When it comes to looking for résumé advice, don't buy a book by its cover.
"For every 100 people telling you how to do a résumé, you are going to have 101 different ways of doing it. Some are good, but some of them are bad," said Charles Hayes, who operates an Annapolis, Md.-based résumé consulting firm.
Literally hundreds of résumé-writing books and websites are out there offering advice on how to craft the perfect curriculum vitae (CV). Three tips for picking a winner:
Check the author's bio. "Take a look at their background. Is there business writing experience? Is this someone with human relations experience? And how long have they been doing this? I want to see their résumé before they write mine," Hayes said.
Check the sample résumés. Do they look the part — shoes shined, tie straight? "Just like in the military, there should be visual appeal to the samples. They ought to be pleasing to look at, inviting to read," said Susan Whitcomb, whose "Résumé Magic: Trade Secrets of a Professional Résumé Writer" is among Amazon's top sellers in the genre.
Check the date. Any edition older than two years may be missing some key trend. Résumé styles evolve over time, and there are always new expectations.
Before hitting the bookstores or the library, it can be worthwhile to check out the offerings online. A number of free and helpful sites offer templates, examples and instructions for honing a winning résumé.
The caveat: When something is free, you get what you get, and you almost surely won't get a finished résumé through an online template. These online sources will shake your basic bio into place, giving you a starting point upon which to build.
http://www.resumebuilderonline.org/">Resume Builder Online offers a free construction kit: Plug in your relevant experience and information, and the site will put it into a very basic résumé format — not what you'd send out, but something to build from. Helpful articles guide the novice.
http://www.gotresumebuilder.com/">GotResumeBuilder adds to its basic builder an online job search function and the option of such paid services as résumé writing and editing.
http://www.livecareer.com/">LiveCareer dresses up the basic résumé builder with career tests, salary reports and other extras.
What to read
Not all résumé books are the same, and just because one is selling faster, that doesn't make it better. Still, there's something to be said for popular sentiment, and all these volumes have something unique to offer. All were among Amazon's bestselling résumé-help titles in October.
Unbeatable Resumes: America's Top Recruiter Reveals What REALLY Gets You Hired by Tony Beshara and Dr. Phil McGraw (AMACOM, June 2011) A veteran placement specialist and TV host team up to talk about real-life CVs for diverse careers. They put a lot of emphasis on the employer's perspective: what hiring managers want to see, what turns them off and how to tweak a résumé for a particular position.
Résumé Magic 4th ed.: Trade Secrets of a Professional Résumé Writer by Susan Britton Whitcomb (Jist Works, January 2010) "Expansive" probably covers it: 600 pages of résumé tips and strategies. Arguably, nothing is left out. There is more about formatting, fonts, verbiage, follow-up, keywords, outlines, etc., than one might ever hope to know. For those with the patience and focus, there is much to learn here.
Resumes for Dummies by Joyce Lain Kennedy (For Dummies, December 2011) We don't consider ourselves dummies, but we've stopped being offended: The series generally offers solid, practical advice you can implement easily. One nice thing about the Dummies books is that you never feel obliged to read through them in order. It's easy to bite off 15-minute nuggets of wisdom as the résumé comes together.
Tips for vets
Résumé books can help, but veterans sometimes need more specific guidance. A few tips for ex-military:
* Get your Verification of Military Experience and Training Document, which lists military job experience and training history, recommended college credit information and civilian-equivalent job titles. It can be a big help in writing a résumé.
* Tap into one of the numerous military-to-civilian occupation translators to find the titles and keywords that best match your experience.
* Identify your skills. In addition to technical abilities, you've established a track record of discipline and leadership. Those can go into a résumé, too.