Crafting a Resume That Demands Responses

March 2nd, 2011

Many people spend a great deal of time searching for their ideal job; however, they tend to devote far less time to creating a dynamic resume. This is unfortunate, given that employers rely heavily on resumes in the hiring process. Currently, most Fortune 500 companies and many smaller companies use keyword searches to determine if a resume will even be viewed by a human being. At that point, a resume has only a few seconds to catch an employer’s attention. For this reason, it is important for job seekers to present their most relevant qualifications and strengths in a clear and concise manner to maximize the impact. You can accomplish this by simply remembering your ABCs:

Accomplishment Statements, Rather Than Job Descriptions: Your achievement statements should clearly support your job objective. Many people have difficulty recognizing their strengths and completely overlook some of their greatest accomplishments. If you have difficulty in this area, try to examine what you do (and/or have done) from the employer’s perspective. For example, you might ask yourself the following questions: When did I take the initiative? Did I win awards? What can I do better than anyone else? Did I save the company time and money? Did I complete tasks in less time than expected? It can also be helpful to reflect on your previous professional experience using the challenge-action-result (CAR) method: What challenge existed? What action did I take? What was the result? If you can quantify the results using percentages, dollar amounts, or time frames, you will strengthen your resume even more.

Be Selective: Sift through all of your work- and education-related information and choose only what is relevant to your job objective. You should not include personal information, such as marital status and hobbies. Do not be afraid to leave information off of your resume if you believe that it might not make you look like the best candidate for the job. It is acceptable to delete information that is not relevant to your job objective, as long as you do not create gaps in your work history.

Customize Your Resume: Submitting the same resume for every position for which you apply cannot possibly meet each employer’s individual requirements. Therefore, you should revise your resume for each job application to make sure it fits the opportunity at hand. Before responding to a job posting, review the job description to determine which credentials are important to use as a checklist for what should appear on your resume.

Once you are done, it is essential that you proofread your resume. You might also consider submitting it to a professional proofreading and editing service. Obvious errors in your resume will immediately raise concerns about the quality of your work and your attention to detail.

After having spent so much time in search of your dream job, make sure that you show employers why you are the best candidate for the job. Crafting a resume that demands responses is as simple as ABC.

Customizing Your CV

February 28th, 2011

Customizing Your CV

If you plan to apply for an academic position, you will most likely be asked to submit a curriculum vitae (CV). In many ways, a CV is like a resume. As with a resume, you should customize your CV for each position for which you submit an application. One way of accomplishing this involves changing the order of the headings. Common headings in a CV include:

  • Contact information: name, address, phone number(s), and email address
  • Educational background: undergraduate institution with degree(s), major(s), minor(s), grade point average, title of thesis; graduate institution(s) with the same information; internship and/or fellowship
  • Teaching experience: courses taught, number of students, and teaching evaluations
  • Peer-reviewed publications: manuscripts, including those in preparation, under review, or in press; and books or chapters
  • Professional presentations (local, state, national, and international): symposiums, poster presentations, and paper presentations
  • Clinical/practical experience: work experience that is relevant to the job for which you are applying
  • Professional/academic honors and awards
  • Grants
  • Statistical/software proficiencies
  • Professional licenses/certifications
  • Affiliations/memberships
  • Professional service

If you are applying for an academic position that primarily involves teaching, you should highlight your teaching experience immediately after outlining your educational background. On the contrary, if you apply for another position that has a heavier research focus, you should emphasize your research experience before your teaching experience.

There are also important differences between a CV and a resume. Whereas resumes tend to be brief, CVs can be two pages or longer to include detailed synopses of your background and skills. Also, unlike resumes, there is no established format for CVs. For this reason, it is often best to work with your advisor when crafting a CV.

How to Write Clearly and Concisely: Part 3

February 26th, 2009

Concise prose is clear and compelling; reading it requires it a minimum of time, effort, and hassle. If your prose is clear and concise, then readers are more likely to read it thoroughly, to understand it accurately, and to appreciate its message.

