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  Resume Tips

Frequently Asked Questions ... 

RESUME FAQs

Got a question: go ahead and ask!

Do I really need a resume?
Yes! You can create your own or use Aldas' simple resume builder! Employers are looking for a simple, concise description of who you are and what you've done. Even a really good resume won't give an employer a complete idea of who you are - but it will get you an interview. And once you're in the interview, then you can showcase the real you.

What if I don't have very much work experience?
If you've been to school, volunteered, had a job, or learned a skill, there's something to say on your resume. It's just a matter of presenting the information in an assertive, positive, truthful manner.

Which is better: a functional or chronological resume?
Functional and chronological presentations each carry advantages and disadvantages. When you use the Aldas' resume builder, you will be creating a chronological resume, which is the preferred format for most HR departments.

A chronological resume highlights progressive advancement in responsibility, provides a clear picture of employment history, and enables you to tie your responsibilities and accomplishments together in a logical fashion that makes hiring authorities most comfortable.

A functional resume, on the other hand allows you to highlight major accomplishments up front regardless of where in your work history they occurred, categorizes accomplishments from different positions, and eliminates repetitiveness in a work history consisting of very similar positions. A functional resume should only be used as a supplement to a chronological resume as many HR professionals view these types of resumes with suspicion - thinking the job seeker has something to hide. With the tremendous labor shortages, many employers are a lot more forgiving about frequent job changes and absence from the workforce. What they don't like is having incomplete or misleading information.

What about personal information: should I include marital status, health, hobbies, and personal interests?
Personal information such as marital status, health, number of children, and birth date are potential discriminators for which an employer can face severe consequences under the law. For this reason, it is better not to include this information in resumes intended for use in the North American market. If you are seeking an overseas position, inclusion of this information may be appropriate. If you are of foreign origin, you will want to include your immigration status, for example, Citizen, Permanent Resident/Landed Immigrant, or Green Card holder, so potential employers will be assured of your eligibility for hire. Hobbies and interests are generally not included unless they are considered unusual enough to spark the reader's interest and serve as an ice breaker, indicate an exceptional level of accomplishment or skill (e.g., Olympic medallist, marathon winner), or are particularly relevant to your target position (e.g., avid amateur photographer applying for position as a medical photographer/journalist).

How long should my resume be? I've heard it should never be longer than one page.
Your resume should be as long as necessary to adequately portray your qualifications and experience. It's as simple as that! If this task can be accomplished in one page, great! If it takes two pages, that's fine, too. The critical factor in any case is to make absolutely certain that your reader's interest is piqued within the first half of the first page. If you've sparked their interest, they will be hungry for more.

 

 

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Overview... 

Your Resume - an Overview

With Alda, your resume is prepared using our online resume builder/skills-based questionnaire. It details relevant aspects of your past work experience, your skills, your education and your training. If you want to add additional information, you can do this within the Aldas' resume or you can send us your own version. Your resume has only one purpose: to get you an interview.

Your resume must describe why you are valuable to a prospective employer. If you're invited to an interview - your resume has effectively done its job. The rest is up to you.

For a resume to be an effective marketing tool, there are a couple of things you'll have to keep in mind. The first thing to remember is that resumes are used to determine suitability for a position. In order to make that assessment, the HR person must have complete and relevant information. Using Aldas' resume builder, your core skills, education and experience are captured. If there is additional pertinent information, you should record it in the open text sections of the form or in your own prepared resume.

The second thing you'll need to keep in mind is that the appearance of your resume counts. Clear communication and writing skills are essential. A well-formatted resume, with relative and complete information acts as your surrogate "first impression." You might be the most qualified candidate out there, but if your resume is a muddled mess - well, it's easy to see what message you'll be sending!

Whether you're preparing your own personalized resume or using Aldas' resume builder, when you're done, start proofreading. Spelling and grammar errors are usually noticed by employers at the expense of otherwise good information. Don't rely on your spell-checker - proof read your resume word-for-word before submitting it to the prospective employer. Don't forget that "attention to detail" (as evidenced by accurate spelling and correct grammar) counts as much on automatic resume builders, such as Aldas, and emails, as it does in formal written submissions.

Last of all, remember: resumes don't get jobs, people get jobs. All you need to do is put your resume to work for you attracting the kind of attention that will get you that interview. After that, the rest is up to you.

