Perhaps you’re like many of your colleagues in the PR field — you excel when creating targeted communications for your employers or clients but struggle when it comes to writing about yourself on a resume. To help with this dilemma, PR resume experts offer insights on how to make your resume shine.
Summarize Your Strengths
“Professional summaries or objectives are good to include right up front,” says Tina Carroll Dugas, senior associate with Bloom, Gross & Associates, a Chicago-based search firm specializing in PR professionals. Dugas likes this section of the resume to include a brief statement about your industry focus and experience emphasis.
“The more focused the resume is, the more it will fit the needs of the employer,” adds Vivian VanLier, a resume writer for Advantage Resume and Career Services. VanLier explains that job seekers often make the mistake of using one resume for a variety of positions. “They fail to realize that the more focused their resume is toward a specific position, the stronger their candidacy will be.”
VanLier recommends following the summary with a list of core competencies or areas of expertise, which enables the reader to quickly gather relevant information about the applicant. Examples of PR skills, which are also important industry keywords, include press kits, account management, editing, presentations, press releases, EPKs (electronic press kits), media relations, public speaking and event coordination. The actual skills you select should reflect your skill level and your target job’s requirements.
VanLier frequently sees PR resumes that focus too much on job responsibilities. “It’s important for PR candidates — like all other job candidates — to understand that prospective employers hire results, not responsibilities.”
Karen Shnek Lippman, who oversees PR and corporate communications recruitment for Howard-Sloan-Koller Group, agrees that the inclusion of relevant accomplishments on a PR resume is critical. She states that your resume should answer questions such as: “What did you do for your clients? Did you help achieve goals? Did you win any awards? Did you receive an inordinate amount of ‘hits’ for your clients?”
Quantify your achievements with percentages, dollar amounts or other key measures wherever possible. “Numbers count,” says Lippman. “Showing your business savvy and demonstrating that you have a naturally strategic orientation only increases your value and potential to be taken seriously for a job.”
Highlight Industry Experience
Lippman advises PR pros with agency experience to name the clients they’ve represented. “Recruiters need to know what businesses and industries a candidate has worked in — not just the name of the PR agency,” she explains.
“If you have extensive experience working with blogs, I want to see that on your resume,” she advises. “Alternatively, if we’re looking for an internal communications professional or someone with more consumer marketing in his/her background, I need to see that communicated.”
Be Cautious If Using Gimmicks
Should you use PR-related gimmicks, such as formatting your resume as a press release, to get noticed? Dugas says it depends. “Photos and Web sites, for example, can be attention getters — positively and negatively. Always consider the recipient of the resume and information. If the company targeted is conservative and traditional, keep your delivery the same. If the company is more creative, entrepreneurial or boutique, the added touch could be the key to opening a door.”
Select the Appropriate Length
While there is no best resume length that works for all job seekers, the resume should be concise but filled with accomplishments. “Candidates with three, possibly up to five years of professional experience should be able to keep the resume to one page, editing down internships and summer jobs while in school,” says Dugas. “Otherwise, the old rule of thumb to keep resumes to only a page no longer applies — as long as you have real meat on your resume.”
Lippman adds, “If you have been working in a career for 10 years plus, I would rather see two pages and really get a sense of what you have accomplished throughout your career, rather than read a one-page piece of paper that tells me nothing.”
Create a Resume that Represents You
“Consider that your resume is your voice and can speak volumes on your behalf,” Dugas concludes. “Keep it clean. Make it easy to follow and accurate. Focus on significant successes.”
Lippman adds: “Be yourself. Do not try to pad your resume with experience that is clearly not there. Rather, emphasize effectively the good work and experience that is there. Try to convey who you are as a person and a professional to the best of your abilities.”
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