Here are two more specific, straightforward ways to clarify and condense your writing.

Remove unnecessary introductory phrases. Like clarifying phrases, introductory phrases are often unnecessary. It is appropriate to specify a particular author (“According to Smith,”) but superfluous to mention that information originated from a vague, unnamed source (“Reports show that…”). It is appropriate to clarify a sentence’s relationship to its preceding sentence (“Conversely,”) but unwarranted to specify its content’s general existence (“It has become clear that…”).

Therefore, never begin a sentence with a phrase that contains no particular information, such as: “In my opinion,” “It appears that,” “I do not mean to suggest that,” “One can see how,” “It should be noted that,” “In short,” “Basically,” “In other words,” “The meaning of this is that,” “It is recognizable that,” etc.

Instead, simply explain the meaning or relate the recognizable information. If you want to state something in other words, then simply do so; either it is an obvious clarification that needs no introduction, or it is an unnecessary repetition that should be eliminated. Never inform the reader that something should be noted; the mere statement of the information should seize the reader’s attention. Do not hedge a statement by remarking that it is merely your opinion; instead, describe and support your opinion and convince the reader to agree with you.

If removing a phrase does not change the sentence’s meaning or obscure the paragraph’s logic, then do so.

Eliminate general wordiness. As a rule of thumb, use the fewest words that can communicate your message clearly. If you can eliminate a word or phrase without eliminating essential meaning, then do so. This is not an absolute law; nevertheless, if you establish it as a general goal, then your writing will greatly improve.

Example:

“When it comes to the memo he wrote, his main aim was to attempt to point out that the feedback his boss was offering every day was helping him, and he argued that the result of her criticism was that he had the opportunity to meet the goal of improving his work.”
–>
“His memo explained that his boss’s daily feedback helped him improve his work.”

Lauren, Editor

How to Write Clearly and Concisely: Part 2

February 25th, 2009

Concise prose is clear and compelling; reading it requires it a minimum of time, effort, and hassle. If your prose is clear and concise, then readers are more likely to read it thoroughly, to understand it accurately, and to appreciate its message.

Here are three more specific, straightforward ways to clarify and condense your writing.

Use fewer participles. A participle is nonspecific and vague; it has no tense or number. Overusing participles results in ambiguous, shoddy prose. (The previous sentence demonstrates proper participle use; “overusing participles” is a general idea that needs no specific context.) If a participle requires an additional verb or adjective to clarify it, then it should be rewritten into a different verbal form.

Examples:

“The audit that she is expecting…” –> “The audit that she expects…”

“Bystanders were impeding their journey.” –> “Bystanders impeded their journey.”

Participles are also used as verbal nouns. Verbal nouns are generally less specific, and they can be confusing; hence, whenever possible, replace a verbal noun with an actual noun or rephrase the sentence.

Examples:

“Her discussing the issue was rude.” –> “Her discussion of the issue was rude.” OR “It was rude of her to discuss the issue.”

“The building of the new museum was going to begin soon.” –> “The construction of the new museum would begin soon.”

Use possessives. When possible, use a simple possessive instead of an explanatory phrase. This streamlines the text and quickly clarifies the relationships between various words.

Examples:

“The results of the survey that she had conducted…” –> “Her survey’s results…”

“The money from the donors was added to the fund that the organization was establishing.” –> “The donors’ money was added to the organization’s fund.”

“The behavior of the cat escaped the notice of the owner of the animal.” –> “The cat’s behavior escaped its owner’s notice.”

Remove unnecessary clarifiers. Clarifying phrases like “there are” or “the fact that” have no inherent meaning. Sometimes, such a phrase usefully ensures that various words relate to each other lucidly. In most cases, however, such phrases are superfluous and only make sentences wordier.

Such unnecessary verbosity can be corrected by simply removing the unneeded words or by using a precise word instead of an explanatory phrase.