 

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Structure ... 

From the Ground Up - a Résumé's Framework

The following categories can be used as a guideline for organizing the information you'll want to include if you are creating your own resume. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to include, modify, or eliminate some of the categories.

Remember, resume writing is not absolute - some degree of creativity speaks for who you are. But moving too far outside the standard can be dangerous if you aren't able to "pull it off" properly.

Demographic Data

At the top of the resume should be your name, your mailing address, your phone number (including area code) where you can be reached, and your e-mail address.

The name you use should be the name you use in your personal and business life (nicknames should be avoided). Select your phone number carefully. Unless you're comfortable with your current employer knowing of your employment search efforts - use your home phone number and allow callers to leave messages.

If you're on a temporary assignment as a travel nurse, or if you have a campus address, also include a permanent address. Some employers keep resumes "on file" and you may want them to be able to find you later.

Objective or Profile

Some employers like objective statements, other's have no use for them. Properly written, though, the objective can be one of the most important parts of your resume. It informs potential employers that you are moving in a certain direction, relays your work preferences), and serves as a focal point from which to review and analyze your resume.

Additionally, your objective statement offers yet another opportunity to use your most important keywords - and that can increase your electronic "exposure" to employers performing resume database searches. If you are considering more than one professional goal, you should consider developing more than one resume, each presenting a different objective.

The profile on the other hand, is an alternative to an objective statement. It gives you the opportunity to present your strengths at the very beginning of the resume, and summarizes your key accomplishments in measurable terms. Keep in mind that when you're composing the major areas of your resume, it's important to emphasize your abilities and accomplishments much more than past duties. You may also want to indicate how well you performed. This will help infuse personal qualities such as character and personality into your resume.

Education and Credentials

Your educational preparation must be included somewhere on your resume. Even if you have not graduated or received a degree, the years spent in study and the courses you have taken are valuable educational experience that may qualify you for a particular job.

Where you place this category on your resume can depend on several factors. If you're are a recent college grad with little work experience, the "Education" should come early on your resume page. If it has been several years since you were in school, your education is less important than your work experience and it can be placed further down the page.

Include your degree designation (A.S., B.S., B.A., etc.), major, institution(s) attended, date of graduation, minors or concentrations, and any special workshops, seminars, related coursework or senior projects. A G.P.A. of higher than a 3.0 (either overall G.P.A. or G.P.A. in major) can also be noted here.

For most nurses, this is a convenient category in which to identify your state of licensure and any professional affiliations you have. In general, any career development activity can also be included in this area, so be certain to list the continuing education courses and conferences that relate to the position you are seeking.

Work Experience

Include all significant work experience in reverse chronological order. You should include:

  • the title or a skill-based description of your role
  • the name of the organization
  • the location of work (town, state)
  • the dates of employ - month & year are sufficient.

Describe your work responsibilities in sentences or bullets, prefaced with action words to communicate your skills. Detail your responsibilities and achievements using keywords.

Even with limited paid work experience, students can have developed a repertoire of skills through volunteer, internship, practicum or student teaching work experiences. It's important to include this information on your resume so that a prospective employer appreciates the skills you'll bring to the workplace. You may also want to add that work was performed to earn a certain percent of college expenses. Example: Earned 75% of college expenses through the following part-time jobs.

Additional Information

This category is useful for displaying information that doesn't fit in any other category. Although Interests, Computer Knowledge, and Activities can be separate categories, especially if they are very strong, they can be listed here as well. Languages spoken, or any extra, relevant bit of information can be placed here as well.

Interests: The professional resume is an account of your employment record, skills, and career accomplishments, not what you enjoy doing in your off hours. Hobbies and interests should never take up valuable space that could be used for important career information. Only include this if your resume is short and looks skimpy, or if your hobbies in some way make you a better candidate for the job.

Computer Knowledge: If using computers is a necessary skill for the position you are seeking (and that's becoming more often the case in nursing), be sure to highlight your knowledge in this section.

Activities, Honors, and Leadership are also important categories to include. If the activities involved work responsibility, note it in some detail. The employer is interested in the skills you have developed whether through volunteer or paid experiences. If you were elected to offices or committees, mention it. Recognition and demonstration of leadership roles are valuable.

