Creating Effective Resumes, with Robbie Kaplan

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AccountingWEB Workshop: November 28, 2000
Presenter: Robbie Kaplan, author of Sure-Hire Resumes and Resume Short-Cuts: How to Quickly Communicate Your Qualifications with Powerful Words and Phrases.

Session Moderator: On behalf of AccountingWEB, I'd like welcome all of you here today for a workshop on creating effective resumes.

Today's guest presenter is Robbie Kaplan, a nationally recognized resume expert and a career consultant with the Vienna, Virginia-based Kaplan & Associates. Ms. Kaplan is the author of "Sure-Hire Resumes" and "Resume Shortcuts: How to Quickly Communicate Your Qualifications with Powerful Words and Phrases."

Thank you for joining us today, Robbie - the floor is yours!

Robbie Kaplan: It is a pleasure to be here today in the AccountingWEB workshop. Feel free to ask questions and share your experiences for the benefit of the participants.

Resumes have changed dramatically over the years. What has not changed is the critical importance they play in the selection process for job openings and in-house promotions. Savvy professionals always have an updated resume whether seeking a job change or not. Resumes that demonstrate your qualifications and accomplishments can help you not only secure new jobs, but position you for promotions, justify salary increases, persuade managers to upgrade your position, market you for speaking engagements, demonstrate your expertise for media exposure, and serve as background for bios.

Session Moderator: I think you just provided half a dozen reasons that most people never even think of for keeping an updated resume!

Robbie Kaplan: Employers and hiring managers seek employees that have the qualifications that match their job requirements. When your resume is scanned, either visually or by computer, it is most important that it clearly and easily demonstrates your experience, education, training, skills, achievements, and credentials necessary to perform your job objective. Resumes that are most effective are targeted for the jobs you seek. Your first step in preparing a resume is to identify positions of interest and conduct research to identify and list the job requirements. This is an important step no matter how you plan to use the resume!

Some areas to research and explore include:

  • Job descriptions
  • Organizational web sites
  • Newspaper employment classified listings
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook, either online or the publication
  • Organizational newsletters
  • Trent Kaeslin: Do you recommend or have any pointers for posting on a job board?

    Robbie Kaplan: If you would like to post online, I suggest you follow the guidelines to the letter of the posting site. It's been my experience that they all differ! Also, try association newsletters, journals, and publications when researching job requirements

    Charles Davis: I advise college students putting together a resume for their first position. They always want to know what to include. Any Suggestions?

    Robbie Kaplan: Charles, have them include all information that demonstrates that they meet job requirements

    Robbie Kaplan: Once you have identified the job requirements, your next step is to document your experience, education, accomplishments, training, skills, licenses, and certifications that demonstrate your credentials.

    This is the step that tends to overwhelm many individuals and paralysis sets in. Here are some suggestions to break resume writing paralysis:

  • Think of your resume as a puzzle and begin a computer file, starting with the easiest pieces: Your name, address, telephone number(s), and e-mail address.
  • The names of employers, city, and state and beginning to end dates.
  • Job titles with beginning to end dates.
  • Colleges attended with city and state.
  • Degrees with major, minor, scholastic achievements, and year of graduation.
  • Courses of study or actual course work whether degree pending or incomplete.
  • Certifications and licenses.
  • Jim Kaplan: How should I handle volunteer work or positions in professional associations?

    Robbie Kaplan: You can include volunteer experience in either a separate section or integrate in with experience - experience is experience whether paid or not separate section

    Alioune Badara what is the focal point in an accountant resume?

    Robbie Kaplan: Alioune - the focal point is your accounting experience, education, and certification(s)

    This continues the list of your resume "puzzle pieces"

  • Skills including foreign languages, computer software, hardware, languages, and operating systems.
  • Professional affiliations.
  • Specific honors or awards.
  • You now have a framework in place and you have made a dent in the resume writing process.

    Your next steps will be to fill in the blanks.

    Feel free to start with the easiest experience, identifying for this and all others your primary responsibilities and your accomplishments.

    Does this sound feasible?

    Session Moderator: How should you handle situations where you have had lots of little jobs - part time, summers, vacations - all for different companies - and they seem to clutter the resume?

    Robbie Kaplan: Do you need them all? Ask yourself for each experience, and resume entry, does this make me a more qualified candidate? If you do, do they have the same job title? Sometimes you can cluster several jobs that way.

    Deb Wilson: I notice on some resumes that they include an objective...."to join a professional organization that values talent, dedication, integrity and etc etc" Do you feel these help in any way?

