The Resume and Letter Writing

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There have come to be certain traditional tools that most job hunters use. The resume is one of these. The resume will rarely, if ever, get you a specific job by itself. However, if you do not have a resume or if the one you have is poorly written, you may not be considered for a position. You should strive to have the best resume possible for whenever you might need it in the job-hunting process.

It is tailored specifically for the kind of position you are seeking and directly follows from your previously defined career objectives.

Its primary purpose is to stimulate the interest of the potential employer enough to want to learn more about you. A resume should present a convincing and realistic picture of your knowledge, skills, abilities, and related personal qualities that would best qualify you for your position of interest Your resume can be used in a variety of circumstances, including:


  • To respond to an advertised job vacancy.

  • To send to an employer that interests you after you have researched an organization.

  • To accompany formal application forms.

  • To present to a potential employer at the time of an interview.

  • To reinforce a personal contact you have already established within employer.

  • To accompany requests for on-campus interviews while you are still a student.

  • To present to a professional association employment committee or conference placement service.

  • To request that someone write a letter of recommendation for employment for you.
Characteristics of Effective Resumes

An effective resume should:
  1. Create a favorable impression.

  2. Attract attention to your special abilities and personal qualities.

  3. Stimulate interest in you as a person and as a potential employee.

  4. Reflect your unique qualifications and assets as much as possible.

  5. Be attractive to the eye and professional in appearance.

  6. Be literate, demonstrating accurate grammar and spelling.

  7. Outline all of your personal assets which support your qualifications for the job you want.

  8. Be well organized and concise enough to be read quickly.

  9. Encourage the employer to find out more about you.
Developing Your Resume

It can be a difficult task to summarize your life on a piece of paper! You can go about this task several ways. Some individuals initially write down everything they can remember about previous experiences, place the list aside and expand it later on until they feel their list is complete. Other people work best by first discussing their past with a Mend or counselor, answering questions that are asked, and then organizing their material in a draft of the resume. Once you have most of your ideas on paper, you can always revise, edit, and improve them. A third and more systematic way of developing your resume is to begin with the type of job you want.

This is the method presented in the next action step.

Action Step developing your resume.

Do the following activity on your own and obtain feedback from a Mend or career counselor, or, if possible, do it with a group of job hunters.

1.  Write out, as clearly as it can be defined at present, your job/career objective.

2.  Imagine yourself in the role of an employer hiring for the position you have described in your objective. Brainstorm the qualifications (educational background, skills, abilities, personal qualities) that as an employer, you would be looking for in the person you would like to hire for the position. Here is an example:

3.  Select one of the qualifications you have listed and then quickly review your past life/work/education history and list occasions where you developed or demonstrated that particular qualification.

4.  Select one of those experiences, preferably the most positive and important one, and describe it in detail using the following questions as a guide:
  • What did you do?

  • How did you do it?

  • Why did you do it?

  • What was the result of what you did?
Then add any numbers that would quantify your experience or any adverbs that would help to describe it.

5.  Discuss your descriptions with others and ask for a critique.

In developing your resume, keep the following guidelines in mind;

Use an Appropriate Format. There is no "best" or "right" format for everyone or every situation. The format that you feel best represents you is most likely to serve you the best, as well. Use a format that makes the most important and relevant information about you stand out. It is best to position your information in a descending order from most important to least important. Brevity, neatness and good organization are characteristics of all good resumes. A common resume fault is excessive length. As a student or recent graduate, you should try to confine yourself to a single page. If you go much beyond that length, you may be including irrelevant information or excessive detail. If, however, your experience warrants going beyond a single page, it is better to go to a second page than to sacrifice layout and readability by trying to cram everything onto one page.

Focus on Relevant Information. Try only to include information on your resume that supports your job or career objective. If the relationship is not clear, either explain it or leave the information off your resume. It is not dishonest to skip the fact that you bussed tables during college, if it has nothing to do with your career choice, but on the other hand, if you believe the potential employer would be attracted to the fact that you paid for much or all of your college education by part-time employment, mention it in that context. Relevant information includes any job or educational coursework through which you have developed knowledge and skills appropriate to the job you want. Also included should be any activities, hobbies, part-time or volunteer work experiences which are in some way related to what you want to do. In formation that does not reinforce the link between what you can do and the key qualifications for your desired position should be omitted.

Focus on Accomplishments. Focus on explaining what you have accomplished, not simply what you did or how you spent your time in a position. Achievements show initiative and action-characteristics any employer is looking for in a potential employee. Lay claim to possessing the qualifications needed for the position and then substantiate those claims with specifics from your past. Specifics can include: examples, numbers, percentages, and time periods. It is much more impressive to say: "Designed and implemented a new inventory control system that reduced out of stock items 15 percent in the first month of operation," than simply: “Helped improve inventory control”.
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