References

There is no need to state on your resume, "References furnished upon request." This is a given, and is a redundant use of valuable resume space.

Still, there are a couple of things to keep in mind about references. Be sure to ask before you offer the names of individuals from whom you would like to have references. Not only is this common courtesy, but you'll avoid any unpleasant surprises later if you do receive a less-than-glowing response.

Before your interview, you'll want to prepare a separate list of references, usually prefaced "the following individuals have generously consented to provide references:" Include at least three names, along with their title, employer, address, business and home telephone number.

Make Your Resume Unique

Feel free to develop your own categories to highlight your special relevant experiences and skills. It is often useful to separate your related or professional experiences from your other work experience by creating separate categories for these content areas. In this way, you can call more attention to your relevant skills by putting them in categories closer to the top of the resume so they are read first.

Here are some examples:

Student Teaching Experience
Related Experience
Community Volunteer Work
Related Courses
Professional Affiliations
Workshops & Conferences
Technical Skills
Certificates
Special Skills
Travel
Computer Skills
Leadership
Language Proficiencies
Military Experience

Now, it's your turn. A successful resume takes time and thought. So make the effort, and reap the rewards that a strong resume can bring to your career.

 

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Format ... 

Resume Format

In the past, one well-formatted print resume was all you'd ever need for your employment search. Not so, today. The process of applying for a job is changing because of the Internet and resume scanning technology that is being adopted by more employers. Now you may want to have two core resumes: one for the human eye, the other for computers.

This guide will help you prepare print, scannable, and ASCII formats of your resume.

 
Despite the fact that a number of employers have moved to electronic database searches, there is still a place in your employment search toolbox for a traditional well-formatted print version of your resume.

Having assembled all of your material, and thereafter writing, editing, and revising your resume ad infinitum, you'll need to display your work in the most attractive, professional manner possible. Yes, visual presentation does matter. In order to sell yourself as a professional, you must "look" like a professional. Your resume is your surrogate:  the first opportunity a prospective employer has to "meet" you, and get a feel for who you are. You don't want it to be your only meeting...

With the advent of word processing, desktop publishing and laser printers, there is no excuse for a non-professional presentation. Here are a few helpful hints:

  • Use bold and italics to highlight specific items on your resume.
  • Right margin justify the text for a "cleaner" appearance.
  • Use high quality paper (24 lb., 25% cotton). White and Ivory are the only colors you should choose.
  • Use matching stationery and envelopes for your cover letters.
  • Proofread and double proofread. Don't rely on your wordprocessor's spell-check feature. Errors are not only unacceptable - they're fatal.
  • Leave lots of white space. Readability is as important as content.
  • If no one reads the resume, it doesn't matter what you've said or how well you've said it.
  • Stay away from long paragraphs of more than 6-7 sentences. Break paragraphs with blank lines in between and/or use bullets to enhance reading ease.

The one versus two page dilemma is a continual point of concern. However, today's competitive market demands that you make every attempt to aggressively "sell" your qualifications. If two pages are required, so be it. You will find that the response to your job search campaign will be directly dependent upon how well you've marketed your qualifications and achievements; not on number of pages.

Scannable Format TOP

 
An electronically scannable resume is specifically designed to be entered into a computerized database using an optical scanner. The scanner "reads" the resume and stores it in text form, as a computer file.

Although the general content of both print and scannable resumes may be similar, a resume which is read and selected by a computer does not have the benefit of having a human's subjective input and interpretation. Instead, the computer searches for specific keywords or phrases when selecting or "screening" for qualified candidates. Conventional resumes often use action verbs and descriptive terms, along with distinctive type fonts and sophisticated layouts. But electronic resumes are best when language is clear, concise and in a format that highlights key points simply.

Scannable Resume Guidelines:

To increase the chances of your resume being electronically retrieved, the electronic resume should be written especially for the computer. Here's how:

Type Font: Avoid use of ornate or decorative typefaces, and small type sizes, (11-12 point-size is ideal). Do not underline or use italic fonts as they can "confuse" the readability of the letters.

Paper: Use paper with little or no color (white or beige) and of average thickness. Do not staple multiple page resumes, but put your name on the top of each page and, if possible, send an unfolded resume.

