Resume Tips

Professional Writer and Editor

The resume is nearly always sent with a cover letter as part of the complete job application package.

The purpose of the resume is to convince a potential employer that you are the right person for the job. This is done by rapidly summarizing your most relevant educational background and work experience in a format that is quick and easy to read.

A resume is a summary of your work history, education, and skills that are relevant to a job for which you are applying.

The resume is extremely important because if it does not sufficiently impress the hiring manager or boss who reads it, you will not be granted an interview, and without an interview, you will not get hired. Consequently, it is essential to take your time and write a well thought out, complete, and error-free resume.

When writing a resume, it is important to determine what to include and what not to as well as what to emphasize.

You should always tailor your resume to the position and the company, as far as it is possible, that you are applying for. Research the company you are applying at, and find out their mission and objectives. If possible, learn about the person or persons who will be conducting the interview (such as the human resource representative or hiring manager) and about your prospective future manager or boss and co-workers. The more knowledge you have, the more effective you are likely to be in crafting your resume, and the more customized you make your resume, the greater the likelihood that it will be successful.

As part of your research, examine the job requirements for the position, and make sure you meet them and that your resume shows that you meet them.

Demonstrate that your experience and the skills you have gained qualify you for the position. Try to find out, as best you can, what you would be doing in the position, not only to make sure that you illustrate that you are the best applicant for the job, but also so you can know if you'll be happy at the job.

Remember that the purpose of a resume is to get a job interview, and generally, if you get the interview, then the person who granted the interview believes you can do the job. It is the resume that opens the door for you to meet with the potential hirer and show what you can contribute.

Drafting the Resume

In any kind of writing it is important to be concise, but that is particularly true when writing a resume. Because most resumes are one page long (two at the most; more on this below), it is necessary to determine what information is worth including. On the other hand, you should include all relevant information that you can-just make sure to be succinct. You can always cut your resume down later if you need to. Also, use bullet points with short sentences or phrases when possible, as they are easier to read than dense paragraphs of text.

As you draft your resume, write in reverse chronological order, with your most recent work experience and schooling first. If you are a recent graduate with little work experience, you will probably want to list your education first in your resume, particularly if you went to a prominent college or university; received a high GPA; completed a good deal of job-related coursework, or took classes from noted scholars in your field. However, if you already have experience in the line of work that you're applying for, put that before your education.

This should go without saying, but as you draft your resume, be positive! Don't include unnecessary information that will hinder your chances of getting the job. For example, if you didn't receive the best GPA in college or you graduated very recently (or a long time ago) and you think that information will hurt your chances of getting the job, leave that information out.

Contact Information

Begin your resume with your contact information, including your name, address, phone number where you can most easily be reached (both cell phone and home phone, if possible), e-mail address, and even your Web site, if it's applicable.

Objective Statement

If desired, you can include in your resume a short, specific, clear objective statement. Though the objective statement is not strictly necessary, it can be helpful. Specifically, the objective statement lets you sum up your career goals and tell the kind of job you want, as well as the skills and experience you have that are needed to do well at that job.

Even if you don't plan to keep the objective statement or don't end up having room for it, it is a good idea to include it to help guide you in writing your resume. When writing your objective statement, again, be specific; a generic objective is worthless. Whenever possible, target it to the specific position you're interested in: include the name of the company, the position being applied for, and the way in which you will help the company meet their goals.

Example:
Objective: Contribute my knowledge and skills as a product manager for John Doe Communications in order to help them achieve their mission of providing innovative and cost-effective communication solutions to customers worldwide.

Work Experience

In the section on work experience, include the name and location of the businesses where you previously worked (along with your current job, if applicable), the dates you were employed, the position you held, and your responsibilities and achievements. The skills you learned are particularly important if they relate to the current job you're applying for. If you are making a career shift, focus on skills and achievements that are transferable (that is, that can be used in the job you are applying for).

As you complete this section, focus particularly on what you accomplished in each position—don't just list your responsibilities. Use specific, quantifiable achievements when possible. For example, instead of saying that you increased sales in your department, say that you increased sales in your department by an average of 11 percent annually or by $350,000 per year. Give specific numbers (percentages, dollar amounts, and so on) whenever you can.

Also, when listing your abilities, be honest. Don't claim to have skills or knowledge that you don't have. That being said, if you have learned a computer program or been exposed to it in the past, for example, and it is a job requirement, but you don't remember it completely or don't know it overly well, that shouldn't necessarily keep you from applying for the job—just make sure you brush up on or get more experience with the program before the interview (or at least before you begin working). Most computer applications have trial versions, so you can use the trial version to become more familiar with or practice the program. Similarly, if there are business models or policies that the company follows that you are unfamiliar with, learn about them before you apply for the job.

