Dear Matt: I find it difficult to summarize my job skills and past jobs into one category. No one title covers them all. I create a new cover letter specific to the job I am applying for, but how do I highlight my overall general office skills?

Matt: Tailoring your résumé and cover letter for each position is a good start. That should be done for each and every position you apply to.

Your résumé is a marketing tool that quickly tells the employer why they should hire you. It's not a career biography that simply lists your jobs and duties. Instead, it should be a selling tool that shows the employer you have experience achieving results in the position they are looking to fill. The résumé is never about you - it's about what you have done and how you can prove to an employer you can do it for them in the future. Open with a one- or two-sentence summary statement that clearly tells the employer what position you are applying for based on the ad you are responding to. For example, if it's for an office manager position say:

SUMMARY

Seeking leadership position in which 12 years of office management experience in large corporate environment will add value.

Next, you want a profile section that highlights four to five key skill sets in a bulleted format. This is where you show your biggest accomplishments by using results-oriented language to back up what you have done in the past, which shows the employer what you could do for them in the future.

"Your résumé needs to focus on results, not characteristics," says James E. Challenger, president of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. "A results-oriented résumé helps employers reduce the risks that are associated with hiring because they see what you have accomplished as well as your attitude toward work."

After your profile, then you can start listing your work history and experience. List two to four bullet points for each job, using the same strategies above. After work history list your technical skills, education organizations or additional information.

As Challenger points out, when you think you are all done with your résumé, ask yourself these questions: Why would an employer be interested in this? How does it make me more attractive to the employer? How does this show a skill or ability of mine? If you can't decipher why, the employer certainly won't either.


Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. This column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to askmatt@startribune.com.