Catching the employers eye may be the last thing you want

Few things are more stressful than looking for work. Therefore, reducing or eliminating potentially stressful issues is a worthwhile effort.

I have heard otherwise competent people blame the lack of a resume on their inability to decide which style to use. In some cases that excuse covers for more profound problems, but there are those who are truly discouraged by the choices and the arguments that swirl around them.

Everyone agrees that you must have a resume. There is no quarrel on this point. But the minute you pick a style you enter a sharply divided, hostile world. Your choice will be flat wrong in the opinion of all those who chose differently. Some will explain why for a fee, others will advise free of charge, but both groups will advocate their preferences with the fanaticism of the newly converted.

If one sect is right all the others are wrong, since styles are mutually exclusive.

If you pick chronological, presenting the achievements in the order of their occurrence, adherents of every other style will argue that theirs is better. Whether you choose from functional, reverse-chronology, combination, interlocking grip, cross-cultural, gravity fed, or fat free, a difference of opinion will always exist.

Some aspects of resume preparation are really not open to intelligent debate. Here are some non-negotiables for resumes:

1. The principal function of a resume is to help hiring managers eliminate non-contenders. Therefore, an employer going through a stack of them will focus on which applicants can be cut. Being selected is less important than not being rejected.

2. The time spent eliminating applicants can be measured in nanoseconds. Try to visualize how much time an employer may spend on each individual resume.

3. The only universally applicable one-size-fits-all rule of resume-writing is that it be brief and look it. The elimination process starts the moment your resume is in hand. If it doesn’t instantly appear to be an easy, informative read, it won’t be read. To that end, use lots of white space, a large enough type size and crisp, focused paragraphs with active verbs and clear language free of professional jargon. And don’t make it longer than one page. Your chances of rejection increase exponentially if it’s longer.

4. Style is a minor factor. There are many other elements hiring managers consider more important. Style deserves some attention, but not a great deal. Remember, it’s the employer’s preference that counts, not yours. Since that preference differs from one employer to the next, you’re always shooting in the dark. Still, some job seekers insist on rambling, narrative styles, which can resemble a sort of long obituary, simply because they’re convinced it will please employers whom they’ve never met.

5. The only valid test of your resume’s quality is whether it generates interviews. If it has, it’s a good resume. A resume that secures that all-important second step is automatically, demonstrably and indisputably effective.

6. If you don’t get an interview, you may never know whether your resume is to blame. Since the appearance of your resume is under your control you must organize it properly. With so much at stake, it’s no wonder arguments over what’s proper are so stressful. But there also are a myriad of other reasons for being rejected, and no style fits every occasion.

7. Job hunting is a crap game in which timing is everything. Even if you land a terrific job, there’s always someone better qualified who the employer could have hired who may apply the next day. Superb resumes that arrive after positions are filled, or before there’s an available opening, won’t help their owners -unless you believe “resume fairies” actually file untimely resumes for later.

Accepting such sobering truths can help you stop agonizing and start writing your resume. Let experts explain their preferences, but choose one that suits you. You’re free to change styles, sharpen your skills and maintain a fresh approach.

Having several good resume versions ready to go is wise. Even if Uncle Harry is chairman of the search committee, he’ll need a resume to justify hiring you. Get it done right, and get it done right now.

Consider in this context, Dave Barry’s assessment, “A well-written resume can make all the difference between getting a job and not having a prayer of getting a job.”

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