One of the most important tools in any job search is a solid, professional resume. Often the resume is accompanied by a cover letter to outline interest in a specific position or to showcase special skills.

In a tough job market, most hiring managers won’t give the poorly prepared resume a second look. According to The Black Collegian Online, “The average recruiter or employment specialist may easily look at 200 resumes in just a week’s time. They receive resumes in the mail and on-line, all from candidates looking for the ideal job.”

Julie Tappero, President of West Sound Workforce in Gig Harbor offered some tips for creating a good resume. “Always include complete, accurate and highly visible contact information on your resume or in your correspondence with potential employers. If you include your email address, make sure you check your email regularly. Also make sure that your voice mail is working properly and is not full.”

Knowing what to include in a resume is key to getting that second look. It is important to be thorough, yet to the point said Dale Harper, director of employment at the Franciscan Health System, St. Anthony Hospital’s parent company.

Resume No-No’s:
“Criticism of a former employer!”
– from Victoria Hart, Compliance Officer with Vancouver Eye Care.

“Smudge marks or coffee stains…cute photos of family or pets.”
– from Judy Good, with Providence Hospital-Everett

“Goofy email addresses on a professional resume…make me suspicious and think twice!”
-from Kandi Long, manager with the Franciscan Medical Group

“Tpyeo’s, bad speling, not folowing direchins.”
-from Matt Almquist at Skagit Valley Hospital

“A good resume should be concise…To tailor a resume for a position, the candidate should list all previous employers, positions held, and dates employed, but should expound on those obtained skills and responsibilities related to the job they are seeking,” Harper said.

A good resume must also be current. Jon Davidson, a consultant with the Hardenbergh Interim Staffing Group said, “The one thing I see consistently in my line of work, more than anything else, is an outdated resume…(which) makes it difficult to cross-check a professional background…Any individual should have a current resume that is ready to go in the uncertainty of these economic times, because one does not know how sudden the job situation may change or how quickly an opportunity would present itself.”

A poll of over 100 human resources professionals in Washington State brought in 50 responses. These individuals spend their workdays poring over resumes, and nearly all of them offered these words of wisdom, “Proofread, proofread, proofread,” because some resumes are submitted with typographical errors. To the trained eye, that is a clue that the applicant is careless or pays little attention to details.

Renae Hamshar, President of the Washington Association of Medical Staff Services (WAMSS) said, “If a person has good communications skills and is organized, they can usually be taught to do almost any job, but if they are careless and don’t communicate well, they will always have problems.”

Jason Burden, a supervisor with Northwest Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle, referring to errors in spelling or grammar on a resume, said, “…I would not look at the person further.” Burden also noted that some resumes are inconsistent, using bullets in some places, dashes or numbers in others, with unusual or bolded fonts in headings, and plain text in others, “so packed onto the page with such an awful format…that it is truly painful to try to read them.”

Beth Thurman with Sound Family Medicine said, “I pass over resumes with too much unorganized data…Summing it up is key.”

When preparing a resume, it is best to use buff colored, light blue or plain high-grade white paper. Stay away from the orange or green neon stationery. It will get the wrong kind of attention and may cause the interviewer to think you’re more concerned with style than substance. Always use a good quality printer for a polished resume.

Kate Brown, President of the Western Chapter of WAMSS said, “My first thought would be first glance – ‘sloppy.’ If they don’t care enough to present their non-visual self as a professional…I would not want them working for me…My second would be…red flags, unexplained gaps, dates that don’t match.”

Pam Roberts, a director with St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, said the one thing that would cause her to reject an applicant is, “Repeated job changes without logical explanation shows instability and (possibly) discontent.”

Joan Brodie, a manager with Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen agreed, “Lots of different jobs in a very short period, especially if they are not in the same field…If I am going to invest in training, support and education, I want it to be someone who will commit to that career.”

Be brief. Limit the resume to one or two pages.

Thurman said, “I pass over the ‘novel’ resume.”

Use action words, but no acronyms or abbreviations. Carrianne Docktor, with Molina Healthcare in Seattle said the thing that bothers her most is, “Misuse of acronyms…throwing around terms, hoping to impress someone.”

One key element on the resume is the statement of professional objectives. Use this section to state a direction for your career, what you want to be, not just what you have done in the past.

Keep the resume functional, focused on work experience, skills, accomplishments, special training and education. In the skills section, target your areas of strength, pertinent to the position. Barb Heard, Key Center Branch Manager with Sound Credit Union said, “I think showing experience (in the job one is applying for) is important and will catch the reader’s eye more quickly.”

Be specific. Giselle Loveland, with Loveland Consulting Services advised, “If the resume language does not reflect the skills and experience which the person must have for the desired job – I would reject the resume.”

Tappero said, “If you lose your job or are laid off, don’t waste any time beginning to apply for new work. It may seem like you have the luxury of waiting a bit, but this job market is abysmal. You cannot anticipate how long it will take for you to find new employment.”

Staying at the top of your game no matter how long it takes to find work is very important, she said.

“While looking for work, keep your skills up-to-date. Don’t allow yourself to get rusty. Use software tutorials to maintain your knowledge. You want to be able to demonstrate to prospective employers you’ve got a solid and well-maintained skill set. If you cannot find employment, fill your time with useful activities that you can put on your resume.”

While unemployed, try to make the best of your time off.

“Volunteer, especially in your field, or improve upon your skills by taking a class at one of the local colleges. Be flexible. Being open to temp opportunities allows you to form relationships with local employers. It’s not uncommon for temporary positions to become permanent,” Tappero said.

She added, “Keep a copy of your resume with you at all times. You never know when it will come in handy.”

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