Every job seeker needs a well-written resume, but if you're a member of a minority group, should your document be different from anyone else's? Of course NOT, say career counselors and recruiters. Some candidates question if activities and memberships that hint at their racial or ethnic heritage should be part of their resume. Only you can decide what goes on your document. For example, you may want to list such activities as membership of VACETS, chair of a specific committee or participate in VTIC, etc.
But before you do so, research your target company. Find out about the organization's products, services, culture, community involvement, affirmative-action program, business plan and buzzwords. Talk to current employees and fellow minorities, visit the firm's Web site and read trade publications. Learn if the company truly pursues an equal-opportunity program. If you learn that the company has a poor track record for hiring and promoting minorities, you'll have to decide if you still want to apply. The name of the game is getting through the door.
1. Tailor Your Document
To interest employers, you must tailor your information to their particular needs. Many job seekers agonize over creating resumes that will be all things to all employers. When they receive few responses, they are surprised and puzzled. Recruiters are ruthlessly efficient in seeking the best potential matches for their job openings. Your resume must grab their attention within 10 to 30 seconds and be customized to a specific position. Hiring managers focus on whether your achievements and experience parallel their needs. If your resume is loaded with extraneous information, you are wasting their time and sabotaging your chance for an interview.
To start, outline your accomplishments, including unpaid work and volunteer experience such as joining VACETS AdCom for example. When you apply for a specific job you can select the most relevant items from your outline and create a targeted resume.
Don't waste time composing and sending resumes for positions that are poor matches for your skills or personality. You should only target positions that fit your experience, skills and interests.
2. Types of Formats
Read the job description and select accomplishments from your background that mesh with it. Then choose a resume format - chronological, functional or hybrid - which best showcases your achievements. There's no recommended format. Your experience, personality and audience will determine which is right for you. You may even change the format depending on the job you are pursuing (refer back to Market Thyself # 034 - Resume Guidelines).
Chronological resumes are structured by job title and generally list your most recent job first. This format is excellent for individuals who have few gaps in their employment, haven't job-hopped and want to stay in the same career.
A functional format is organized according to skills and activities, rather than jobs, and is more flexible than a chronological format. Because this format doesn't list dates of employment and job titles, recruiters often dislike it.
The hybrid format generally starts with a function/activities section, then lists jobs and dates under a separate section called "Employment History." It blends the two formats above.
3. Essential Elements
As you create your resume, remember that both humans and computers probably will receive it. Choose and easy-to-read serif typeface, such as Times, and include a good deal of white space on the page. If you resume will be scanned by a computer, avoid using italics or underlining (refer back to Market Thyself # 038 - The Scanner-friendly Resume). Proofread for typos and print your resume on high-quality paper. Include keywords that indicate you are familiar with the job and corporate environment. If you are sending your resume via e-mail, consider using a text format or attach method. You cannot assume recipients use the same word-processing software you do or that their computer systems will be compatible.
Traditionally, job seekers start their resumes with name, address and phone number. Depending on how you are most easily reached, you also may want to include a cell phone or fax number and e-mail address or even web site (if you have one). Be sure your cover letter also display your name and contact information at the top (refer back to Market Thyself # 039 - The Most Used Letters).
Also include the following elements.
State your objective next. It should be as specific as possible - a software engineer or a project leader position with a manufacturing company, for example. If you plan to apply for multiple jobs at a company, compose a resume for each position.
State your experience after the objective. Organize it according to jobs or activities/functions. If you use a chronological format, list your most important and relevant achievements for each job you have held. When using a functional format, put each accomplishment under its corresponding functional section, for example, "Project Management" or "Computer Network Skills." Don't just describe your responsibilities. Spotlight specific achievements for each position or activity. Add sizzle by starting each statement with an action verb (or noun - if for scannable resume - (refer back to Market Thyself # 038: The Scanner-friendly Resume), and quantify your achievements where possible. Note money earned or saved, the percent of improvement, time reductions per process, or number of employees or participants you managed, coached or trained. Don't say, "Responsible for raising money for charity." Instead, say: "Developed, coordinated and encouraged the first (inter)national fundraising for flood victims."
You may place your educational history (colleges or universities attended, month and year of graduation, degree awarded and program of study) after your experience or before it. If you paid or volunteer work experience relates strongly to your career objectives, list your education after your experience.
If you have volunteer or extracurricular activities relevant to the job you are targeting, include them in your work experience section. This may be difficult if you are using a chronological format. In this case you may list your activities by name and leave out the dates, or use a functional format.
If you choose not to include volunteer and extracurricular activities in your experience section, you may list them in an "Activities/Organizations" section after your education or experience. Include awards, offices held and memberships, beginning with the most important and prestigious ones.
(Taunee S. Besson)