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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
By Sue Campbell Jones, 1st-Writer.com

E-mail me for a list of the most frequently asked tough interview questions along with their best responses. It's Free! - Or try the Interview Practice Quiz online. See more tough job search questions, answered or try the Resume Quiz!

I've always heard that a resume should be no longer than one page in length, but I can't fit all my information neatly on a single page. What should I do?

Two page resumes are more common and acceptable these days.

People change jobs more often now than they did years ago - for a variety of reasons: corporate downsizing, mergers, decrease in company loyalty, etc. Additionally, in an effort to stay competitive in their industry of choice, more people are returning to school for additional skills and training.

All of this takes up space on the resume page.

When you're writing your resume, use as much space as you need to present your information in an concise, focused and accurate manner, with a 2-page limit as your guideline. Include only that information which is directly relevant and valuable to the positions and companies being targeted. Leave everything else off. Use plenty of white space between sections of information to maintain readability - if you're crowding your information on to one page with little or no white space, you're going to reduce readability for your reader.

Focus on your achievements as these relate to the positions and companies you will be targeting.

I'm a student who has no applied experience. How to go about writing a resume that will make me look good, even though I lack the job experience? (see even more on this topic in the expanded article: New Graduate and check out more articles and student-related resources at 1st Writer Student Center.)

The approach for a student resume is really no different than the approach for the resume of a CEO with 30 years of experience:

  1. Identify the type of work you want to do and what prospective employers will be looking for in someone applying for this kind of work.

  2. Include everything about yourself that is relevant to #1 above.

  3. Leave everything else off.

If you have experience, so much the better, but as a student, it really comes as no big surprise to prospective employers that you don't have any experience yet.

If you don't have relevant work experience in the form of internships or co-op positions, how about your extracurricular activities? Have you chaired any committees or held executive offices in a sorority or other organization? How about community service activities? If you're a finance major, for example, and held the position of Treasurer for a campus organization, that's related experience.

Remember, related experience does not have to be paid experience. What matters is that you possess the applied skills, not that you were paid for your services.

Also, keep in mind that employers are looking for "attitude," "motivation," and "leadership" traits in the entry level positions they fill. Even if your only job was flipping burgers at the local hamburger joint, if you showed up for work on time, did your best, were an asset to your employer and the customers you served, and you worked well with your co-workers, you can show a prospective employer that you are the "type" of individual that will do a good job.

As tough as college may seem at times, many employers view this experience as a training ground. As a new graduate in an entry level position, your new employer expects to train you in what he/she wants you to know. What your college degree shows is that you are trainable and have secured the rudimentary skills necessary in a particular field.

In fact, many employers see new graduates, and the opportunity to train you in the dynamics of a specific company, as an asset. You bring with you little or no bad habits learned from previous positions or experiences.

What should I say in a resignation letter?

A resignation letter should contain three basic components:

  1. Effective date of resignation.

  2. Acceptable reason for resignation.

  3. A brief mention of the positive points of having worked at the current company.

One of the most important things to remember in creating this letter is that it may remain on file for many years, and may be used again. It can be used in future references, determination of future employment, or evaluation of past performance. Therefore, regardless of the reasons for the resignation, never include negative statements about company, coworkers, supervisors, bosses, owners or policies within this letter.

This letter needs to remain a professional correspondence, a bridge builder, not a bridge burner. See more on resignation letters.

How can a job seeker best utilize professional references?

You should gather references, in written form when possible, at every opportunity as your career progresses. A reference written today (when your achievements and contributions are clearly in the mind of the writer) will be much more useful and valuable than what the writer may offer five years from now.

There are two reasons not to give references out prior to an interview:

  1. You want an opportunity to evaluate the position, learn the criteria, and determine whether this is a position you are interested in. The last thing you want to do is allow your valuable references to be contacted by so many companies that your references lose interest and enthusiasm. Some of these potential employers may not even be contenders for your interest.

  2. After an interview, you'll have an opportunity to contact your references (prior to the potential employer's call) and fill them in on the key points and issues of importance to the particular position. When you prepare your references, they will be more relaxed and ready to provide the type of information you want them to give for the specific job in question.  See more at "Regarding References" and "The Recommendation Letter."