    Robbie Kaplan: Job objectives only help if they are targeted - the kind of information that you just stated Deb is self-serving. An organization wants to know what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.

    Session Moderator: Rather than an objective statement at the top, I have always included a summary paragraph - that sums up all the high points of my resume in one brief statement - then the potential employer can read on for the detail. It seems much more useful than stating my objective - my objective is obvious - I want a job!

    Alioune Badara: can we use a "standard" resume or customized?

    Robbie Kaplan: Your resume must be customized - showcasing what is special about you - to be effective.

    Jim Kaplan: I have difficulty choosing the right words. Is there a resource or book that can help me to say things right?

    Robbie Kaplan: The Synonym Finder by Rodale is a wonderful resource - try any synonym book or thesaurus - online or hard cover

    Lisa Page: I recently redid my resume - I've been at the same company for a number of years, but my job title has remained the same although my responsibilities have increased greatly. How would you suggest I show the changes over the years?

    Robbie Kaplan: You can create a functional resume within a chronological format. Choose functional headings that describe responsibilities that you want to use to position you for the next job.

    Words are your most powerful tool when crafting your resume. Use descriptive statements, indicating the scope, depth, and breadth and quantify whenever possible.

    Once you have completed your experience section, it is time to write a summary.

    Summaries follow your name, address, and phone number. It is the first section an employer sees and it should quickly entice them to read more about you. Summaries should include information on your occupation, years of employment, expertise, and skills. Are you a recognized specialist or have a proven record, exceptional skills, or natural ability? This is the time and place to capture your unique qualities that make you a desirable job candidate.

    Jon Manchester: If you have worked for over twenty years, how long should a resume be limited to if you have a lot of experience?

    Robbie Kaplan: Resumes should be one to two pages. Choose a font and format to fit your resume effectively on the page.

    Jon Manchester: Is there a specific format other than what you stated above? Should years of employment be in the left margin and the balance block indented? I mean a description of the work experience block indented?

    Robbie Kaplan: Resumes are scanned from the center moving left and then right. Always use the left side for areas you want to emphasize. You never want to emphasize dates. Use a one-inch margin all around the page. Indentations are fine - just check the resume for balance and visual appearance. I like to use bullets in the experience section. It helps to showcase and break up your experience and accomplishments and if you are using action verbs, it will draw attention to them. If you have completed all the steps described earlier, you will have a strong first draft.

    Your next steps will be to polish your text and image.

    Here are some ideas:

  • Highlight redundancies and replace repetitive words and passive voice verbs with action verbs. For example, instead of repeating manage over and over again - try lead, direct, oversee, supervise, guide, or administer.
  • Look for words that in and of themselves, connote achievement, such as restructured, transformed, revitalized, or restored.
  • You will need to continue to edit and re-write your resume.
  • Ask a trusted friend or family member to review your draft and make suggestions.
  • Use your judgment in choosing which changes to make and continue to edit and re-write until you are satisfied with the results.

    What other questions do you have?

    How you organize your resume is crucial. Think of your summary as a foundation and build your resume, adding information of increased importance and sections that reinforce your credentials. If your education is most important, follow the summary with this section. If your experience qualifies you best, begin with that or if you have desirable technical skills, this might be best up front. Continue with sections of diminishing importance.

    Presentation is as important as content.

  • Use two fonts: one for name, address, telephone number, and major headings and another font for all other text. Fonts can be 10-point or 12-point. My favorites are Century Schoolbook, Book Antiqua, Bookman Old Style, and Arial. I like using Lucinda San for headings.
  • Use bullets, uppercase, boldface, and ruling lines to highlight credentials.
  • Scannable resumes are read by computers and need a 12-point fixed-width font such as Times Roman.
  • Fei Qian Zong: Should the resume include detailed responsibility for each of your internship or part-time?

    Robbie Kaplan: Yes - if the responsibilities tie into your job requirements. Let me clarify that, the job requirements of the positions you seek.

    Fei Qian Zong: A combination of both accounting and HR.

    Robbie Kaplan: Refer back to earlier in the workshop for the suggestions of locating information on the job requirements of the positions you seek. If these two experience areas are important, then yes, include them. Resumes offer your best chance to get noticed - make that first impression a good one!

    Session Moderator: The entire workshop can be viewed by clicking the "full transcript" link below - and the transcript will be posted on the workshop page of the AccountingWEB site later this afternoon.

    We're almost out of time - are there any more questions for Robbie?

    Robbie Kaplan: Thanks for joining me today.

    Session Moderator: We want to thank all of you for joining us today, and thank you Robbie for an extremely informative and useful workshop!

    Robbie Kaplan: Good luck to all of you!

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