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Building Your Resume

The most important document you will develop over the course of your career is your résumé. Whether it’s a one-pager when you’re getting your career started or a two- to three-pager for a grizzled veteran, your written résumé has to effectively communicate everything you can bring to the workplace. It must stand out from a pile of résumés on the desk of a potential employer.

Résumé Types

There are two types of résumés: chronological and functional. A chronological resume is laid out in the order of time, from the most recent accomplishments to the older ones. This process is also called reverse chronological order.

Remember, your professional résumé is a marketing tool designed to secure the next step in the job acquisition process, usually an interview. It is not your autobiography, your life story, nor must it include every job or volunteer activity you’ve engaged in. The more directly you can explain to a prospective employer what you are seeking with respect to your career, and make the case for why you are a qualified candidate, the more likely it is your résumé will result in interviews and job offers.

The Functional Résumé

Another way to present yourself is via a functional résumé. It lists accomplishments in the order you feel best represents your qualifications for a particular career path. In which instance would you consider developing a functional rather than a chronological résumé? Usually, a functional résumé is most appropriate when you either have gaps in your timeline or you’re changing careers.

Maybe you’ve worked as a legal clerk for the last five years. Prior to that, you worked in radio, and you’re ready to get back to broadcasting. You don’t want the very first thing a screener reads under experience to be your clerking for a large law firm. Because when they get that over at K-101, they’re going to think, “H-m-m-m, she’s a law clerk wanting to get back into the business.” Probable destination for that résumé: shredder pile!

In this scenario, use a functional résumé to highlight your skills. In the radio/law example, you’d lead with your radio experience and accomplishments and list your legal work later in the résumé. That’s the difference between chronological and functional. But I would estimate that more than 90 percent of the time, a chronological résumé is the best approach in the early stages of your music and entertainment industry career.

Examples of both a chronological and a functional résumé can be found at Then click on the "Template for a Chronological Resume" or "Template for a Functional Resume" to get an idea of their differences and what goes into each style of resume.

Your Résumé’s Purpose

The purpose of your resume is to get you an interview or meeting with a prospective employer. It’s not necessarily to list every last bit of experience and directly lead to a job offer. If a job offer does result, wonderful, but in 9 out of ten cases, a well written resume that is “On target” with an employer’s wishes, will land you a telephone interview.

Don’t copy any résumé example directly.

Rather, look at what is in it, the phrases used, and whether or not it clearly states a case that the person would be a valuable asset to a future employer.

Making Your Résumé a “Hit”

There are two sayings about songwriting that apply equally well to your résumé development. One, which states “a song hasn’t been written until it’s been rewritten” and another, that states songwriting is “10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” Just like a hit song, the best résumés have appeal, hooks, and are very easy to digest. They leave the reader with a memorable impression. They are compact and use the minimum number of words to make the maximum impression. They are never written in prose style, but use short, compact, bulleted phrases to make a strong positive impression.

Accomplishing these goals requires a serious investment of time and commitment. In the semester long class I teach at Pacific, students spend five weeks writing and re-writing their résumés until they are presentable to an employer. As your résumé evolves, you will continually massage it, trying to figure out a way to boil a paragraph down to ten words. Tighten your career objective from thirty words to twelve words. That’s the nature of the task.

A colleague of mine who is a senior human resources executive once shared an interesting fact with me. I had always been under the impression that the people who screen résumés, especially at larger firms, looked for the strongest résumés of those submitted. I was surprised to learn that it’s often actually the opposite case.

In many larger companies, a résumé screener’s job is to look for mistakes: to take as many résumés as they can and justify putting them in the shredder. Why? “This one is full of misspellings.” (Buzzzzzz… goes the shredder.) “This one says she only will work in A&R.” (Buzzzzzzzz.) “This one says he wants to be the president of the label.” (Buzzzzzzz.)

In a large organization, the résumé screener’s job is not to pick the strongest résumé; it’s to leave a pile of non-offensive résumés for their supervisor’s review. That’s why you cannot afford the slightest error or mistake on your résumé. It can quickly eliminate you from consideration.

So, your first task in the résumé quest is to commit yourself to developing a résumé without negatives and errors. You’d be surprised at how many résumés I have seen over the years in which people stated, “I really hated this job, so I quit,” or something to that effect, right on their résumé! We’ve all had a job we didn’t like, but please, don’t put that on your résumé.

It’s critically important to make sure that your résumé is read and proofread by other people - ideally a professional, such as a career counselor at your school or college before you send it to a potential employer. What does it say about you and your attention to the details of life and work if your résumé includes typos, spelling, or grammatical mistakes?

Your résumé must be compact, concise, typed or word-processed, well laid-out, and clean looking. Get access to a computer, and you can generally lay it out on your own. If you don’t have a computer, go to a shop such as Kinko’s and rent computer time or use your local public library. Type up your résumé after you have developed a handwritten draft and proofed it (with the help of some extra eyes) a few times. Be sure to save your résumé electronically, and keep it handy, perhaps on a portable hard drive or removable media, so you have it available to update regularly. Your résumé should be a tool you continually enhance and improve as your entertainment career develops.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Strong Résumé

A well-crafted résumé is a strong statement of why you are a leading candidate for a prospective opening. In many cases, it will be the only chance you have to sell yourself to your future boss in the initial efforts by an employer to fill a position. By making the investment in time and effort, and soliciting reviews from trusted colleagues or mentors, you’ll insure your resume will, in fact, be a “hit.”

This article is excerpted with permission from “How To Get a Job in the Music Industry” by Keith Hatschek, © 2001, all rights reserved.

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Published: 08/17/2006