Examples:

“There are few companies that provide…” –> “Few companies provide…”

“The reason women will buy this is that…” –> “Women will buy this because…”

“It was evident that he was hungry.” –> “He was clearly hungry.”

“The fact that Johnny died…” –> “Johnny’s death…”

Sometimes, on the other hand, a clarifying phrase improves a sentence.

Example:

“The wallet I had found was empty.” –> “The wallet that I had found was empty.” OR “I had found that the wallet was empty.”

Lauren, Editor

How to Write Clearly and Concisely: Part 1

February 24th, 2009

Concise prose is clear and compelling. It is easy to read, understand, and remember. Wordy and rambling text, on the other hand, can be frustrating and difficult to decipher. A reader should not have to wade through many words, carefully considering their interactions, in order to grasp a sentence’s meaning. Succinct and precise text flows well; it can be comprehended with a minimum of time, effort, and hassle.

If your prose is clear and concise, then readers are more likely to read it thoroughly, to understand it accurately, and to appreciate its message. Whether you want to attract customers, impress your boss, motivate your employees, or inform your coworkers, the goal of your writing is to communicate; therefore, you must obtain your audience’s attention and comprehension. Make the reader’s job easier and your job more successful by writing simply and smoothly.

Here are two specific, straightforward ways to clarify and condense your writing.

Use specific verbs. One simple way to make your writing clearer and more concise is to use more verbs. If you use an adjective, noun, or phrase when a single verb could communicate the same thing, then your prose will be weak and cluttered. Verbs are active and efficient; if you use them whenever possible, then your writing will be vigorous and compelling.

Instead of writing what something is, write what it does. Instead of using two verbs that form a phrase, use one verb that is sufficiently specific. This shortens a sentence and emphasizes its meaning. If a noun or adjective has a verbal form, then use it (“had an influence on” –> “influenced”). This not only clarifies your writing but also strengthens it so that it communicates more powerfully.

Examples:

“This will make our policy clearer.” –> “This will clarify our policy.”

“He became an outspoken critic of her work.” –> “He openly criticized her work.”

“This is a positive for them.” –> “This benefits them.”

“I have reached the conclusion that he has a tendency to lie.” –> “I have concluded that he tends to lie.”

“She conducted research on market trends.” –> “She researched market trends.”

Use fewer prepositions. Often, a verb that requires a preposition (“go back,” “figure out”) can be replaced by a single, more specific verb (“return,” “determine”); this makes your text more concise and less awkward. Additionally, verbs that require prepositions are usually informal and hence less appropriate in professional documents.

Many prepositional phrases (“problems with his finances,” “a person in her employ”) can be transformed into adjectives, verbs, or more specific nouns (“his financial problems,” “her employee”). This simplifies the sentence structure so that it flows smoothly and is easier to read.

Examples:

“Talk about it in explicit terms.” –> “Explicitly address it.”

“This was called into question by John.” –> “John questioned it.”

“She summarized the responsibilities she had at her job.” –> “She summarized her professional responsibilities.”

Lauren, Editor

Writing Concise, Effective Business Paragraphs

January 15th, 2009

How long or short should a paragraph be? What should it contain? How should the paragraphs in your document link to each other? These are all good questions because, when writing a business report, proposal, letter, email, or any other document, good paragraphing skills are important.

Briefly stated, a paragraph is a group of sentences about one specific idea. This paragraph, for instance, deals with the definition of a paragraph. There is no set length for a paragraph, but, generally, three full sentences is considered the minimum and half a page is considered the maximum.

A paragraph should begin with a topic sentence, that is, a sentence which addresses the subject of the paragraph. It may, as in the first paragraph in this essay, begin with a question. The other sentences in the paragraph should supply information that helps to explain the topic.

