Writing Your Resume

 

Purpose of a resume - knowing the purpose of a resume will will help you to identify what is really important to focus on when putting yours together. A resume is basically a brief overview of your experience and credentials organized as to sell you as one of the best choices for a prospective employer to interview.

It initiates the process of introducing yourself to the employer. With a resume being both introductory and a personal sales presentation, a good resume will be concise, easy to read, positive, and interesting.

  • A resume is not a mere summary of what you've done – a resume needs to be focused on the job targeted, making the content relevant to the hiring team's viewpoint. An often-made mistake is to develop a "one-size-fits-all" resume without tailoring it to the specifics of the job.
  • Look at existing resume examples to get a good feel for putting together a good resume. Borrow books on resume writing from the local library, or get online and check out resumes uploaded by various people. Within your industry, it's often possible to get a search return for people who have submitted resumes that have been made public and stored electronically, and this gives you a great opportunity to see how the top people in your industry prepare their resumes.
  • Know what the reader will be looking to get out of a resume. Key professional behaviors that a reader will want to see leap out from reading your resume include communication and listening skills, ability to be a team player, goal orientation, analytical skills, motivation and initiative, reliability and dedication, determination, confidence, pride and integrity, efficiency, and the ability to follow directions. 
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Make it easy to read - the presentation will impact how easy it is to read the resume. Have good taste in your resume and forget gimmicks.  

Recruiters approach resumes conservatively.  They do not like or trust being presented with resumes printed on color paper; in 3D; with unusual fonts; or shaped like whatever product the company's trying to sell.

Recruiters like the familiar and anything going away from that trend risks an undesired reaction.

  • Use the font size 10-12. For a traditional look, use the serif font Times New Roman. Use Century Old Style for traditional business jobs. For a more contemporary look, use the sans serif fonts Helvetica or Arial. Nontraditional fonts not only risk looking unprofessional, but if you're emailing them and your employer doesn't have the font type, your resume will end up unformatted as it's replaced by a different font,  The  end result will probably look unreadable. Emailing the document as a PDF file could alleviate this problem.
  • Don't switch between too many fonts. Sans serif fonts are best for headers, serif fonts are best for listing the content details.
  • Use bold and italics to make important information stand out but use bold sparingly. Make use of white space; ensure there is enough to make it easy to read.
  • Use black and white. Color should be used restrictively and preferably not at all.
  • The format should be neat, well organized and consistent throughout the document.
  • Use quality paper if printing hard copies.
  • More tips on  formatting your resume.

 

Select a style you'll use - leaving out personal pronouns is commonplace.  The use of third person or first person is really up to you and your personal style, but maintain the correct tense throughout your resume. Your goal should be to come across as personable and someone people want to work with. Don't go to far in one direction, making it overly stiff or overly casual.  Find the perfect medium. 

 
Have a master list - this will be your background working document from which you create each new resume. Keep it somewhere safe and refer to it every time you create a resume.  Update it as you do new things in your life. The master list will prevent you from including absolutely everything in the resume document itself. During your life, your resumes will appear differently as you emphasize a different set of skills for different positions.
  • Make a list of all the jobs you have ever had. Don't leave out anything, even short stints, internships, or work experience opportunities.
  • Include awards, educational degrees, skills, and personal projects.
  • List anything that would be impressive or interesting to anyone reading about you.
  • Maintenance prevents you from having to revisit the older portions year after year. Organize the list by category to help find answers quickly.
 
Carefully consider content of resume - brevity is key, unless you have considerable experience in many jobs.  Keep your resume to 1 to 2 pages in length at the most. One rule of thumb suggests having a page for every 10 years of experience is appropriate. A resume is often given less than two minutes reading time, so you'll want to make sure the content it contains is relevant and sells you well. If you're tempted to really elaborate, remember that the interview is the right place to share more information.
  • If you're just out of school or college, make the resume no more than one page. List your scholastic accomplishments, including involvement in official positions, school newspaper, student council, awards, etc.
  • Provide your educational history. Placement of this depends on the importance of them to your job and the amount of time you've been in the workforce. List top accomplishments first.  Use the order: PhD, MA, BA, diploma, certificate and any relevant scholarships and awards. It is standard to abbreviate degrees.
  • Include positions that were extensive. Unless you're fresh out of school and have limited experience, working at a place for a few weeks does not count as "extensive."  It may suggest that you job hop.
  • Include accreditation and licenses.
  • Include employment dates. A resume that does not include dates makes recruiters nervous.
  • Include an address, phone number, and email address. Don't include an email that shows you shouldn't be taken seriously, such as beerandbooze@email.com. Don't use your current employer's name, number or email, either. If necessary, get an email address with a professional name that you can use for job searches.
  • Top resumes do not list the names of references, because it's assumed by the recruiter that you have references.  It only comes into play if you're successful at the interview. It's considered unprofessional to set out names in this way.

