Formatting Your Resume


Start your resume by determining your objectives. What sort of a job do you want? Know what skill set and experience is needed to be successful in that job.

After your objectives are determined, prioritize the content of your resume to suit those objectives. You have a small window of time to grab the interest of a hiring manager so brevity and focus is essential. A long resume does not translate to higher qualification.

To begin the resume process, consider your resume as a tool to market skills and experience. Although, make sure it doesn't sound like marketing by avoiding the over use of industry jargon.

Have your it be factual, concise and state compelling achievements. You don't have to go into detail about every accomplishment on your resume.  

Most companies want a proven track record, not just training and education. Keep in mind that the interview, not the resume, is the place to expand on your accomplishments after evaluating the work/style cultural of the organization.


Bulleted sentences: use bullets with short sentences to structure the body of your resume. The main selling points of your resume should be clear and quick to scan. Don't worry about the specifics, because you'll go into the details during the interview. Consider whether or not to begin your resume with an objective statement.


Use action words: using action words like prepared, managed, developed, championed, monitored, and presented will cause your resume to stand out. Don't use the same verb over an over. Here's a list of action words, take a look - resume verb and keyword examples. If your resume is scanned electronically, the computer will search out these words.

Some companies have applications that scan in your resume and pull out those that meet certain criteria. These applications are looking for the keywords that have been chosen by the hiring manager. They are usually keywords that relate to the position so not including them or using shortened acronyms could mean your resume is disregarded as a "non-match". Learn how to beat automated screening tools.  


Use %'s, $'s and #'s: you should always use %'s, $'s and #'s. Dollar totals, numbers, and percentages stand out in the body of a resume. Here are two examples of a job duty described with (good) and without (bad). From the examples, you can see that being specific does not mean being lengthy.

Example 1
Bad: Account manager for HMO
Good: Managed 8 strategic accounts billing in excess of $15MM annually

Example 2
Bad: Sold pharmaceuticals to clients located in the Southeast
Good: Increased sales by 17% in a 3-state territory 


Highlight your strengths: focus on what is most relevant to the potential employer. Resumes are typically reviewed in 10-30 seconds. Put forth the effort to determine which bullets most strongly support your job search objective. Use the strongest and most relevant points first. This way they'll more likely be read. Your bullets are the hook for the reader and the rest of your resume reels them in.


Match the need they have: search job postings online and in the newspapers for positions that interest you. Each position will typically have a brief summary of the company and the position available. Use the keywords in these ads to match to the bullet points in your resume. Chances are that you will have some of these as key points already. If you have missed any, add them to your resume. A custom resume, instead of a generic one, will greatly increase your chances of an interview. It will appear as if you are a better match in the eyes of the reader.


Stay positive: in your resume and interview. Leave out negatives and points that are irrelevant. If you feel that your graduation date will subject you to age discrimination, leave it out of your resume. Don't include duties in your current job that don't support your job search objective. Focus on the duties that support your objective and leave off irrelevant personal information like your race, weight, and height.


White space is important: Ad Design 101 - white space is important. Take the the newspaper for example - which ads first catch your attention? Is it the ad jammed full of text or the ad that has a large amount of unused space ("white space"). Readers are attracted to open areas, so this is done to grab your attention. Don't worry if you are having a hard time filling the page with text; consider increasing margins or adjusting the text to fit the page layout.


Formatting guidelines: What's a good length for my resume? Which font should I use? The font size should be no smaller than 10 point, standard serif or sans serif fonts.

Don't use intricate fonts that are hard to read. Keeping your fonts standard will help combat conversion issues from PC to MAC and from one program version to another.

The length of your resume should be 1-2 pages. Yes, you can use more than one page. Although, remember to keep it concise.

If you're not sure which resume format to use, view our samples of chronological, functional, and combination (otherwise known as a hybrid resume format or chrono-functional resume formatting) resume formats.


Get 3rd party advice - receive an opinion on your resume before sending it off. Have a friend review your resume. Since you are so close to your own situation, it can be difficult for you to note all your positive attributes and clearly convey all your accomplishments. Having someone subjectively review your resume can give you insight into how others will view your personal marketing materials. Will your resume impress them? If not, why?

Don't settle for - "it's good", and encourage them to ask questions. Questions from a reader can help you to discover items you inadvertently left off your resume or areas where your experience needs to be made more clear. Take any comments into consideration and revise your resume accordingly. In addition to adding in missed items, their questions can also point to items on your resume that are confusing to the reader.

Start sending out applications - You should have everything you need! Apply for a wide variety of jobs - those that appear to be above your qualifications; those that are a match; and those positions which may be below your level. Why?

Perhaps the position below will turn out to be more than it appeared once you interview for them or maybe after you have your foot in the door you can learn of other opportunities. Interviewing more and more will improve your interviewing skills. Repetition will decrease your nervousness and increase your skills at attacking tough questions.


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