The purpose of your resume is to make the reader
want to interview you. Resumes should be informative, concise, consistent, and
should highlight intriguing skills and experience. They should grab attention
early and provide a concentrated, convincing argument that you perfectly match
the position at hand.
Those who have been in the workforce for several years would customarily list
professional experience first, followed by education and other elements such as
publications or skills. Most resumes use reverse chronological order,
listing the most recent experience first with the rest following
chronologically. This type of resume gives a prospective employer a sense of
where your career is headed and how it evolved into what it is today.
For entrepreneurs, sales personnel, recent
graduates, and others with less-than-standard experience, an alternative format
called the functional approach might make more sense. This format puts
an emphasis on your abilities and achievements, categorizing your experience by
industry, type of position, skill, and what you did rather than when you did
There is no right or wrong way to write a
resume. Whatever sets you apart from the masses while requiring a minimum of
effort for the recruiter will probably be your best bet. Here are some general
guidelines to follow.
- Be concise. Unless you
have been working for a long time, stick to one page. Even with extensive
experience, a resume should rarely exceed two pages.
- Use vivid
language. Include hard facts showing your impact on the company.
Employers want to know what you did and how closely that experience
matches their needs. Use action verbs and eliminate pronouns. Be
grammatically consistent and proofread rigorously for mistakes.
- Go easy on the
eye. Graphics in a resume should make it easy to read. Use topic
headings and lots of space. Forget clip art. Use one typeface. Pull the
reader in from the top. Be creative, but clean with the layout.
Tell them what they need to know
Resumes should start with your name, address, e-mail, and phone numbers.
Include your education, accomplishments, and related experience. List unique
talents or specialized skills in hot demand, like those related to computers.
- Objective. Write one
line stating your career direction and the job title you seek. It will
direct your resume to the proper department and provide a key to
interpreting the contents. This statement will be of greater strategic
value if you have a specific focus or are in the midst of a career change
rather than if you are just starting out and unsure of your career path.
- Education. List schools,
years attended, graduation dates, degrees, majors or concentrations, and
awards. Highlight a master's thesis topic or academic honors. Put your
most recent or most impressive educational achievement first. If it is not
your highest degree, leave out high school unless it's extraordinary.
- Experience. List your
employers, job location, employment dates, job titles, and descriptions of
your tasks, accomplishments and skills. Use statistics.
- Skills. Highlight
your computer, language, or other technical skills. List software you have
worked with including any unique programs or expertise. For an Internet
job, list any certifications or Web programs and computer languages you
are familiar with.
Title the sections of your resume as you prefer,
but remain consistent grammatically.
The order of the resume should reflect the
position being sought. If your computer experience is more relevant to the job
than your work history, put your computer skills first. If your educational
achievements outweigh your actual experience, put them up higher. List other
personal information at the bottom.
Use discretion beyond the basics
Include a personal summary to provide a concise rundown of your career,
particularly if you are an established executive or have an array of job
experiences. Highlight volunteer work or memberships in nonprofits if
you are applying for a related position. Include a brief section on your hobbies
to present a more complete and interesting picture, although you run a risk
that the information could prejudice your resume.
Leave out overtly personal data, salary
information, or negatives like health or legal problems.
Customize as needed
When you are ready to apply for a position, tailor your resume to that job.
Highlight your qualities by addressing the specific needs listed in a
classified ad or employer's description. If you have no direct experience in
the field, pay special attention to related skills. Even with experience, show
how your talents suit the position.
Update your resume every time you accomplish something new to capture what's
important and remain ready for new opportunities, without struggling to get
something together under a tight deadline or stressful circumstance.
The following references provide solid examples of objectives, layouts, and
other aspects of resumes, as well as further commentary.