If a company lists a fax number, a street address and an e-mail address, what do you think is the best way for a job seeker to respond (assuming he or she has access to all three modes of correspondence)?

Last choice would be the fax machine unless the ad specifically requests that responses be faxed. Faxing diminishes the quality and readability of the document.

You don't know what may happen to a document after it's been submitted. It may be faxed (again), scanned, or photocopied, each time with additional loss of quality.

First choice would be e-mail (the quickest method of getting your resume into the hands of the potential employer) with an attached binary file of your resume and a hyperlink in the body of the e-mail message to your resume Web page, if you have one.

If the first contact is by fax or e-mail, a follow-up mailing of a paper copy to the street address should always be done. This provides your recipient with a clean, crisp copy of your resume in a professional format.

Any tips for writing the "scanner-friendly" resume?

To maximize scan-ability:

  1. Use white or light-colored 8-1/2 x 11 paper, printed on one side only.

  2. Provide laser printer original or high quality photocopy.

  3. Don't fold or staple.

  4. Use a standard typeface such as Helvetica, Arial, or Times New Roman.

  5. Use a font size of 11 to 14 points.

  6. Don't condense spacing so that characters touch each other.

  7. Refrain from using italics and underlining.

  8. Avoid vertical and horizontal lines, graphics, and boxes.

  9. Avoid multi-column formats.

  10. Use plenty of white space between groups of information.

To maximize keyword "hits":

  1. key words, either within a keyword list, or, more preferably, within the document text itself (scanners will pick up these words regardless of where they are in your document).

  2. specific words (especially nouns), rather than vague descriptions.

  3. jargon and acronyms specific to your industry.

How many versions of resumes do you think are necessary to have and why?

The most effective job searches involve using many tools. One of these tools is the resume and it can take several forms:

  1. Printed paper version for giving out by hand, mailing by postal service, and taking along to interviews (candidates should always take at lease a couple of fresh copies of their resume to interviews - to pass out to additional interviewers and as a guide for completing applications).

  2. Word processor file for use in sending as attached to e-mail binary files or given out on diskette.

  3. HTML version posted as a page on the World Wide Web (very convenient for your recipient; no files to download, quick receipt, sets your e-mail up as a hyperlink for immediate feedback).

  4. ASCII text version for use in cutting and pasting into e-mail messages, resume databases on the Web, and Usenet Newsgroups on the Internet. Potential employers like this format because of its smaller size, reduced risk of virus, and easy scan-ability into company databases. This version is also a good choice when uncertain of your recipient's software or operating system, since it can be read cleanly across all platforms.

  5. PDF version for access to a fully formatted version of your resume regardless of your recipient's platform or software (doesn't require he or she to use the same word processing software used to create the document). Does require that your recipient have the free Adobe Reader software installed (most folks do). This file can be attached to an e-mail, delivered on a disk, or uploaded to the World Wide Web.

Each of these mediums addresses a specific avenue for getting your resume into the hands of a prospective employer. See examples of these formats and learn more about how to use them in an effective job search.

What are the five elements a resume needs to really capture the attention of the reader?

  1. Professional appearance of the document.

  2. Logically organized, well-written materials, presented in a manner that allows quick reference to the information. Written for the reader.

  3. Focused on the positions and companies being targeted. Relevant information.

  4. Accurate information. (Be honest.)

  5. Lots of quantitative information and achievement statements.

What are the seven worst mistakes people make when preparing their own resume?

  1. Not determining a target or goal for the resume.

  2. Not understanding the needs or interests of the intended reader (potential employer, hiring manager, recruiter).

  3. Focusing just on the "duties and responsibilities" of previous positions and not organizing information so that it effectively highlights and showcases a candidate's strong points, achievements, and accomplishments. A resume shouldn't just describe what a candidate has done, but include the benefits of the candidate's efforts and contributions.

  4. Leaving off quantitative information (e.g., "Increased sales by 50%," "Reduced costs by $50K per year," "Led a team of 35 professionals in...). Quantitative information provides a sense of the size and scope of the positions you've held, and the real value of your stated achievements.

