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Write your resume in an hour

By Natalie Ostrom
Jist Publishing

Editor's Note: CNN.com has a business partnership with CareerBuilder.com, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to CNN.com.

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Too often people spend so much time trying to perfect their resume, they lose sight of their real goal -- to find a job.

You've probably heard your friends, family members or even yourself say that you will start looking for that new job as soon as you get your resume put together. And then a month or year passes and you still haven't finished the first step toward a new career. Resumes don't have to be hard to create, they don't have to be time-consuming, and they don't have to be intimidating.

Plain and simple: a resume is a one- or two-page summary of your life and employment history. According to Michael Farr, author of "Same-Day Resume" (JIST), before you begin the writing process, you should learn what to expect from your resume.

"As a first step in creating a resume, examine what a resume is and consider what it can and cannot do," Farr says.

A resume presents you to prospective employers. It serves as your introduction and is often used in their screening process. It may get you an interview and it may not, it all depends on what that particular employer is looking for in a new employee.

Don't depend on your resume to do your job search for you. A resume is merely one tool in a complete job search. Sending hundreds of resumes out and expecting calls for interviews to come pouring in will get you no where. Even if your resume does get you an interview, it doesn't necessarily get you the job.

"No matter how good your resume is, you will still have to get interviews and do well in them before you get a job offer," Farr says.

However, don't count out the importance of a resume. Jim Bright and Joanne Earl, authors of "Amazing Resumes" (JIST), researched the impact an interview had to the final hiring decision as opposed to the impact of the resume. They found that each plays an equal role in the determination of the right candidate.

"The resume provides most data on competencies and achievements, whereas the interview provides more data on interpersonal skills and rapport," Bright and Earl say.

There are many reasons to have a resume; consider these top three: First, employers often ask for them, so why not be prepared by handing them a complete and concise resume. Second, resumes help structure your communication. A good resume clarifies your job objective; identifies your skills, education, and work experience; and lists accomplishments. By creating a resume, you will be better prepared for interviews and other job correspondence because you will have already established your goals and skill set. Third, a well-done resume creates a handy reference piece for potential employers.

"It can be used as a tool to present the skills you have to support your job objective and to present details that are often not solicited in a preliminary interview," Farr says.

Creating a resume shouldn't be difficult. Most simple resumes can be created in an hour and then you can move on with your job search.

An hour?!

"You can write a basic resume in about an hour," Farr says.

"It will not be a fancy one, and you might want a better one later, but I suggest you do the simple one first."

When you have more time, you can always go back to your resume and make it more sophisticated. But after learning the purpose of a resume, you should realize that your job search should not be stalled because you have yet to create your perfect resume -- it's to get a perfect job.

Stephanie Legatos writes on NewEnglandJobs.org that there are several resume types -- chronological, functional, combination and skills.

"Choosing the one that will most effectively showcase your skills and expertise can be tricky," Legatos says.

When developing a resume on a short timeframe, either the chronological or skills format would best suit your needs as they are relatively simple to compose.

The primary feature of a chronological resume is to list the jobs you've held in reverse order of most recent to least recent. A skills resume clusters your experiences under major skills areas.

A chronological resume is best for people who have had several years of experience in the same type of job they are seeking now. For example, an office assistant with years of experience looking to become an office manager or an elementary teacher who is relocating to a new district would want to use a chronological resume to highlight their work history.

The major sections of the chronological resume include your name, mailing address, phone numbers, e-mail address, career summary, education and training, and work and volunteer history. You may want to include awards, recognitions, and any personal information you find relevant for the job you are seeking.

"This section is a good place to list significant community involvements, a willingness to relocate, or personal characteristics an employer might like, but remember to keep it short," Farr says.

The skills resume is better suited for those looking to change careers.

For example, a small business owner may decide to find a job as a financial analyst or a nurse wants to become a legal consultant. Both of these people would need a resume that could emphasize their transferable skills and downplay their previous titles. It may take a little more time than a chronological resume, but it is important for certain situations.

"If you are a recent graduate or have little experience in the career or at the level you now want, you will find that a simple chronological resume emphasizes your lack of related experience rather than your ability to do the job," Farr says.

A skills resume avoids these problems by highlighting what you have done under specific skills headings rather than under past jobs. A basic skills resume begins like a chronological resume and includes your name, mailing address, phone numbers, and e-mail address. It also includes a career summary, which is an important step to creating a skills resume.

"Without a reasonably clear job objective, you can't select and organize the key skills you have to support that job objective," says Farr.

Unlike a chronological resume, instead of highlighting your work experience, you describe your skill set as it pertains to your job objective. In a skills resume, you identify three to six key skills and examples of how you used it in your previous experiences. You can conclude with your education or other information a potential employer would want to know.

Once you have established the purpose of your resume and decided what type of resume you will need, developing it should be fairly simple. Consider your past experiences; think about what you liked, what you were good at, and what others counted on you to do. Create a resume that highlights your abilities and shows why you stand out in a crowd. Get it done and move on to the next step -- finding a great job!

Natalie Ostrom is the Promotions Specialist for JIST Publishing and is responsible for developing articles, newsletters and marketing materials that share the latest career and job search information available to job seekers. Her work helps people take charge of their career paths, conduct successful job searches, and find work they love.

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