Newsletter of the Society for Technical Communication, San Francisco Chapter
"It is not possible to write a perfect resume. It is not possible to write a perfect cover letter. It is possible and easy to write a very fitting resume and an excellent cover letter to interest a specific audience every time you send a resume out."
Joy Montgomery led the STC San Francisco Chapter Members through a discussion focused on key tips to developing effective resumes.
First, accept the fact that you will never have the "perfect" resume or cover letter. A good place to start is by developing a master file, which should include every skill you have, past and present, not only as a result of paid jobs, but also those you developed as a result of volunteering efforts as well as just about everything you ever got excited about. Be sure to keep a back-up copy of this master file, just in case. Include skills that you suspect may bore most people, because the reality is that there are people out there who are actually looking for those talents. You will be noticed!
Second, the resume does not get you the job, but it could get you the interview. Conversely, the resume can disqualify you from getting the interview.
The Objective: everything that stays in the resume must meet your objective. Putting the objective in the resume may not matter. You may choose a summary instead. What is important is that you have developed your objective while you are developing your resume. Every detail in the resume must meet the objective and remains relevant to the job opportunity.
Experience: Typically, agencies will want to see chronological resumes. They will look for any gaps in your work history. When you list experience in your resume, confine each to a single line. Education should be kept to a single line at the end of the resume. If you are older, you may wish to omit any dates.
Accomplishments: These statements should consist of two to five lines, will describe something that you did, and how it exceeded your employer's expectations. Accomplishment statements begin with a verb, e.g., "Reduced costs by 40%."
Summaries: Use a summary in your resume when you are "fishing," i.e., you are not limiting yourself to a specific job objective. A summary is useful if you can get your resume in front of someone who is aware of a number of different jobs in a company.
Joy recommends the following resume format:
Some additional tips:
A one page resume cannot sell you. Don't be overly concerned about keeping the resume to a minimum length.
In hard economic times, we tend to accept opportunities that are less attractive. Surprisingly, we often have skills that can transfer to higher levels of responsibility. Remember that creating a master file of all skills can expand your outlook about your capabilities. It can provide ideas about jobs and opportunities that you may have not considered.
Freelance editing –- tailor the resume to the specific target industry. Consider those things most important to that industry.
Summary vs. Objective: If the hiring people know you, use a summary. If not, state an objective at the top of the resume.
In Joy's own words:
"I teach people how to create a master file that allows them to have a very specific, targeted resume in minutes when they need it. The book is on Amazon -- it's Hand It to 'em on a Platter."
"The idea is that generic resumes don't do the best job for people and, in fact, show a lack of interest in the specific job and a lack of respect for the time people took to describe what they wanted to know about. Creating the master file is the hard part. Using it from then on is a snap."
If you would like to contact Joy directly, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 925.963.6858.
Jim Kirk is relatively new to the world of technical writing. He has been a Program Manager at Cisco Systems for almost 11 years, and prior to that held a variety of marketing and sales positions in telecommunications. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or cell phone, 415-730-3731.