Tips for getting started on your resume, including what's important and making sure you stand out from the crowd.

Getting started

Before you start writing, do a little soul-searching and research. “The biggest mistake people make is being vague about their goals,” said Louise Fletcher, president of Blue Sky Resumes, based in New York.

Once you have decided the type of work you will be targeting, review job postings online. Look for the common characteristics of the postings – what skills or experiences are employers looking for?

The key to a successful resume is that it stands out from the rest, said Richard McDonald, president of A Advanced Resume Service, based in the Chicago suburbs.

“It doesn’t have to be a complete list of everything you’ve done, but rather an overview of your skills and talents. Focus on your accomplishments to separate you from other candidates.”

What’s important?

Kathleen Hansen, associate publisher and creative director of Quintessential Careers, has devised a system with the acronym FAKTSA to highlight the most important aspects of a resume:

F is for Focus Employers eyeball resumes quickly and should see your selling points at a glance.

A is Accomplishments A resume should be accomplishments-driven, not only list responsibilities.

K is for Keywords The majority of employers place resumes into keyword-searchable databases, so your resume must have keywords relevant to the job.

TS is for Transferable Skills: Skills honed during any aspect of one’s career (school, volunteering) that are applicable to what one wants to do next.

A is for Appearance A resume should have a pleasing, reader-friendly appearance.

Stand out

To make your resume stand out:

- Start with your name at the top, a little bolder and larger than the rest of the type, with clear contact information.

- Use good titles: Be specific, but not too specific that you end up pigeonholing yourself. If you’re applying for a sales associate job, put “sales associate” right at the top so the employer immediately can see exactly what position you’re looking for.

- Begin with a good opening that will grab attention. Do not use a boring “objective” statement.

- List the following: technical and computer skills; educational accomplishments and other coursework related to the field; work history; positive personal characteristics; and other accomplishments that are work related.

- Rather than listing qualities like “problem solver,” connect qualities with real-life experiences.

- Be brief, using bullet points and short sentences. An entry-level resume will be only one page long. If you have more work experience, most resumes will be two pages.

- Consider design and style, but be cautious about the “wow factor,” which can seem unprofessional. Use black and white, not color. Don’t jam too much text on the page.

- Proofread twice and have someone else read it.

- Be honest, and don’t exaggerate your qualifications or experience. People will find out.

- Try not to leave any gaps in your work history, but don’t list job experiences that were short-term or that you’re not proud of.

GateHouse News Service