  5. Using gimmicks, such as brightly colored or decorated paper (think fluorescent) or unusual formats (distracting layouts or unusual presentations, such as brochures). These may get attention, but possibly not the type of attention you intended.

  6. Including irrelevant information.

  7. Thinking that inflating or exaggerating (or out-and-out lying) about your past experiences or achievements will make your resume more effective or make your job search more productive.

What are electronic resumes and how are they used on the internet? (See more on the different resume formats on the Resume Examples page.)

In addition to the word-processed file that can be sent by e-mail as an attached binary file, there are 3 resume files that are used for electronic exchange: HTML coded file, ASCII coded file, and a file converted to PDF (portable document) format.

An HTML coded resume is a resume created using Hypertext Markup Language. It's uploaded to the Internet as a Web page and looks much like the standard printed version of your resume with typical formatting features like bold print, italics, tabs, and underlining.

An HTML formatted resume can be used for:

  1. Submission to Web sites that accept HTML formatted resumes for posting.

  2. Your own Web page.

  3. E-mailing to prospective employers.

Netscape and Microsoft Mail utilities both allow you to e-mail your actual Web page in the body of the e-mail message. Other mail programs such as Pegasus Mail and Eudora Mail will create a "hot link" in your e-mail message where the reader can click on your Web address and go directly to your web page. Netscape and Microsoft can do this, too.

An ASCII resume is a text-only version of your resume. It bears no resemblance at all to the standard paper version of your resume since it is stripped of all boldface, italics, tabs, and underlining.

An ASCII formatted resume can be used for:

  1. Posting to job Web site databases where employers search for information on potential candidates.

  2. E-mailing to prospective employers when you don't know what word processing software they're using (ASCII text can be read cleanly across all platforms).

  3. Posting to Usenet Newsgroups.

There are around 250 news groups devoted to job postings and resume postings. Many of these newsgroups are very active for both employers and job seekers. For example, the misc.jobs.offered newsgroup posts over 30,000 jobs per week. Misc.jobs.resumes posts over 1,000 resumes per week. The resume posting groups offer a broad range of categories for posting from general posting areas to specific career and geographic areas.

When transferring a resume to the Internet, what are some problems to look out for?

In most cases, the resume that ends up on the Internet begins its life as a word-processed document. Most word processing software have the ability to "save as" or "convert" a file to both ASCII and HTML formats. The problems arise when the resulting converted files are posted to the Internet "as is." Both formats need reformatting before they're ready for the Net. If this isn't done properly, the resulting presentation won't look its best and might not be readable at all.

Once a word-processed file is converted to ASCII text, it loses all high level formatting. All tabs, bold, underlining, italics, bullets, etc. will be gone. It must be edited to make what's left as attractive (and readable) as possible.

Once a word-processed file is converted to HTML, unlike the ASCII file, it still retains most of its high level formatting. But since HTML code is not nearly as rich in formatting features as word processing applications, it will lose some of its formatting which will need to be corrected before it's ready to take on its new life as a Web page. This can be done with the word processor that was used to create the original file. Alternatively, it can be imported into FrontPage or one of the other HTML editors for this final preparation. During the final preparation step, other features can be added to the file. These include the addition of a hyperlink for your e-mail address, adding a META tag for "keywords" and a META tag for "page description" at the top of the page so search engine robots can pick them up and index them (if confidentiality isn't an issue). Other features that can be easily added at this time include a colored or graphic background and different font colors.

If someone can't afford to hire a professional resume writer, what are the most useful pieces of advice you can offer for creating a powerful resume?

Always keep in mind that you’re writing this document for your reader’s benefit.

You’re not trying to create a career autobiography, but rather a concise advertisement of your qualifications for the position that will entice your reader (without taking up too much of their time) in to wanting to meet you (in person) to learn more.

Focus on:

  1. The positions and companies being targeted. Research the company, if possible. Know its goals and missions. Know and understand the criteria of the position – and have a good sense of the type of candidate your reader is looking to secure.

