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Career Coach Answers Top Resume Questions

As a career coach there are resume questions that I’m asked by nearly every client. If you are a job seeker you’ve probably struggled with these same issues. Below are answers to many of the most frequently asked resume questions.

Q: How many pages should my resume be?

A: It depends on your level of experience and how complex the position you are applying for. While a one-page resume is appropriate for recent college grads, two or three pages is better for persons with several years professional experience. Readability is a very important factor. Never try to squeeze text unto a page to make it fit. Resume screener seldom read tightly packed text.

Q: How many years should my resume cover?

A: The key is relevance. You do not need to include every job you’ve held since high school. Only go back as far as is relevant and supports your current career objective.

Q: Why are key words important?

A: Key words are essential in our age of electronic resume tracking. Most often resumes are stored in a data base. Recruiters use key words to retrieve resumes of qualified candidates. If your resume is missing the appropriate key words it will be ignored no matter how qualified you are. Job postings are a great source for identifying relevant key words.

Q: How do I sell my skills in my resume?

A: With today’s level of competition, this is the most important resume issue. Your resume must SELL you as the top candidate. If your resume focuses only on your qualifications, what makes you stand out over several hundred applicants with identical qualifications? The solution is accomplishments. Pepper your resume with accomplishments to illustrate your skills. Your accomplishments should demonstrate how you have saved time, increased efficiency, cut costs, improved performance etc. Every employer is looking for individuals who can help achieve bottom-line initiatives. First make sure you know what skills employers are looking for.

Q: What do I do about blanks in my work history?

A: Many people take time out from work for various reasons: caring for elderly parents, health problems, raising children, going back to school or extended period of time searching for employment. Every year should be accounted for in your resume to avoid suspicion by resume screeners, because they will always assume the worse. A simple one or two line entry should suffice, such as:

Student, Washington State University, 2003-2005 Took time out to pursue MBA. Focused studies on Finance and Accounting. Obtained honors for top 2% of graduating class.

Don’t forget to include volunteer positions as a way of maintaining professional skills. All relevant experience counts on your resume.

Q: Do I always need dates?

A: Yes. Always. With one exception, it is sometimes appropriate to leave dates off education to avoid dating yourself. Opinion is divided on this however, so it is best to include educational dates unless you feel strongly that you’ll be discriminated against.

Q: How do I compensate for little experience?

A: Use accomplishments that show how you: * learned a new skill, * went beyond the call of duty, * improved a procedure or process. Every employer is looking for candidates who show initiative. Remember, a little personal drive goes a long way toward convincing an employer that you are the best candidate for the job.

Q: How do I avoid seeming over qualified?

A: First, include only the education level stated as required in the job posting. Do not include a doctorate degree if the position requires a BA. Second, if the position doesn’t include management responsibilities focus your resume on your individual contributions and leave out team leadership information. Without the right resume, it is harder to climb down the corporate ladder than up.

Hopefully these answers provide insight to your own resume dilemma. In today’s tough job market an effective resume is the number on tool for gaining interviews and getting hired. Good luck!

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