Sometimes it is easy to determine when to start a new paragraph—because you have moved from one topic to another. You may have written a large number of sentences about a specific topic, let’s say more than twelve (or more than 200 words). At that point, you may need to ask the question Is this paragraph too long? As has been stated, there is no limit in terms of the number of sentences in a paragraph, but, when a paragraph takes up about half of a page or when it looks like it is too long, then it may be too long. If, upon reading it, you find that the topic has shifted slightly, that is a good place at which to divide the paragraph. For instance, if the topic sentence is how much the business climate has changed during the past twelve months, and, after a number of sentences in which you explain that idea, the topic has shifted to the importance of communication in the workplace, that may the point at which to begin a new paragraph.

Besides knowing when to end a paragraph and when start a new one, you should also develop smooth transitions between paragraphs. Sometimes, this is easy. Phrases such as “In addition to…” or “Conversely….” or “Despite….” are obvious transitional phrases. However, it is not necessary to use a transitional phrase to link a new paragraph to the previous one. Simply repeating a key word that had been used in the previous paragraph works just as well. In this essay, using the word “paragraph” or the phrase “good writing skill” helps in terms of linking paragraphs. In addition, simply writing a topic sentence which spells out that the new paragraph is about a topic that relates to the previous one is an efficient way of creating a transition. An example of that, in that same report about the business climate, would be the following topic sentence: “Of course, one year’s business climate may vary quite a bit from how it had been the year before.”

Good paragraphing is not a science; however, it is a skill that is important in terms of good writing. To sum up, a paragraph is a collection of sentences that refer to the topic sentence. A paragraph is generally at least three sentences long, and should not, if at all possible, exceed half of a page. Transitions between paragraphs lend a fluid smoothness to the finished business document.

Like many other writing skills, understanding the basics is the first step in terms of mastery. Writing with care and proofreading what you have written is a fine way in which to practice writing skills, including paragraphing. After a period of time, you will find that writing solid paragraphs which link to the others in a piece of writing has become routine.

Marco Manfre
Editor

Writing Effective Business Documents

October 15th, 2008

In order to be able to write concise, to-the-point business documents, whether they are reports, memos, proposals, evaluations, emails, or any other type of written material, you must first devote a great deal of energy into thinking and planning. In order to compose a tightly written prose piece that clearly communicates your perspective on a particular issue, you must determine what you want to say and how best to say it. That seems obvious, but, oftentimes, business documents are unclear or, halfway through, they lose their focus.

Writing an outline is often a helpful way of beginning the writing process. Once you actually start to write the document, you may, of course, vary from your outline, but you should not stray far from your original theme. If, for example, the point of the document that you are writing is to explain new office protocols, do not move into the area of the current global economic situation. That may relate to your thesis, and so, it may be addressed, but you should not lose focus. Complete the document on which you are working, and then you may return to the other topic in a subsequent business essay.

The next, critically important step, once the essay has been written, is to edit it for clarity and precision. Business editing is both a skill and an art. It involves both macro and micro approaches. First, the essay must be read in order to evaluate the point of view and the thesis. That is the macro approach.

Then, the document must be microscopically inspected. The text must be read word-for-word. This is when errors in spelling, English usage, punctuation, and vocabulary should be spotted and corrected. If needed, whole sentences and, if necessary, entire paragraphs should be edited and/or rewritten so that they smoothly and logically flow from preceding ones. Transitional sentences, if needed, should be inserted.

At some point during the proofreading and editing process, you should spell check your work. That will not catch every error, but it will allow you to spot many of them.

The final step in terms of reviewing a business document is to read it as if you are the intended audience, and not the writer. Does the document communicate its message? Will it be clear to those for whom it is intended? You may want to ask a colleague to read it. Assure him or her that you do want an honest opinion of the document, and not simply an “It’s fine” response.

Business writing should be 100% clear and to-the-point. It should not rely on metaphors, poetic license, or figures of speech. The purpose of a business document is to clearly communicate a message. It may be entertaining, but that is beside the point. If the document is not easily comprehensible, its message may never be communicated.