  2. Include all background information: job history, experiences, accomplishments, and educational achievements as these directly relate to the positions and companies being targeted. Place the greatest focus of your material on your accomplishments - as these apply to the positions and companies you're targeting. Never lose sight of who will be reading your document.

  3. Leave everything else off.

What are the biggest misconceptions job seekers have about professional resume writers/resume creation experts?

The biggest misconception is that a professionally written resume will get them a job. It won't. What it will do is give them an advantage over their competition in securing an interview. Securing an interview is the resume's sole purpose.

Another misconception is that the professional resume writer has ESP powers or a crystal ball that allows them to write a resume without input from the client. Many people who hire good resume writers are surprised by the amount of information they are required to supply.

A good resume can only be achieved through good communication between the client and their resume writer, and the information the client supplies this writer. The more information exchanged between client and resume writer, the better chance the resume has of accurately and effectively representing the client.

Why can't someone looking for a job put together their own resume?

They can.

A person can also prepare their own tax return, serve as their own attorney, or fix their own car.

The reason for using any professional service is to take advantage of a professional's specialized knowledge and experience. Job hunters may not have the time, interest, or opportunity to study resumes and resume writing books, research current hiring practices, or learn effective career strategies.

It's the job of the professional resume writer to remain current in today's hiring practices and employment laws, to fully understand the whole process of the job search, so that he or she may provide his or her client with an advantage over those who choose to write their own resume.

Paying for a professional resume writer's services can be an investment toward your future. It can mean the difference between being invited to an interview or simply adding one more resume to the slush pile.

What information should a cover letter include?

A cover letter needs to be concise, relevant to the specific position and company being targeted, enticing, and to the point. Think of it as an "appetizer" for your resume.

A cover letter should accomplish 3 tasks:

  1. State why you're sending your resume.

  2. Mention key items in your background that will quickly establish your qualifications for the position and company being targeted, and "whet the appetite" for the résumé.

  3. Ask for an interview.

After you've addressed these issues, end your letter, and allow your reader get on to the "main course" - your resume. Learn more about cover letters.

Should I use a functional resume?

Functional resumes present a number of problems to the potential employer:

  1. They often don't give all the information needed to make a decision.
    For example: Assume you've held 2 jobs, one where you were responsible for directing marketing activities for IBM and the other where you swept floors for John Smith's Unknown Computer Company. In a typical functional presentation, the prospective employer wouldn't have a clue for which company you directed marketing activities and for which company you swept floors. All your duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments get blended together with no indication as to the where or when. It's significant for a prospective employer to know what your duties and accomplishments are within the context of each employer for whom you worked.

  2. Functional resumes have a reputation as a resume style used by applicants who have "sketchy" backgrounds (periods of unemployment, underemployment, relevant skills that haven't been utilized recently, etc.), and potential employers know this.

  3. Some employers perceive the candidate who uses a functional resume format as one who has difficulty thinking in a logical and organized manner, or someone who is willing to throw out the more traditional format just to be different.

Learn more about the different types of resume formats - which is the best for you?

Should I list references on my resume?

No. Prepare a separate reference sheet to provide at the interview. Use the same letterhead style used on your resume and print it on matching stationery.

Withholding the reference information until the interview stage will allow you the opportunity to make certain (at the interview) that this is a job you want to continue to pursue, and it will allow you time to contact your references, giving them a heads-up on the coming call, as well as information and background on the position and company (better reference). Learn more about reference lists and recommendation letters.

What's the difference between an American resume and an international Curriculum Vitae?

The American resume varies from its foreign CV counterpart in that it omits personal information and focuses more heavily on a current order of history and achievements. Personal information is omitted in the American resume due to employment laws in the United States which prohibit discrimination of candidates because of age, race, sex, religion, disability, etc.

The CV shows a more chronological order of information and provides a more autobiographical view of events. It includes information of a personal nature, such as: date of birth, marital status, and nationality.

Should I Hire a Professional Resume Writer?  /  1st-Writer.com Services

See more articles on job hunting

Good luck in your job search! Sue Campbell Jones, 1st-Writer.com - over 18 years experience helping clients achieve their career and business goals. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions you may have. I'll be glad to help!


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