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What Is the Purpose of a Resume?

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In most cases, a resume is supposed to get you an interview, not get you the job. Keep that in mind and you'll write a better one.

If a resume were supposed to get you a job, you could skip the interviews, the application forms, the medical exams and all the other steps job hunters ordinarily go through. You'd just write a good one, sit back and wait for an employer to call and say, "Great resume. You're hired."

Getting a job is a lot like selling something. In this case, your skills, experience and knowledge are the product. Your resume is one way you sell yourself. Like selling anything else, getting the job you want involves several steps:

  • Create interest among prospective employers (the customers) through your resume and cover letter.

  • Tell how you will benefit the prospective employer's company during the interview (sell the product).

  • Demonstrate your skills/knowledge (the product's benefits) if you are asked to take a pre-employment test.

  • You get a job offer (the customer wants to buy).

  • You negotiate salary and benefits (define the value of the product and negotiate the price). These negotiations can include time off in the first few months; relocation assistance; a company car; an early salary review.

  • You agree on terms and join the organization (the product is sold).
Writing a good resume only helps start the process. It doesn't end it.

Can a Resume Help You Get a Promotion?

In many organizations, the boss or the personnel recruiter pulls resumes from the file when a promotion opens up. For ex ample, sales representatives' resumes might be read when a home office job opens up in sales training or sales promotion. Safety instructors' resumes might be pulled when openings in security occur. Line executives and recruiters use the resumes to remind themselves of the strengths and interests of employees. So you have a lot to gain if you update yours when you:
  • Finish a business course or workshop directly related to the organization's products, services or your job.

  • Get a college degree, an advanced degree or gain certification for new or enhanced skills.

  • Win an award for work performance.

  • Successfully manage or help carry out a project that has high visibility, measurable results or is of importance to your company.

  • Reach maturity in your present position, that is, run your job smoothly for whatever period of time it takes to show you can handle the challenges.

  • Decide on a new career path.

  • Hear of interesting new ventures by your company.
Just the act of sending an updated resume helps. It reminds recipients of you, your skills and your career interests. Send a cover letter or memo saying why you are sending the resume just as you would to a prospective employer.

What Goes on a Resume?

That question was asked of a group of 200 recruiters who go to college campuses looking for potential employees and 25 college teachers of business communications.

Here's what they said they expect to see on a resume: job (or career) objectives, employment history and educational history.

Fewer than one-fourth wanted to know anything about pastime activities, participation in organizations, references and personal accomplishments.

Another survey was carried out among the chief personnel officers of Fortune 500 companies. They were given a long list of statements about resumes and asked if they agreed or disagreed with them. They strongly agreed with the following statements about what should go on a resume, what a resume should look like and how you should use a resume;
  1. Work experience-List jobs held, dates of employment, company addresses, reasons for leaving. (98 percent agreed.)

  2. The prospective employee should take a copy of his or her resume to the job interview. (97 percent agreed.)

  3. Keeping a resume neat and accurate (no misspellings, no typographical errors) is essential. (96 percent agreed.)

  4. Give general and specific educational qualifications, such as majors, minors, degrees. (95 percent agreed.)
What statements did they not agree with?
  1. Resumes should be three pages long. (Only four percent agreed with that.)

  2. Your social life ought to be covered. (Only three percent agreed strongly, 26 percent had "moderate agreement.")
Bear in mind that the first survey was done among college recruiters and college teachers. These responders were no doubt thinking of advice they would give to young people who were wanting to join relatively large companies at the entry level. The top personnel officers were probably thinking of both old and young applicants all across the spectrum of jobs, from high to low.

Put These Things on Your Resume
  1. Your name, address and telephone number.

  2. Your career objective.

  3. Your education. Include honors, scholarships, awards, election to or membership in select societies such as Phi Beta Kappa.

  4. Work experience.

  5. References are optional. Employers who want them will ask for them on their application form or during an interview.
What Shouldn't Go on a Resume
  1. Your hobbies. (Unless they are directly related to your work.)

  2. Your marriage status or a family sketch.

  3. Your present or your desired salary.
Why Shouldn't I State Salary Needed?

In the survey of top personnel officers, more than half wanted applicants to write their salary requirements on their resumes. That would serve them well, but what about you, the applicant? Before you say how much you expect, you'd like to know the salary range, wouldn't you? Why say you'll take a certain amount when the pay range for the job is several thousand dollars higher? If possible, avoid writing down your salary history or an expected salary. You are giving up a lot of negotiating power if you do. Save that topic for the interview. If pressed, you might be able to call and ask what the pay range is before writing down your expected pay or find out the salary ranges for comparable positions at other companies.

Some employment advisers go so far as to suggest you write on the application form, "I'm sure your salary range is reasonable and competitive." Those advisers say you should give salary information when you are in a conversation and can hope for true negotiation.

You have to be the judge of what is best in your particular situation. But keep in mind that you're not likely to get what you want unless you ask for it.
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