed resume.

You're not alone
If you've never written a resume before, you're not alone. Many other job hunters haven't either. They're beginners, or they've moved steadily up the corporate ladder. Some were recruited from company to company by friends; so they haven't needed resumes. The whole idea of job-hunting is foreign to them, like dating after 23 years of marriage. It's difficult, as their comments indicate.

  • "I've never had to do this before."
  • "I've only applied for two jobs in my life, and I got them both."
  • "It's hard writing about yourself."
  • "This causes a lot of highs and lows."
  • "I can't remember what I have done. It seems so long ago."
  • "I want to be out there doing something, not wasting time on this resume."
"I thought this would be easy."
The overnight resume is a myth. You've been achievement-oriented all your life and solved a lot of problems, so it will be difficult to remember all your home runs quickly, especially the older ones. Expect to spend a week or two to create the high-powered document you want and need.

After struggling to draft his accomplishments, one physician summed up the process nicely when he said, "I thought this would be easy . . . I was wrong."

Don't rush to market
Rushing to market too quickly is a big mistake, even if your friends are hounding you for a resume. Let them know you're putting some thought into it, and that you'll have something in their hands within 10 days. Very seldom is the demand for a resume as urgent as it first appears. When is doubt, always ask, "When do you NEED it?" or "Is there a specific job I could be considered for right now?" If there's no specific position in the works, a 7-10 day delay is certainly reasonable.

Even perfect resumes can be improved
If you do have a resume, and if you've spent a lot of time and effort on it, you probably think it's good enough. If I had to guess, I'd say it isn't. Most resumes don't represent their writers well. In fact, just the opposite: they disqualify them altogether.

The job candidates I meet face-to-face are normally 75% more marketable than their resumes reveal! And that's a problem, because your resume should be just as good as you are, or else it's underselling you. It's hard to get a $300,000 job with a $100,000 resume, and that's true for all salary levels.

You've probably seen ads that make you mad. Poorly-written resumes do that too. They make employers want to avoid you. Let's make sure your resume isn't a turn-off. Let's make it a winner. Even if it's "perfect," you can improve it. There's always a way to reword, to plan and organize better, to include more detail, to make better use of space, or to showcase your accomplishments. There's no such thing as "The Perfect Resume." No matter how good your resume looks today, it can always be tuned up.

Sell your results and accomplishments
According to amazon.com, there are literally thousands of resume guides on the market. If you read six of them, you'll have six different opinions about how a work history should be written. If you ask your friends for advice, they'll give you more conflicting ideas. The input can be quite confusing.

What's right? Obviously, there's no right way to prepare a resume. In fact, I've seen candidates land high-paying jobs with terrible resumes. But there is one way to write a resume that always produces interviews and job offers: load it with results and accomplishments.

Resumes must sell
The word resume means "summary." A resume was once a simple biographical sketch of your work life that listed nothing more than job titles, dates, duties, responsibilities, and personal information like health and marital status. (In the age of equal opportunity employment, such personal data is both illegal and taboo.)

But resume styles change. The old autobiographical summary is out; the new results and accomplishments-oriented style is in. Today, with fierce competition in the job market, the average resume gets only 3-10 seconds on the way to the trash can. So yours must be good.

The best resumes are results-oriented because accomplishments show that you're a take-charge person who gets things done. That's what employers want. They don't especially care what your duties and responsibilities were. They care about your results: your "triples" and "homeruns."

Readers can tell a lot about you by your resume: far more than you ever imagined. Are you neat, tidy, organized? Are you educated? Are you motivated? Are you just a joiner or are you a leader? Are you a power player or merely a C student? Do you write well? Can you think? Can you reduce complexity to simplicity? Do you know what you've accomplished? Can you sell yourself and your ideas?

Your resume is a word picture of you. It mirrors you and represents you. In a sense, the resume is you. If it's sloppy, readers assume you're sloppy. If it's disorganized, you appear disorganized. The reverse is also true. If the document looks well-organized, readers assume you're well-organized. That's the importance of getting it right.

Your resume is often your first interview. It competes against hundreds of other resumes, and represents you when you're not around to speak for yourself; so it must be flawless. If it doesn't compete well in tough initial screenings, you may never get interviews. I've seen hundreds of stalled and discouraged job hunters, and most of the time they're marketing themselves with weak resumes that couldn't possibly work.

Turn on the green light
There's a saying in sales: "When a customer wants a green suit, turn on the green light." In other words, "Show the buyer what he wants to see," or "Tell the client what she wants to hear."

Resumes allow you to emphasize pieces of your past and to highlight your strengths. But don't equate that with lying. It's not lying; it's telling them what you want them to know, and disregarding the rest: the same thing commercial advertisers do.

Some career changers have a fatal compulsion to "tell it like it is," or to "tell the whole truth," no matter how negative. Telling all may be honest, but it's not good salesmanship or good business. It's naďve to think that listeners can overlook negatives once they've come out.

Most of us hold on to personal secrets in everyday conversation. We don't flaunt our weaknesses. Why should we reveal them in resumes, when our careers are on the line?

Ford doesn't begin its commercials with, "Remember the Pinto? It blew up and burst into flames. Now we have another car we'd like to sell you." You shouldn't air your troubles or weaknesses, either.

In my opinion, you have an obligation to present yourself in the best possible light. Don't lie, but do make yourself look as good as you possibly can.

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"Each person has his or her own vocation. The talent is the call. There is one direction in which all space is open to you. You have faculties silently inviting you there to endless exertion." —Ralph Waldo Emerson

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