Design: Keep it simple; the equipment is set to read "text," not "graphics". Avoid use of columns, boxes, fancy lines, symbols and pictures.

Format: Minimize use of bullets, hyphens or dashes. Format your resume neatly using clear, capitalized headings such as EXPERIENCE and EDUCATION, and include plenty of white space between sections. Place your name at the top with your address and other contact information below your name, all on separate lines. It is not necessary to include a "References: Available on Request" statement on the resume. College resumes should be one page, while professional-level resumes can be 2-4 pages.

Language: Use nouns more than verbs (e.g. say "discharge planner" instead of "planned for patient discharge and arranged community services" ). The computer will look for matches on key nouns from different functional areas. Minimize the use of abbreviations where possible.

Key Words: To increase your resume's chances of being electronically retrieved, use key words or short phrases to describe your qualifications and abilities. Bear in mind that the more matches a database search makes with your resume, the better. Also, use synonyms or variations of words in your descriptions and keep the words simple rather than obscure.

To become familiar with good key words to use, check newspaper recruitment ads, review job descriptions if available, and talk with professional recruiters and/or professional associations in your field.

Do Not Fax your resume (until the technology improves), as faxing will distort the readability of the letters and words.

 
If you are sending your resume by e-mail or posting it at one of the many employment search sites, it is best to convert your resume to ASCII format by saving as text only. This allows a variety of recipients to read and scan it.

Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • No line should be longer than 65 characters from left to right. Hit the return key at the end of each line so the scanner will know to move to the next line.
  • Use courier 12 pt font.
  • Use hyphens or asterisks as bullet points
  • Do not use tabs, underlines, italics, or other embellishments.
  • For emphasis type your name at the top in capital letters.
  • Capitalize the principal section headings, such as Summary, Experience, Education and the Names of employers.
  • Save this version as "text only"

To send a text resume as e-mail, open the text file, and copy and paste the contents into the body of your email message right below your brief introduction. When posting your resume on the Internet, open the text file, and copy and paste each of the sections into the corresponding fields on the webpage. Each site has different requirements, so visit each site and plan your form-filling strategy before you post.

Whenever you've sent an Internet version of your resume, it is recommended that you follow up by mailing your nicely formatted print version, along with a strong cover letter. This way the employer has both versions on file and it is accessible to human resource people as will as those that make hiring decisions and who may not be net-savvy. Companies that accept resumes by e-mail usually have an auto response which will acknowledge receipt of your resume. If you do not receive an acknowledgment, a brief e-mail request for confirmation is appropriate.

 

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Styles ... ?

Resume Styles

Did you know that the average employer spends less than 10 seconds scanning a resume? Considering that this is the first, and possibly only opportunity you'll have to make an impression, making the most of those 10 seconds is vital to your ability to secure an interview.

Part of making a strong impression depends on the manner in which you present your resume. There are three basic resume styles: chronological, functional, and skill-based; and each of these is best suited for a specific set of circumstances. With Alda, when you use our resume builder, your resume is presented as a Chronological Resume.

Chronological Resume: where you have worked & when

This is the most widely accepted resume format, emphasizing employers and dates of employment, so that the reader focuses on the places where you have worked, and the dates and duration you worked there.

Chronological resumes are best suited to individuals who have a stable work history with few or no gaps and whose  work history shows a logical progression toward their current objective. If you have been a "career-changer" this format allows you to call attention to prestigious or well-respected companies or organizations for whom you may have worked in the past.

Functional Resume: what you have done

The functional format emphasizes the positions you have held, and the titles of your roles so that the reader can quickly see what you have done during your employ.

There are several advantages to this type of resume, the most important of which is that it demonstrates transferable skills, and unifies unrelated but relevant experience. If you want to add to your Alda structured resume, this may be an appropriate choice.

A word of caution, however - a functional resume should never be your only resume version, or the first version you send to a prospective employer. It has the disadvantage of not being widely accepted and can give the impression that you may have something to hide.

Skill-based Resume: know-how your have acquired

A skill-based resume combines both the functional and chronological resume. It is organized around the skills, areas of knowledge, and know-how you have acquired in your present job, or over several years in different positions and uses a career summary that links skills to experience.