Education

In the education section, include your most recent education first, and include the name of the college, university, or school you attended; the date you graduated or year you finished attending; the field of study; and the degree or certification earned (including minors). If you have a high GPA, include it; if not, you may want to omit it, although doing so might cause employers to assume you graduated with a low GPA if you do so. You should also include relevant or noteworthy classes that you took or clubs you participated in, honors you received, and the like.

Other Sections

In addition to the sections identified above, you can also include sections on professional memberships or career development, certifications, computer or language skills, honors and awards, volunteer experience, community service, hobbies and interests, or any other information that might be worthwhile. The important thing is to remember to include and highlight the information that will help you get the job. You may be a world-class fly fisherman, for example, but including that information on your resume won't necessarily help you get the job you're seeking.

References

References are a very important part of helping you get a job in the workforce today. For this reason, you should include your references with your resume, even if you have to include them on a second page. Including a statement at the bottom of your resume that states that "References are available upon request" could give the impression that you are lazy or unmotivated, and it is a great way to get your resume shoved to the bottom of the pile—or even thrown away. Don't make the person reviewing your resume go through the extra effort of asking for your references; doing so could easily cost you the job. For information on how to write a reference page, see the article "How to Write a Reference Page."

Furthermore, if you can, include with your resume copies of recommendation letters from the people you use as references. This is an excellent way to leave a good impression of yourself with the resume reviewer, and it may save the people you used as references from having to give a recommendation of you on the spur of the moment. For more information about requesting recommendation leaders, see the article "Write Recommendation Letters for Success."

Writing a Skills Resume

A chronological resume is by far the most common format for a resume, although you may choose to organize your resume based on the skills you have acquired, instead. This type of resume, known as a skills resume, might be your best option if, for example, you are re-entering the workforce, if you are changing careers, or if you have recently worked in a number of temporary positions. If you use a skills resume, it is a good idea to include an objective statement to demonstrate how your skills relate to the job you are applying for, as well as a career summary to explain why you are re-entering the workforce or why you are changing careers.

When writing a skills resume, begin with your contact information and objective statement, and then follow these with the career summary. After the career summary, list relevant places of employment (that is, list those positions you have held in which you used skills, performed responsibilities, and accomplished goals that relate to the job for which you are currently applying). As with a chronological resume, include the company name, location, and dates of employment for each position listed, and then identify your responsibilities, achievements, and skills learned. Then include the section on your educational background.

Formatting the Resume

When typing your resume, choose a font that is easy to read (that is, don't use fancy script fonts). Twelve-point font size is standard, but you can decrease font size down to a ten-point font if necessary in order to fit your information onto the page. Don't use a font size smaller than ten, as small type is difficult to read. Use 1" or 1.25" margins.

Traditionally, writing a resume that was longer than a page was not recommended. This guideline is beginning to change, however. If you have several years of experience related to the job you are seeking and as long as the information is relevant and concise, it's okay to continue onto a second page. On the other hand, don't continue onto a second page in order to include information such as personal interests or hobbies, awards from years ago, or outdated skills (such as proficiency in obsolete computer programs).

After Writing Your Resume

Once you have written and revised your resume as necessary, proofread it carefully. If your resume looks sloppy, it's likely to get thrown out. Also, have someone else review your resume in order to bring to your attention anything you might have missed. This person can be a professional writer or editor, a colleague or co-worker, a job placement specialist, or a friend or family member. There are also resume writing services and companies that offer resume critiques available, as well.

It might also be worthwhile to submit your resume to a number of different companies and to apply for various related positions, even if they don't all initially appear to be your dream job—you'll increase your chances of getting an interview and being hired and may end up choosing a job that would not have appeared to be your first choice. Fortunately, preparing several resumes for different positions is relatively easy, as you can keep most of the same information in your resume as long as the jobs are all related. Simply customize each resume for specific positions as necessary.

Other Resume-Writing Tips:

  • Use action words in your resume, such as developed, managed, completed, trained, sold, purchased, and so forth.
  • As you draft the text of your resume, include the key words used in the job description and job requirements (this is particularly important when creating a scannable resume).
  • Examine sample resumes in order to get ideas for how to write your own resume. If there is a particular format or style used by those in your industry, follow that format.
  • If you have any gaps in your employment history, be prepared to explain them.
  • Set up a professional e-mail account (if you haven't already done so), even if you use it only for your job search and other work-related correspondence. You don't want to have your resume rejected because you appear unprofessional.
  • Maintain adequate white space in your resume—it makes your resume easier to read.
  • After receiving the job you want, update your resume to include that job, and add achievements as you make them and skills as you learn them. It is always a good idea to have an up-to-date resume—you never know when you might need it.

Conclusion

Generally, it is your cover letter and resume that will indicate to your prospective employer whether or not you are qualified for a job, so you should take the time and put forth the necessary effort to make these documents your very best work.

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