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Resumes should paint a portrait, not simply chronicle a chronology

Rapidly shifting employment trends have created the need for new and modified resume formats, so delving into the grab bag of resume dos and don’ts can get complicated. The once strictly applied chronological resume has evolved into a complex self-marketing tool that more accurately reflects abilities and helps employers pinpoint that certain flavor individual who just might fit the role at hand.
The right format, good style and solid content are critical elements in determining if a resume survives the peculiarities of a company’s screening process or gets tossed in the circular file. Done appropriately, the resume is the key to opening the door to the right match in employment opportunities.
But always remember that what might be a great resume for one company may wind up a disaster for another–even if the positions applied for are identical.
In today’s job market, personnel managers realize that people likely will make numerous career changes over a lifetime, and will broaden their skills with each change, says Linda Saller, a vocational assessment specialist with the Adult Employment Services program of the Monroe No. 2-Orleans Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
“This is because there are more of a variety of jobs, and jobs that were traditionally male or female are now open to both genders,” she explains.
Saller also cites the gradual switch from a manufacturing economy to a service-oriented economy as a major contributing factor in the increasing number of changes that workers will find it necessary to make.
The tricky thing is picking the right resume to highlight a person’s qualifications to his or her greatest advantage for each individual company or position.
The latest in emerging resume styles is a hybrid called “the Damn Good Resume” introduced in “The Damn Good Resume Guide” by Yanner Parker, which combines the best features of the chronological, functional and performance resumes. It currently is the resume of choice for those being served by both the Adult Career Center at Monroe No. 1 BOCES and Adult Employment Services at Monroe No. 2-Orleans BOCES.
The functional resume (or skills resume) outlines transferable job skills by category, and is used for those changing fields, transitioning to a new career or seeking to move up to a different position within the same organization.
The performance resume is less familiar, but offers a refined format for individuals with lots of experience and accomplishments, and, perhaps, little or no higher education.
The Damn Good Resume, which comes highly recommended by Joyce Ebmeyer, chair of adult counseling and training services at Monroe No. 1 BOCES, offers up something different.
The practical utility of the Damn Good Resume’s format is that it serves the job seeker across a wider variety of occupational applications than does the plain functional or chronological resume.
The Damn Good Resume minimizes the focus on times of unemployment and/or underemployment; emphasizes achievements (even unpaid or volunteer work); and selects a lean concentration of information pertinent to the qualifications necessary for beginning work in a totally new field or position.
Loyd Thompson, owner/operator of ASAP Resume Etc. Inc. and a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers, concurs that this combination-type resume is preferable. This is because it contains a summary-of-qualifications section along with a chronology of jobs, as well as details on transferable skills and experience.
Thompson, who also works as a human-resources administrator with Applied Research Technology Inc., elaborates by saying that it is vital that the resume show explicitly what skills were obtained where. Human-resource administrators in competitor companies require this information for determining an applicant’s viability of experience, level of skill and future training requirements for a given position.
The methods used for screening resumes also must be taken into consideration. If a human-resource administrator reviews the resume, then its content should not just generate a tally of skills, experience and education; it must create a coherent whole and hang well together to paint a picture of the person behind the resume.
Bausch & Lomb Inc., for instance, looks for the characteristics of a “doer” a person who makes things happen, who gets the job done.
The company seeks resumes that clearly exhibit self-initiated accomplishments, “what makes the person uniquely a cut above the average, someone I want to talk to,” says Michael Craig, Bausch & Lomb’s director of placement.
Understanding an organization’s values system in terms of presenting oneself on paper can be crucial.
Philosophically, “community is important to Bausch & Lomb,” Craig explains, noting that the company looks for a resume that shows balance in a person’s life and a willingness to give back to the community. Bausch & Lomb, he adds, wants to hire the person who “seeks to continually improve not only themselves but (also) their work environment.”
New computer optical-scanning technology is creating advanced processes for handling resumes. Eastman Kodak Co., for instance, uses an artificial-intelligence software called Resumex to scan all its resumes into a centralized data base that supervisors throughout the company can access. In-person applications no longer are accepted; nor are resumes on disk.
The resume’s skill set is primary, says Sandra Roether, director of staffing in the human-resources department at Kodak: “We don’t want the soft, fluffy stuff; we want the specifics.”
Mainly, this is because optical-character-recognition software is not capable of accepting unusual treatments like white letters on a black background or fancy borders. This means skipping the creative design stuff meant to attract attention.
Scanning renders fairly insignificant the format a resume assumes. As the scanner searches, what is of utmost importance are the attributes that fall under the common headings of work history, experience, education and training. The scanner seeks to extract skills and experience, so be as specific as possible in detailing them, Roether says.
On the OCR flip side, Wegmans Food Markets Inc. has decided not to use resume-scanning technology. After giving it a go, the supermarket chain determined that because it is a service-driven enterprise, applicants should not be shouldered with the burden of correctly formatting resumes, says Anne Peterson, director of employment in human resources for Wegmans.
Wegmans accepts electronic resumes through some online recruiting via the Internet.
Peterson, who says she reads every cover letter she receives, notes that a succinct cover letter “is an extra opportunity to sell yourself.” It also is a good idea to indicate on the resume an interest in a career growth position, if that is your path, she adds.
The following dos and don’ts pop up over and over as elements that make for high marks in a good resume:
–The absolutely worst fatal mistake made on a resume is the presence of errors in punctuation, spelling or grammar, and typos “that jump out at you, and are usually found in the middle of the resume,” Ebmeyer says. She emphasizes that there is no excuse for these kinds of errors, and that resumes as such should be flawless in these basics.
–Readability is essential. Place your strong points–what you want the potential employer to focus on–at the very top. Also make good use of white space; demonstrate attention to detail; omit clutter; and eliminate jargon such as “interfaced” and “responsibilities included.”
–Style and design never can compensate for poor or sketchy content. Remove pronouns, specifically I’s, to avoid reading like a “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay. Instead, generate examples and short phrases that tell what you have to offer and can do uniquely. Precision counts. Show exactly what work role you want.
–Be concise; refrain from using more than one page. Use a top-quality paper in neutral colors only: beige, cream, ivory or light gray. Avoid bright or neon colors like hot pink.
–For printing, use a laser printer or professional typesetting and copying service.
–Find out whether a computer scanner will be used for processing. If so, simplify your format “stick to the basics, nothing fancy” and use standard fonts, i.e., Courier, Universe, Futura, Optima or Times.
Remember, every resume must be tailored to each individual’s set of circumstances, Thompson says, offering this last, reassuring tidbit: “I can show you a resume that violates every rule, but the person got the job because the information the employer looked for was there. But if it (had been judged) strictly by design, it would have gotten tossed out.”
(Cynthia Brone is a Rochester-area free-lance writer.)

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