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Writing The Perfect Resume, Not Your Life Story

Even if it is the best job market of the decade, you still need a ticket.

It's your rsum, and it better be good.

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Recruiters spend an average 30 seconds on a rsum. Then they pitch it or pass it on.

Summing up your life in a page can seem rather daunting, especially since students often try to write rsums that rival those of a chief executive. Don't.

This piece of paper has two functions:

1. To say you're looking for a job.

2. To describe the skills you bring to it.

"The idea is not to be unique but to match what the employer needs," says Richard Fein, director of placement for the school of management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

"If you want to be unique, send your resume in the shape of a paper doll," he jokes. You'll be unique but unemployed.

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Mr. Fein is also the author of "101 Quick Tips for a Dynamite Rsum" (Impact), to be published next spring. Here's the format he recommends for college students:

* Heading. Include name, address, two telephone numbers, and e-mail address.

* Objective. This is your personal ad. Include three to five attributes about yourself plus the position you want to land.

Example: Hardworking, team player seeks to develop a career in accounting.

* Education. This is the event putting you in the job market, so it belongs at the top. Include the name of the school you are graduating from, its location, your major, minor, and grade point average.

* Awards. This is optional and reserved for significant achievements, such as National Honor Society. Describe the award briefly but only if it isn't self-explanatory.

* Experience. List jobs, internships, volunteer activities and your responsibilities.

Don't list these in chronological order and don't list every job. Rather, pick the top two or three experiences that best illustrate the skills the employer wants. In fact, consider different rsums that emphasize the skills needed for different industries. Keep them ready and up to date on a computer disk. Then you can print them on demand.

* Interests. This is optional and includes sports, hobbies, and extracurricular activities. Make it genuine. Recruiters often begin an interview by asking about your interests. If you put down "avid skier" and haven't skied in 10 years, don't expect a call back.

* "References available upon request." This is a throw-away line. Delete it. Employers assume you have references.

* Keep your rsum to one page. (Two pages are for company presidents.)

* Stick with white paper. "Let your skills shine through," Fein says. "Don't leave it to the color of paper."

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