Targeting your résumé
Writing your objective or career summary
First of all, targeting your résumé to an employer requires absolute clarity as to the direction in which you want to take your career. You could start by naming the position you intend to pursue. However, simply listing the title of the job you’re seeking can be risky. There are over 20,000 job titles in use today — far too many for you or anyone else to really know well. Every work environment is different. You might be delighted to work in one place and entirely miserable working in another. Both situations could look very much the same. They could even have the same job title. This is why you should include an objective or a career summary at the beginning of your résumé. You want employers to know from the outset what you want to do, as well as what you want to prove you’re qualified to do. A focused and well written objective or career summary should convey a powerful message to employers-that there is a perfect “fit” between you and their organization.
If you’re making a career change or are a recent graduate, use an objective An objective should include information on the type of position you seek and the most compelling qualities, abilities or accomplishments that will make you stand out from the other applicants. Here are the basic formulae:
OBJECTIVE: “To secure X position in an organization where Y and Z skills would be utilized.”
OBJECTIVE: “To secure a position in X in which I may employ Y and Z.”
The point of using an objective is to create a psychological response in an employer by getting him or her to immediately focus on where you’re going with your career, rather than where you have (or have not) been.
If you’re looking for a new job in the same field, use a career summary A career summary highlights your background and provides a brief overview of your most important qualifications, skills and/or professional experience. Here’s the basic formula:
- A short phrase describing your profession
- Two or three additional statements relating to:
1. the breadth or depth of your skills
2. the unique combination of skills you possess
3. your innovative approach to the work
4. the range of environments in which you have experience
5. your history of awards, promotions or commendations
6. your special or well-documented accomplishments in the field
- A sentence describing your professional objective or interest
Choosing the right résumé format for you
Résumé format refers not to the design or look of your résumé but to how you organize and emphasize the information you use to back-up your objective or career summary. It is important to choose a résumé format that will best suit your individual background. The idea is to format your résumé in a way that best presents you — your skills, personal traits and work experience — to a prospective employer.
There are three basic types of résumés: Chronological, functional and combination.
The chronological format gives a job-by-job retelling of your experience. It’s the traditional favourite of employers because it reads quickly and enables them to spot flaws easily. The skills-based functional format emphasizes what you can do rather than what you have done and where you did it. Finally, the combination format merges skills summaries with job histories, which allows job seekers to place their most marketable skills and experiences at the forefront of their résumés.
1. The chronological résumé cites your employment history in reverse chronological order, from your most recent position back. It shows dates as well as employers and educational institutions (college, vocational/technical schools and career-oriented programs or courses). This is an up-front format: It demonstrates exactly how and where your career has progressed, underscoring continuity from job to job.
Who should write a chronological résumé?
- This format is best for people with a steady work history, which reflects constant growth or lateral movement.
- It is important that your experience be extremely relevant to the position(s) you’re seeking. Having a proven track record in one field or industry does little to convince employers in another field or industry that you’re worth hiring. Chronological résumés are not for people looking to make significant transitions in their careers — like changing fields.
- It helps if your recent job titles are impressive; they get an employer’s attention.
- This is not the best format for someone with blemishes on his or her work history: gaps, demotions, stagnation in a single position, job hopping, and recent re-entry into the workforce can give employers pause.
2. The functional résumé highlights your diverse range of abilities and transferable skills, while downplaying your job history. This format offers a lot of flexibility insofar as you can vary the categories of skills and abilities you choose to highlight, which allows you to focus on your specific qualifications for the position.
Who should write a functional résumé?
- This format is perfect for career changers, recent graduates and people with gaps or problems in their employment histories.
- People looking to change industries or to work in a new field should use Functional résumés. They allow you to emphasize skills that support your objective and relate to your field of interest. It’s like serving up your functional skills on a silver platter. This format uses unpaid and/or non-work-related experience to your best advantage.
3. The combination résumé includes elements of both the chronological and functional formats. It satisfies demands for employment timelines, and it showcases your most marketable skills and impressive accomplishments. The advantage of this format is that it allays any possible concerns about your work experience, while allowing you to emphasize your talents and how you might utilize them in the position you’re seeking.
Who should write a combination résumé?
- This format is particularly useful for people looking to increase their responsibilities or pursue higher-level positions in their current field. Combination résumés help you to demonstrate the skills you have to do a job, even though you might not have a proven track record in that particular position (but have prior experience in that field or industry).