12 Tips for Rewriting Your [Web] Resume

Writing a resume is a task that every job seeker loves to hate. Writing a Web resume is even tougher. Here’s how to create a document that will put everyone on the same Web page.

What’s in Your Resume?

  1. Think nouns, not verbs. Career counselors used to advise job seekers to pepper their resumes with action verbs that would impress HR staffers who scan resumes with their eyeballs. Web resumes also get scanned – by digital eyeballs. Companies then use software that combs through resumes for words that signal job titles, technical skills, and levels of education or experience. And most of those words are nouns. “Verbs used to be the important thing,” says Kate Wendleton, a career counselor associated with CareerMosaic, a leading job site. “Now employers search for nouns – what products you developed, which software programs you can use.”
  2. The more buzzwords, the better. Career counselors also used to advise clients to avoid buzzwords in their resumes. Today buzzwords are all the buzz. “Applicant-tracking systems” rank resumes by the number of keywords in them. If a company is looking for an auditor with experience in Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft Excel, and Peachtree First Accounting, it can rank resumes according to which ones include all three programs, which have two of them, and so on. “Turn your experience into keywords,” urges Margaret Riley Dikel, coauthor of The Guide to Internet Job Searching VGM Career Horizons, 1996, “and maximize the number of them in your resume.”
  3. Don’t forget to describe your personality and attitude. Just because most resume searches are computerized doesn’t mean that companies don’t search for human qualities. A tracking system can identify behavioral traits – dependability, responsibility, a high energy level – as easily as it can technical skills.
  4. Personal home pages should be all business. Like many job seekers, you may want to include a link in your Web resume to a personal Web page, where you can post detailed information about your career. But don’t muck up your page with photos of you, your family, or your pets. An HR manager at a big chemical company puts it this way: “I’m not looking for a pretty face. I’m looking for a skill. What you look like is not a skill.”

What Should Your Resume Look Like?

  1. It’s not a resume—it’s a movie trailer. Electronic resumes do eventually get read by real human beings – on a computer screen. You have about 20 lines to grab their attention. So don’t waste precious real estate on details such as your address. Lead with your technical skills and personal qualities. “Identify yourself as a solution to someone’s problem,” says Parker.
  2. Break the one-page rule. Limiting your resume to what will fit on a single piece of paper doesn’t mean much in the online world. If you can hold your readers’ attention, they’ll keep scrolling. But don’t overdo it: At some point, most executives do print out resumes that they find interesting. The new rule of thumb, says Sue Nowacki, a professional resume writer based in Gainesville, Florida, is to create an electronic resume that can be printed in three pages.
  3. One size doesn’t fit all. Nowacki also argues that an online job search requires four different resumes: a word-processor document, an ASCII text-only file, an HTML-coded file, and a hard copy. The word-processor document can be printed, stored in an online database, or sent as an email attachment but see point 11. The ASCII file is what you submit to job-related Web sites. An HTML-coded resume can be posted as a Web page or submitted to job boards. And you still need a hard copy, printed on high-quality paper, for companies that use snail mail.

What Are the New Do’s and Don’ts?

  1. Not all text is created equal. Scanners work well with these typefaces: Helvetica, Courier, Futura, Optima, Palatino, New Century Schoolbook, and Times. And they work best with type sizes in the 10- to 14-point range.
  2. Faxes are fine. If you’re asked to fax your resume, set the machine to the “fine” mode. That results in a higher-quality printout on the receiving end.
  3. Don’t send your resume as an attachment. Paste it into the body of an email message. Most employers ignore attachments. They worry about viruses, and they don’t want to waste time with files that their computers can’t translate.
  4. Always include a subject line. If you’re responding to a specific posting, put the reference number in the subject line. If you’re submitting a resume to a database, include a description of your skills in the subject line. “Sell yourself!” says Joyce Lain Kennedy, coauthor of Electronic Resume Revolution John Wiley & Sons, 1995. “It’s not a subject line. It’s a theater marquee.”
  5. Ask the wizard. These days, most word-processing programs come with good resume templates and with “wizards” – step-by-step guides that walk you through the templates. If you’re looking for a real wizard, visit the Professional Association of Resume Writers http://www.parw.com.

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