That's the most basic question of any career search. This exercise is designed to help you answer that question by "sampling the field" of your choice and identifying the most commonly sought skills, experiences, credentials and characteristics.
Instructions Collect 20-25 job listings, Internet postings, newspaper advertisements, mission statements, and/or job descriptions for the career field(s) you are seeking. As you read through the listings, identify key words or phrases that describe the education, experience, skills, and qualities potential employers are seeking. Each time there is a new key word or phrase, add it to your list. Each time an item appears again, place a checkmark (√) in the "frequency" column. The items which receive the most checkmarks will give you good insight into what employers in your field are seeking in their employees. Example:
|Keywords and Phrases||Frequency|
|Strong verbal and written communication skills||√√√√√√√√√√√√|
|Bachelor's degree (in *****)||√√√√|
|3-5 years related experience (in *****)||√√√√√|
|General computer skills|
|Specific computer skills (in *****)||√√√√√√√√|
|Ability to work as part of a team||√√√√√√|
|Sense of humor||√√√√|
|Willingness to travel||√√√√√|
|Strong organizational, analytical, and problem solving skills||√√√√√√√√√√|
|Appreciation of and commitment to workplace diversity||√√√√√|
|Customer service experience||√√√√√√|
|Certification/Licensure as *****||√√|
|Ability to manage multiple projects||√√√√|
Develop accomplishments/results statements, using the SOAR method:
Statement of action: What did you do? (see Action Verbs list)
Occurrence of Action: Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly...?
Amount of Action: 19, 50, over 100...?
Results of Action: Increased, decreased, saved, taught, implemented...?
Statement: Managed production crew
Occurrence: Managed production crew on a daily basis
Amount: Managed production crew of over 20 people on a daily basis
Results: Managed production crew of over 20 people that increased production 3 quarters in a row
Examples of Accomplishments/Results Statements
- Selected as freshman orientation counselor; acclimated 150 new students to college environment.
- Innovated blood drive volunteer system, which increased student participation by 20%.
- Overhauled social organization recruitment program, which achieved national record for 75% membership increase.
- Cartoonist for small newspaper which publishes 4 times a week.
- Initiated leadership change program for 140 middle and senior level managers.
- Led 8 member project team that collected leadership data from 500 employees.
- Formulated banking method that decreased teller outage by 60%.
- Maintained 40% net profit margin in retail sales over two year period.
- Redesigned paint system resulting in annual savings of $60,0000.
- Trained over 200 insurance agents in the legal, ethical, and regulatory aspects of insurance and securities sales.
- Increased departmental sales by 25% in first three months as manager.
Use action verbs when creating accomplishment or result statements.
Formats & Samples
Skill Headings for Use in a Functional Resume
Common Resume Mistakes
RESUME IS TOO FOCUSED ON JUST YOUR JOB RESPONSIBILITIES
Develop accomplishment/results statements by answering the following questions:
- How did you perform the job better than others?
- What were problems/challenges you faced? How did you overcome them?
- What were the results? How did the company benefit from your performance?
- Did you receive any awards, special recognition or promotions as a result?
GENERAL AND WORDY OBJECTIVE STATEMENT
Avoid statements like "A challenging position enabling me to contribute to organizational goals while offering an opportunity for growth and advancement". Replace it with what you do or what you want to do (i.e. Seeking a position as a C/C++ Programmer.).
TOO SHORT OR TOO LONG RESUME
Don't try to squeeze all experiences onto one page because you have heard resumes shouldn't be longer. By doing so may cause you to omit impressive achievements. Do not include irrelevant or redundant experience. If the experience doesn't relate to the objective, don't include it.
USING PERSONAL PRONOUNS AND ARTICLES
There should be no mentions of "I" or "me" and only minimal use of articles. Begin with an action verb.
PROVIDING IRRELEVANT INFORMATION
Many people include their interests, but they should only include those which relate to the position of interest. Personal information, such as date of birth, marital status, height and weight should not be on a resume unless you are a job seeker outside of the US.
USING A FUNCTIONAL RESUME WHEN YOU HAVE A GOOD CAREER HISTORY
Unless you have no work history or excessive job-hopping, avoid the functional format. Employers like to see career progression and the impact made at each position.
NOT INCLUDING A SUMMARY SECTION THAT MAKES AN INITIAL HARD SELL
Know the skills and competencies important to the position of interest. The summary should demonstrate the skill level and experiences directly related to the position being sought.
WHERE ARE THE KEYWORDS?
Companies often search resume databases by relevant keywords. Determine keywords by reading job descriptions that interest you and include them in your resume.
Employers know you have professional references, therefore don't use this statement at the end of your resume.
One typo can land your resume in the garbage. Proofread and show your resume to several friends to have them proofread it as well. This document is a reflection of you and should be perfect of errors.
Because of the large number of resumes employers receive, resumes are being filed electronically. Resumes are scanned and optical character recognition (OCR) software is used to convert the text into a format that computers read and store. Employers use applicant-tracking software to match stored resumes with open positions. The stored resumes are searched using keywords from the job description.