Marco Manfre
Editor

Checking and Rechecking and….

October 7th, 2008

It can be frustrating: You spend time considering how best to write that business document, whether it is an email, business proposal, contract, memo, protocol, or whatever. Then you write it out, and check it as you go. After that, you read it over to make sure it is free of errors. Finally, when you are sure your document is ready for submission or publication, you allow it to be distributed…only to discover, when it is too late, that you left errors in place. Worse than that, before you notice the errors, someone else, a client, one of your co-workers, or your supervisor points out your mistakes to you.

How can you prevent this embarrassing, perhaps damaging scenario from occurring? Well, the answer comes under the heading of You Can Never Be Too Careful. When you have finished checking and rechecking, you may want to check over your work again. How? Here are some hints:

1. Spell check your work. Do this before you perform your own proofreading of your document. This step will pinpoint and allow you to correct most of the serious errors. It will also provide you with an opportunity to clarify sentences and phrases that are unclear.
2. Proofread and edit your written work on two levels, micro and macro. On the micro level, you should be looking for errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, word usage, and all other aspects of English usage that the spell checking missed. On the macro level, you should be making sure your document is clear and concise and that your thoughts flow logically and smoothly. Do this by reading your document, not sentence by sentence, but word by word (micro). This will allow you to spot and correct errors that you might otherwise not notice.
3. Read your entire document on the macro level. Make sure it effectively communicates your message.
4. Print it out and read it. Sometimes, you may be able to spot errors on paper that you may not notice when reading your document on a computer monitor.
5. Ask someone else to read it. Before you do this, resign yourself to the possibility that the one who is reading your work will actually find errors, which, of course, is why you have asked him or her to read it. But…you cannot allow yourself to be offended by this person’s critiquing of your work.
6. When all is said and done, you may want to take one more action to ensure that your written work is free or errors, properly formatted, and clearly presented—submit it to a professional proofreading and editing service.

Since a poorly written or imprecisely formulated document does not communicate its message as well as one that has been carefully written and proofread, this may be the most effective and worthwhile action that you can take in reference to your written work.

Marco Manfre

Before You Write that Report

June 22nd, 2008

Business-related documents, such as reports, memos, and policy papers, are always aimed at accomplishing a specific purpose. They are generally written to explain a policy, correct a procedure, report results, or some other clearly defined chore. The following is a list of rules that, if followed, may help you to write clear, coherent business documents that fulfill their purposes.

1. Clarify your role: Before you begin to even think about your topic, make sure you are the appropriate one to be writing about it. You would not want to step on anyone’s toes in terms of addressing your topic.
2. Define your thoughts: Before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you should clearly define your thesis or premise or at least the goal of your writing effort. Your thinking should go beyond “Developing a new employee vacation policy” or “Coming up with a sales incentive plan.” Before you start writing, a process which, if done correctly, involves a great deal of effort, you should attempt to clarify your thoughts and your direction. This may involve writing notes or putting together an outline. The more time and effort you devote to your pre-writing thinking, the more likely it is that your document will be logical, clear, and effective.
3. Conduct some research: You may not need to look far or deeply, but remember, a carefully researched paper is generally more credible than one which reflects only your point of view. Research may involve consulting the Internet or published sources or company files. It may also involve formal or informal surveys of those in your place of business or those with whom your firm does business.
4. Develop a working title: This may not be the one you end up using when you publish or email or submit your work, but it will help to guide your writing. For example, the title “Revised Employee Vacation Policy for ABC Corporation” clearly outlines what you want to say. In the course of your writing, if you decide that you have varied from your working title, you should either refine the parameters of your document (and, possibly, excise the extraneous material so that it can be used in another document) or, if you want to retain what you have written, you may want to rename your document.
5. Follow your outline or notes: This does not mean that you should not branch out and stray from what you have written in note or outline form, but, on the other hand, you should not simply ignore what you jotted down during the planning stage of your writing. Sometimes, during the blizzard of thoughts that may hit you during the process of writing, you may forget important points about which you had written notes.
6. Spread your wings: Do not hold yourself back while you are writing. Let your thoughts flow. You can correct your spelling, punctuation, etc. afterwards.
7. Examine your work with a magnifying glass: Not really! But, once you have finished writing, the first reading of your document should be a careful, word-for-word, sentence-for-sentence attempt at proofreading. During this reading, you should be more concerned with spelling, grammatical, punctuation, and vocabulary errors than with style and flow. This is the time to correct any and all technical errors. You may, of course, as you are correcting errors, rewrite and delete sentences and add new material.
8. The second reading should involve improving the clarity of the document. During this reading, you should attempt to upgrade your vocabulary. For example, you may decide to replace “get” with “obtain,” “attain,” or more academic or professional-sounding synonyms.
9. The third reading should be done as if you are a member of the target audience. This is the time to determine whether the document is clearly written, to-the-point, and error-free. You should eliminate repetition and unnecessary words and phrases. You may want to print your document and read it from the paper. This may allow you to spot errors that you missed while reading your document from the monitor.
10. Spell check or/and submit your paper to a professional editing service.