 

Specifics for your resume - use your master list as a resource to draft a resume targeted at your intended job. In order to make your resume more specific, you'll need to do your research; remove any irrelevant information; and fine tune the relevance of remaining information that you're including.

  • Use the job advertisement, job description, anyone you know who works in the place, media information (Internet, newspaper, company's own press releases, etc.), gossip, and calling up the incumbent or person identified as the appropriate person to talk to as your research.
  • Have a positive tone. List your experience in terms of accomplishments and achievements rather than tasks and responsibilities as much as you can. Show your success. Accomplishments are more impressive than a list of duties. As an example, "Cut expenses by 25 percent over six months while maintaining historic revenue levels" is more impressive than saying, "Was responsible for a $500,000 budget." The latter says "I did this", while the former says, "I did this, and I can do it for you too."
  • Quantifiable accomplishments are helpful, such as saying how much time your efficiencies saved the company.
  • Explain the relevance of the content placed in your resume to the job applying to.

 

Watch out for common snafus - some things may seem like good ideas at the time but are real "killers" when it comes to a recruiter trying to gauge your overall fit for the position and workplace.

Here are some things that will dissuade the reader from moving forward in the recruiting process: 

  • Making demands shows your hand by telling your potential employer what you expect to get out of them, you'll lose them straight away. Leave this part for the negotiations at the time of the job offer.
  • Don't inflate your achievements and abilities. 30% of resumes contain inflated educational qualifications, causing employers to check these more often than not. If you haven't done it, don't say you have; clearly state if a qualification is in progress or not.
  • Don't over qualify yourself for the position. Give enough information for interest and save the "wow" factor for the interview.
  • Avoid coming across as stubborn, arrogant, or difficult to work with. It might seem fine to tell someone that you're strong willed and stand your ground in a dispute, but this can also suggest that you're inflexible and disinterested in listening to others' opinions. Take great care with the impression your words create about your character.
  • Don't list weaknesses. While the unoriginal, standard question "What are your weaknesses" will likely come up in an interview, the resume isn't the place to be lowering your value. This document is an advertisement for you, so you want to make the best impression possible.  You wouldn't by a product if its advertisement said all of the weaknesses right there with the positives.
  • Unless relevant to your job, avoid mentioning age, race, religion, sex, and national origin. National origin may be necessary if you're working in a country not of your birth.  If that's the situation, make it clear that you are entitled to work in the country.
  • Leave out the photo unless you're applying for a job where your appearance matters (such as modeling). Otherwise, hardly anyone expects a photo with your resume.
  • Avoid wasting space by telling things that are basically intuitive - such as telling the employer you're available (why apply if you're not?), titling your resume "Resume/CV/etc.", talking about early childhood achievements (you're not asking your mom for a job!), or health (unless health is integral to the position).
  • See more common resume mistakes.

 

Have an interesting resume - when presented with options, we would rather meet an interesting person than someone who is indifferent or on the dull side. Making the impression that you're someone worth meeting is critical to a resume. Balance your resume by selling yourself without going overboard.

  • Focus on your best accomplishments written in a way that a reader will think: "I want to find out more about this person."
  • List professional affiliations (demonstrates career commitment); any language abilities (always useful in a globalized world); publications and patents; military or emergency services experience (dedication, teamwork, determination); professional training (you like to be on the cutting edge), and endorsements (people recognize what you achieved).
  • Your resume needs to sell you to people who haven't met you yet, so don't be shy or overly modest with what you write. Modesty will come across in the interview. For example, instead of saying "answered phones," say "answered multi-line phone and routed calls for an office of 43 people." This demonstrates that you're able to handle high volume work in a complex environment.  Use action verbs. It will make it much easier for you to write a resume that is vivid, interesting and very readable.

 

Revise and proofread - your resume several times. Have a friend and someone else proofread it, preferably another person further removed from you. Spelling and grammatical errors in a resume are sufficient reason to discard it when you're competing with dozens or hundreds. Don't let this simple step get by you!

In addition to looking for errors, ask your proofreader to honestly critique the overall style, tone, and presentation.  Ask them "does this sound as if I'm a fit for this job?" Fine tune and edit your resume by spending time removing overly sophisticated language; repetitive elements; and anything you have doubts about.

  • Take constructive criticism wisely and amend your resume as you feel is needed.
  • Double and triple check that you have followed all the directions provided by the job application instructions. This is your first test of responsibility from the hiring manager, i.e. if the ad says "no calls please," then don't call!
  • Prepare your resume several days in advance.  Come back with a fresh perspective and read it again in a day or two. You may be able to better see what to leave out and add any other important items.

 

If you want to read more on how to produce and write your resume, see our specific sample text for your resume's headings, keywords and objective statement.

 

     

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