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Selling Yourself: Resume Dilemmas – V

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You Don't Know What Personal Information to Include in Your Resume

The rule of thumb is this: If putting any of these categories into your resume may help but can’t possibly hurt, then you're safe. Look into each category and ask yourself: is there any value there?

Examples: Personal Interest, Affiliations, and Community Activities

Any interests or affiliations you list should have value to the reader. Be sure you know the needs, culture, and interests of your audience before you list any interests or affiliations that have strong connotations. Don't otherwise assume your reader will relate to your specific interests. That can backfire. For example, indicating that you're a motorcycle club member may not sit well with an environmentally conscious employer. Mentioning your contributions to the Democratic presidential campaign won’t gain you an interview with a Republican reader. Stay away from political or religious affiliations unless those are the areas of your job objective and you know your audience.

The interests or affiliations you list should somehow reinforce your ability to meet the needs of your job objective as well as match the culture of the prospective company and/or industry. For example, if you’re a high-level sales professional in an industry that begins many of its deals on the golf course, then listing golf as an interest would most likely be perceived as an asset.

Professional affiliations that indicate you have strong industry contacts and specialized knowledge can be an asset. Sometimes community affiliations can have the same value, depending on your industry and vocation. Don't list too many, however. A list that is too long makes you look like a "committee person" who spends more time on committees than at work.

If you have a hobby that, by its very nature, reinforces your work skills, then you should list it. Examples: a travel guide who reads history as a hobby; a restaurant manager who enjoys gourmet cooking at home; an office manager who enjoys home computer applications.

Marital Status and Age

It's against the law for a prospective employer to ask your age or marital status. Don't put either on your resume. And don't try to second-guess your prospective employer's desire for single or married employees. It can backfire. Sometimes single people list their marital status on the resume because they think that being single will be viewed as an asset because they have more freedom to travel and fewer personal encumbrances. Likewise married people sometimes list their marital status because they think that being married shows stability and a sense of commitment to an employer because of family obligations. The fact is that it's anybody's guess how the employer will see things. So don't guess. Leave it alone.

Do not list your date of birth. If you feel your early career makes you look too much like a relic, then don't go that far back in your job history. There's no rule that says you must list all your employment history on your resume. Go back only as far as is relevant (and include those dates). If you have a degree and you don't want to list your date of graduation because it reveals your age, at least be consistent by omitting all dates from the Education section. The reader may wonder why there are no dates in that section, but he won't know for sure why you left them out, and it shouldn't be a cause to lose the interview opportunity. (Leaving your dates of employment out may cause you to lose an interview, however.)

Military Experience

Again, if something in your military career supports your objective-perhaps it was specialized training, a particular skill you learned, or any awards that demonstrate your competence or ability to perform-then you should consider listing military experience. If it has no bearing on your objective, leave it out.

There's a Gap in Your Employment History

You have several options here. If your gap is not a large one, simply list whole years rather than months and years. This was Harold Lister's problem:

Putting It All Together-What Makes the Resume Work?

The resume's primary job is to be persuasive. Think of your resume as a snapshot of your value to the job market. Like any good snapshot, it must be focused and appealing. Your initial approach in developing your resume is critical. Step outside yourself and look back. Change roles. Put yourself in the place of the reader. If you were the potential employer, what would you want to see? What pieces of your background would help you get hired? Put those pieces in. And what parts of your past would lessen your chances of getting the job? Leave those pieces out. Write the resume for the need and greed of the reader, not for yourself. Ask yourself the four questions from Winning Move #14: What do you want? Why are you qualified to do it? Where have you done it? How well have you done it?

Give your resume the ultimate value test: Think of it as a piece of paper blowing along the sidewalk of a busy street. What is going to make the reader pick it up? What will grab the reader's eye? What separates it from all other sheets whirling around him? Make your resume worth the reader's time and effort. Show value. Be persuasive, not timid. Be colorful, not bland. Paint an alluring picture of your value by concentrating on achievements and specific capabilities, not by wasting space on job descriptions and responsibilities that are obvious. Give it flavor and uniqueness by showing specific instances of how you’ve helped your employer.

Make your resume visually inviting. Keep as much white space as possible. Don’t crowd the page. Have it laser-printed by someone who will maintain the data file for easy updating and editing. Use a high-quality paper. Skip the wild colors. And have at least two other people-including a colleague, if possible-read your resume for typos, grammar, and content.

Finally, don’t let the resume format make you uptight. Relax and let your value points flow, the way you would when bragging to a friend. Don’t worry about length at first. Get all the valuable material down and then begin to cut out what is redundant, not applicable, or not so persuasive. As you would when framing a good snapshot, show only what needs to be shown, then focus and shoot. As Winning Moves #16 to 36 show, there's always a solution to your resume dilemma. And as the ancient proverb says, where there is no solution, there is no dilemma.
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