Remember, your business document must be clear, concise, to-the-point, and well written. It should clarify important aspects of your business and it should reflect your best effort.

Marco Manfre
Senior Editor

Writing Effectively by Avoiding Common Errors

February 3rd, 2008

English is a language that is rich in terms of complexities and possibilities, one that has evolved from older versions of German and French, as well as from Latin, Greek, and other languages. That is one of the reasons why there are often many choices when one wants to say or write something. This often leads to errors in terms of knowing which word to use in a given context.

Rather than attempting to trace the histories of thousands of words in English, this article will simply provide instruction in terms of when and how to use certain common words whose misuse often leads to errors.

Let us start with fewer and less. Both words are adjectives, but they are not used interchangeably. Fewer is used to describe objects or persons—in other words, things which can be counted. The following are examples of when to use fewer:

She has fewer hats than Mary.
How many fewer votes did Clinton receive than Obama?
Mr. Jones has had fewer opportunities to speak to clients than I have.

Less is used in reference to things which cannot easily be counted. The following are examples of when to use less:

There is less money is circulation now than in the 1990s.
He is exercising less often than he did when he was younger.
This school appears to have less structure than the one that we visited earlier today.

Two other words which are often confused are number and amount. As with fewer, number is used to describe objects or people—things which can be easily counted. The following are examples of the proper use of number:

The number of people voting for Jones is higher than those who voted for Smith.
What is the correct number of vehicles crossing the bridge each weekend?
I read a large number of books every month.

Amount is used to describe those things which are not easily counted. The following are examples of the correct use of amount:

There is a larger amount of water in the Pacific Ocean than that which is in the Atlantic Ocean.
Which team seems to be displaying a greater amount of confidence?
The United States has a larger amount of money in circulation than that in any other nation.

Another common error involves the use of who, that, and which. Use who when referring to people; use that or which when referring to other things. Here are some examples:

He is the one who caused the problem. I like plants which do not require much upkeep. He made the one comment that was sure to cause an argument.

The following outlines a few words (with examples) which are easily and often confused:

There……He is traveling there. There are many ways in which to skin a cat. There he is.
Their…….That is their house. We accepted their apology. Did you speak to their mother?
They’reThey’re not my friends. They’re always making us late. Do you think they’re coming?

Whose….Whose hat is this? Harriet Beecher Stowe is the writer whose novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is said to have contributed to the fiery debate that led to the Civil War.
Who’s….Ruth is the one who’s always complaining. Who’s coming to the party with me?

When it comes to writing effectively and correctly, there are thousands of other potential pitfalls that a good writer must avoid. If you are unsure of your writing skills, you might want to send your documents to a professional proofreading and editing service before you submit them.

Marco Manfre
Editor