Articles on Writing Resumes, Careers
Getting Hired, & Job Searching:

Rx for a Retro Resume

   Article by Karen Hofferber, MEd, CPRW

As major layoffs continue, an increasing number of people are facing the prospect of finding a new job. Many are even contemplating a complete career change. If it's been years since you've updated your resume, you may be wondering where to start. Follow these six steps to turn your dusty retro resume into a high-powered personal marketing tool for winning interviews in a competitive job market.

Step 1: Find Your Focus

Before you start refreshing your old resume, you need to clarify your job target. Without a clear vision of your career direction, your resume won't do a good job "selling" you to potential employers. If you have more than one career interest, you'll be much better off developing different versions of your resume vs. trying to construct a one-size-fits-all document.

Step 2: Research Your Target

Thoroughly research your job target before writing the first draft of your resume, especially if it's been a while since you've been in the job market. Talk to people in your targeted industry, and scour job ads on MSN Careers to get a good idea of the qualifications employers are looking for. If you are changing careers, your research may prompt you to enroll in continuing- education classes to gain new skills.

Look for keywords that continually crop up in different ads (such as "B2B sales" or "P&L management"). If you see terms used frequently, they should probably be in your resume if they match your qualifications. Pay attention to skills that aren't mentioned in these ads as well, and remove items from your old resume that will make you seem outdated (for example, Wang).

Step 3: Develop Your Profile/Objective

Now you're ready to begin writing. If you're a career changer, you'll need a clearly stated objective to open your resume. Don't expect busy hiring managers to figure out what you want to do. Use this section to explain key skills you can leverage from your prior career into your new job target. Emphasize how you can help the organization, rather than what you want in a job. Here's a before-and-after makeover:

If you're looking for a new position within your current field, use the Objective section in the Resume Builder to write a compelling Profile Summary. This is the perfect place to write a few hard-hitting sentences emphasizing the breadth of your experience and the value you bring to the table.

Step 4: Zero in on Your Achievements

Your resume must have an accomplishments-driven focus to compete in today's job market and maximize calls for interviews. Avoid simply rehashing boring job descriptions and, instead, detail the results and outcomes of your efforts.

Which would you find more compelling if you were a hiring manager?

For each of the positions you've held, use action verbs to describe ways that you contributed to your employers, such as cut costs, generated revenue, improved service, enhanced processes, solved problems or saved time. Use numbers, percentages, dollar amounts, comparisons or other key details to back up your claims. Be sure not to reveal facts that disclose proprietary or confidential company information.

Step 5: Design Your Resume

Does your retro resume resemble a typing job circa 1970? To stand out from the crowd, use your word processing program's advanced formatting features such as bold, italics, line draw, industry icons, attractive fonts, etc. -- without going overboard -- to give your resume a distinctive look. If you are not confident in your design capabilities, seek assistance from a resume writer or talented friend.

Step 6: Proofread and Test-Drive

Your resume must be perfect. Carefully proofread your resume to ensure proper grammar, punctuation and usage. If you are changing careers, ask for feedback from hiring managers in your targeted field, even if the company has no immediate openings, for valuable input on how your resume stands up to the competition. After it's complete, post your resume online where thousands of employers will see it, and you can apply online for jobs.

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