This doesn't work with all backgrounds, but it can be effective for those who possess an impressive number of skills after only a few years of work, or who have gained their experience through a series of part-time or volunteer work, education courses, and early part-time jobs. Career changers should also use this type of resume to demonstrate they have skills that can be transferred to other areas

__________________________________

Don't be surprised to find that your employment history could be presented using any of these formats. What you must decide is which type will best exhibit your background and achievements.
 

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Pitfalls ... 

Avoid These Common Resume Pitfalls

  1. Poor physical appearance due to sloppy typing, misspelled words, uneven margins, inconsistent spacing between blocks of information. This applies whether you create your own resume or use Alda' resume builder. Pay attention to spelling and use appropriate upper and lower case letters!
  2. Disorganized so that an employer has to hunt for information. Use Alda' resume builder to eliminate this confusion.
  3. Too lengthy. One to two pages are enough for most circumstances.
  4. Too short. Not enough information, particularly in describing what your duties were on various jobs.
  5. Unnecessary information. Don't include information that is unrelated to your job qualifications unless it adds to a more complete picture or enhances what you have to offer.
  6. Failure to state your job objective or career goal.
  7. A simple listing of positions or jobs you have held without descriptions. For jobs in healthcare, it is important to identify the type of employer you worked for, size of facility, types of patients/clients and skills used.
  8. Sending the wrong kind of resume for the job you are seeking. For jobs outside your core area or for professionals who have been out of the workforce for some time, it may be advisable to customize your resume to "explain" why you are suitable for a given position. With Alda, you can always email us separate resumes or cover letters for selected employers.
  9. Stating your salary requirements. By stating your salary requirements, you can eliminate yourself from jobs that may have other benefits that more than make up for any salary differential.
  10. Sending a photo of yourself unless requested to do so.
  11. Dating a resume. Your resume will stay current until your job status changes unless there is a date on in, then it will look out-of -date very quickly.
  12. Leaving out important demographic material such as your e-mail, mailing address or telephone number. This is surprising but all too frequent. Also, if you are serious about being on the look-out for new opportunities, include the name and phone number of a friend or relative who does not live with you and who knows how to get in touch with you.
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Cover Letters... 

The Cover Letter

 

How do you turn your cover letter into an effective partner for your resume? By using the very information the prospective employer has freely given you to your advantage - their employment ad.

Review the advertisement thoroughly, and identify both their stated and unstated needs. Then, match each of those needs with your qualifications. Make the recruiter's job easy: tell them, "this is what you need, this is how I'm qualified." Point for point. Don't wait for them to try and determine your appropriateness as a candidate - Tell them how and why you're their best fit.

Armed with the material for success - lots of strong content - you're ready to pull it all together into the cover letter. The format of any cover letter is fairly typical. What makes yours unique is the content. Just as your resume conveys a "first impression" to prospective employers, so too does the cover letter. Each must be equally well-organized and prepared with attention to detail.

The First Paragraph

In the very first paragraph of your letter, you should state what position you are applying for and how you learned about it. If you have any personal contacts in or with the company, you may want to mention them here. You should also state your general qualifications for the job. This paragraph should be brief, perhaps two or three sentences.

The Body of the Letter

The body of your letter should consist of one to three longer paragraphs in which you expand upon your qualifications for the position. This is where you turn the information gleaned from the employer's ad to your benefit. List each of the prospective employer's stated criteria, and match each one with relevant qualifications from those listed in your resume. Bullet points are appropriate here, because they'll draw the reader's eye right to your qualifications. There'll be no mystery why you're the best candidate!

In the concluding paragraph of your letter, you should request an interview (or some other response, if appropriate). State where and when you can be reached, and express your willingness to come to an interview or supply further information. Close by thanking your reader for his or her time and consideration.

Some Final Points

As with resumes, the same holds true for cover letters:

  • Spelling and grammar errors are fatal. Prospective employers use your cover letter to evaluate your writing skills and attention to detail.
  • Keep in mind that employers using resume scanning equipment will usually scan in cover letters as well. Follow the same advice given for resumes on formatting and including key words when you put together your cover letter.

Finally, don't underestimate the importance of the cover letter. In a recent survey of 150 executives from the nation's 1,000 largest companies, 60 percent of the respondents said that when they screen applications, the cover letter is either as important as or more critical than the resume. Your cover letter really does matter 

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