Follow these guidelines to ensure that your resume does not remain dormant in the database:
- Use fonts sized 10–14
- Avoid ornate fonts, and fonts where the characters touch
- Use Times New Roman, Tahoma or Arial font
- Use boldface or all capital letters; italics and underlining can cause problems, especially if combined
- Avoid graphics, columns, shading and shadowing
- Don't double space within sections
- Do not fold or staple
- Use keywords and phrases
- Use language from your profession
- Use sparingly vertical and horizontal lines
About Cover Letters
Types of Cover Letters
The Invited Cover Letter is written in response to an advertised opening, whether in a newspaper, trade publication, on the Internet, or on the company's web page.
The Uninvited or Cold–Contact Cover Letter is a letter written to a targeted organization you are interested in working for but have not publicly advertised an open position.
The Referral Letter is an extremely effective type of cover letter that springs from networking efforts. The referral letter uses a name-dropping tactic as early as possible in the letter to attract the reader's attention and prompt an interview.
Functions of a Cover Letter
- Tells the employer what type of position you are seeking
- Gives you an opportunity to impress the prospective employer by showcasing your knowledge about the company and/or its industry and express how your skills, interests, and/or experience match the needs of the organization
- Entices the reader to learn more about you by reading your resume
- Provides or expands your resume objective and shows how well you express yourself
- Serves as a small window into your personality that makes the employer feel he or she simply must get to know you better
Because employers sometimes request salary requirements to eliminate the job seeker from the pool of qualified candidates, we suggest that you not respond to this request. For example, if you are making too much and would be willing to take a pay cut to do something you love, you may not have the opportunity. On the other end of the spectrum, if you are not making close to your earning potential, but are qualified to do the work, you may eliminate yourself because you have indicated a salary that is much lower than what they intend to pay. Instead of responding with the requested information, learn more about the opportunity and determine if it is a good fit before discussing salary.
If requested, tell the employer your salary history or salary requirements in the last paragraph of the letter. Be sure to give a $3K to $5K range. Examples of statements are as follows:
- "In the past three years, my salary has been within the range of $45K–$50K."
- "Being a recent college graduate, I have not established a salary history. However, in researching the field, the average salary for my skill set and the position for which you are recruiting is between $40K–$43K.
How to Write a Great Cover Letter
- Put name (in bold or slightly larger font), address, telephone number and email address on top to let employers immediately know who you are.
- Address someone by name and title who could hire you; Call the company and ask for the name of the person responsible for hiring for the position in which you have an interest or ask for the Human Resource Manager's name and address the letter to them.
- Demonstrate you have done your homework; know who they are, what they do, and how good they are to determine what you can do to make them better. Indicate in one or two sentences what you know about the company.
- Convey your excitement for the opportunity to be a part of their organization. Let the employer know you want to be a part of their team and that you really believe you have the qualifications they are seeking.
- Answer the question "What can you do for them?" Select two or three of the employer's specific needs and indicate how you can help achieve them. Give specific examples of personal accomplishments/results that demonstrate your ability to meet the needs of the employer. In other words, their bottom line.
- Use keywords relevant to your job objective and the industry. Read the job listings, postings, advertisements, etc. to know how to "talk the talk!" Words used in one field are not always appropriate to other fields. Keep the information relevant!
- Initiate the next step. Indicate you will be calling on a specific day to determine if the prospective employer has any further questions and to set up a personal interview. When you call, tell the secretary that he/she is expecting your call.
- Remember this is a personal letter. Don't use phrases like "Enclosed please find" or "To Whom It May Concern". You are not writing a paper, you are writing a letter.
- Keep your cover letter as brief, focused and relevant as possible. A great cover letter should be no longer than 1 page.
Suggested Format for a Cover Letter
First (Introductory) Paragraph
Tells the employer: "What I want! Why I want it with you!"
Introduce yourself / what degree you are pursuing or have attained.
Specify whether you are seeking a permanent or summer position. Inform the reader as to why you are writing, name the position, field, or functional area in which you are interested.
Mention how you heard of the opening or organization (e.g., posting on Eagle Network, ad in newspaper, trade journal article, etc.).
Second (Selling) Paragraph(s)
Tells the employer: "What I can do for you today! What makes me different!"
Mention one or two qualifications you think would be of greatest interest to the organization, slanting your remarks to their point of view. Answer the question, "What makes you the best candidate for the position?"
Tell why you are particularly interested in the company and/or position. Demonstrate your knowledge of the company and/or industry. Further, if you have had related experience, or specialized training, point it out. Match your qualifications with the organization's objectives.
Refer the reader to the enclosed resume, which will give additional information concerning your background and interests.
Third (Closing) Paragraph
Tells the employer: "What I want: An interview! What I'm willing to do to get it: Persistence!"
Close by stating your desire for an interview. You may say that you will phone in a week or so to make sure they received your resume and cover letter. Be sure your closing is not vague, but states a specific action.