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The psychology of résumé writing
Career Cycles with Joe Hodowanes

Second of two parts

A visit to any bookstore or library quickly will reveal that there's an overwhelming supply of résumé books offering a host of conflicting advice about how best to construct a résumé.

At best, they can tell you how to produce an acceptable document.  At worst, the guidance is downright damaging.  The books ignore psychological processes that the writer and target audience need to focus on.

Following are a few more principles aimed at these strategic concerns.  While targeted at managerial and executive-level readers, the principles apply to job seekers at any career stage.  The moment is here.  Seize it!

  1. Write your accomplishments with the employer's bottom line in mind.  Review your résumé from the employer's perspective:  I'm the company and I'm spending "X" amount of money on you.  What's my return on my can you make the company more profitable?  That's what your résumé should scream loud and clear to the reader, particularly your accomplishments, which should address how a previous employer's bottom line benefited from your employment.  When writing your accomplishments you want to answer this question for the résumé reader: Why should I select you, and not one of the other hundreds of people whose résumés are sitting on my desk?
  2. Inspire confidence in yourself and others.  This is among the most important items in the checklist.  When you scan your résumé are you brimming with confidence? Can you defend every word in an interview?  Is every claim truthful, credible or substantiated in some way?  Does the documents present the clearest, most convincing and unified picture possible?  Does every entry achieve the maximum impact?  If you answered yes to these questions, you have a valuable tool at your disposal. If not, keep working until you can say yes to each one.
  3. Quantify where possible.  To present the scope of your responsibility and accomplishments effectively, cite specific figures in their proper context.  They will add credibility highlight specific items, show where you fit into the big picture, and address a prospective employer's concerns Although this may seem counterintuitive figures make a résumé more readable.
  4. Develop a "no excuse' philosophy.  Spending adequate time to create a compelling résumé document is worth the effort.  It's your most valuable credential and can mean more money in the long run.  How long did you spend in undergraduate college four years? Then maybe you went to grad school after that for two to five years.  And for what?  Credentials!  Stuff on paper that you hoped and to some extent, you've found could enhance your earning power and career achievement, in addition to culturally enriching your life.

    Suppose it takes you a month, at the outside, working every spare moment nights and weekends to compile a document that's not only compelling but informative
    one packed with the recounting of what you have learned and achieved in your previous jobs the only thing that potential employers really care about.  I repeat: The résumé you wind up with is the most valuable credential you can have today.
  5. Check your expectations.  The hiring craze of the late 1990s may have given job seekers unrealistic expectations about their marketability in the 2000s They may think recruiters are dying to speak with diem.  We all remember how much easier it was to get a job in the late '90s Because of that, job seekers may have the feeling that it will be an easy thing now.  But we-hit a recession and now a jobless recovery, so that just isn't the case anymore. Job seekers who are looking for new jobs typically are consumed by their searches and anxious about their futures.  If people are ignoring them or are rude and unhelpful, it has a magnified negative effect. Guard against this negative mindset showing up in your résumé.
  6. No specialty.  Ms. Smith is an HR specialist and a PR whiz. Mr. Johnson- is good at consumer marketing and Internet startups The trouble is few people are looking for these exact combinations; they tend to want one thing or the other.  You also make yourself needlessly hard to categorize in a compartmentalized world of job titles and job functions.  The solution is to lead with the expertise most relevant for the type of position you are now seeking, while treating the rest as additional information.
  7. Make your résumé a visually appealing document.

    How your résumé looks is as important as what the words contained in it say about you That's why you should be careful about the appearance of your résumé As many as 25 percent of job seekers with excellently worded résumés ruin their chances because of a poor résumé layout.  The phrase "you never get a second chance to make a good first impression" applies in résumés just as much as in meeting someone for the first time.

    Just as you wouldn't dream of going to a big interview in anything other than your best outfit and polished shoes your résumé. should score a " 10" for how it looks. After all, your résumé is the ambassador, your packaging, an extension of yourself and what you have to offer the company.

    As always, in a continuing effort to assist you with your job search, you can send your résumé to us for a free, confidential critique.

    Joe Hodowanes is a career strategy adviser in Tampa.  For a risk-free telephone evaluation, email a copy of your résumé to or fax it to 813-936-0201.  For questions, call Joe at 813-936-0091 or visit on the Web. 

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