Writing your resume in an hour

Too often people spend so much time trying to perfect their résumé, they lose sight of their real goal — to find a job. You’ve probably heard your friends, family members or even yourself say that you will start looking for that new job as soon as you get your résumé put together. And then a month or year passes and you still haven’t finished the first step toward a new career. Résumés don’t have to be hard to create, they don’t have to be time-consuming, and they don’t have to be intimidating.

Plain and simple: a résumé is a one- or two-page summary of your life and employment history. According to Michael Farr, author of “Same-Day Résumé” (JIST), before you begin the writing process, you should learn what to expect from your résumé. “As a first step in creating a résumé, examine what a résumé is and consider what it can and cannot do,” Farr says. A résumé presents you to prospective employers. It serves as your introduction and is often used in their screening process. It may get you an interview and it may not, it all depends on what that particular employer is looking for in a new employee.

Don’t depend on your résumé to do your job search for you. A résumé is merely one tool in a complete job search. Sending hundreds of résumés out and expecting calls for interviews to come pouring in will get you no where. Even if your résumé does get you an interview, it doesn’t necessarily get you the job.
“No matter how good your résumé is, you will still have to get interviews and do well in them before you get a job offer,” Farr says. However, don’t count out the importance of a résumé. Jim Bright and Joanne Earl, authors of “Amazing Résumés” (JIST), researched the impact an interview had to the final hiring decision as opposed to the impact of the résumé. They found that each plays an equal role in the determination of the right candidate. “The résumé provides most data on competencies and achievements, whereas the interview provides more data on interpersonal skills and rapport,” Bright and Earl say.

There are many reasons to have a résumé; consider these top three: First, employers often ask for them, so why not be prepared by handing them a complete and concise résumé. Second, résumés help structure your communication. A good résumé clarifies your job objective; identifies your skills, education, and work experience; and lists accomplishments. By creating a résumé, you will be better prepared for interviews and other job correspondence because you will have already established your goals and skill set. Third, a well-done résumé creates a handy reference piece for potential employers. “It can be used as a tool to present the skills you have to support your job objective and to present details that are often not solicited in a preliminary interview,” Farr says.

Creating a résumé shouldn’t be difficult. Most simple résumés can be created in an hour and then you can move on with your job search. “You can write a basic résumé in about an hour,” Farr says. “It will not be a fancy one, and you might want a better one later, but I suggest you do the simple one first.” When you have more time, you can always go back to your résumé and make it more sophisticated. But after learning the purpose of a résumé, you should realize that your job search should not be stalled because you have yet to create your perfect résumé — it’s to get a perfect job.

Stephanie Legatos writes on NewEnglandJobs.org that there are several résumé types — chronological, functional, combination and skills. “Choosing the one that will most effectively showcase your skills and expertise can be tricky,” Legatos says.

When developing a résumé on a short timeframe, either the chronological or skills format would best suit your needs as they are relatively simple to compose.
The primary feature of a chronological résumé is to list the jobs you’ve held in reverse order of most recent to least recent.

A chronological résumé is best for people who have had several years of experience in the same type of job they are seeking now. For example, an office assistant with years of experience looking to become an office manager or an elementary teacher who is relocating to a new district would want to use a chronological résumé to highlight their work history. The major sections of the chronological résumé include your name, mailing address, phone numbers, e-mail address, career summary, education and training, and work and volunteer history. You may want to include awards, recognitions, and any personal information you find relevant for the job you are seeking. “This section is a good place to list significant community involvements, a willingness to relocate, or personal characteristics an employer might like, but remember to keep it short,” Farr says.

A skills résumé clusters your experiences under major skills areas. The skills résumé is better suited for those looking to change careers. For example, a small business owner may decide to find a job as a financial analyst or a nurse wants to become a legal consultant. Both of these people would need a résumé that could emphasize their transferable skills and downplay their previous titles. It may take a little more time than a chronological résumé, but it is important for certain situations. “If you are a recent graduate or have little experience in the career or at the level you now want, you will find that a simple chronological résumé emphasizes your lack of related experience rather than your ability to do the job,” Farr says. A skills résumé avoids these problems by highlighting what you have done under specific skills headings rather than under past jobs. A basic skills résumé begins like a chronological résumé and includes your name, mailing address, phone numbers, and e-mail address. It also includes a career summary, which is an important step to creating a skills résumé.
“Without a reasonably clear job objective, you can’t select and organize the key skills you have to support that job objective,” says Farr. Unlike a chronological résumé, instead of highlighting your work experience, you describe your skill set as it pertains to your job objective. In a skills résumé, you identify three to six key skills and examples of how you used it in your previous experiences. You can conclude with your education or other information a potential employer would want to know.

Once you have established the purpose of your résumé and decided what type of résumé you will need, developing it should be fairly simple. Consider your past experiences; think about what you liked, what you were good at, and what others counted on you to do. Create a résumé that highlights your abilities and shows why you stand out in a crowd. Get it done and move on to the next step — finding a great job!