A resume is a document listing your accomplishments and qualifications, with the purpose of securing you an interview for a job. This is usually the first impression that employers have of you so you want it to be a good one. View your resume as an opportunity to market yourself to potential employers, not just a summary of your career history.
A resume generally includes the following sections:
The heading consists of your basic contact information, including your name, permanent address, phone number, cell phone number and a professional e-mail address. Do NOT include anywhere on your resume personal information, such as your social security number, gender, marital status or disability.
The objective either states the position you are applying for or is a summary of your strongest selling points. You don’t necessarily need an objective on your resume, but it is recommended for entry-level applicants whose goals are not yet defined, and for people who are changing careers and have resumes that don’t necessarily apply to the position or industry.
The experience section summarizes your work-related history and targets your job goals. Each listing should state the job title, the name of the organization, the company’s location, the dates you were employed and your work responsibilities. For the latter, don’t just list job duties; make sure you emphasize your skills and accomplishments. One way to do this is to incorporate action words. For example, use “established” or “launched” instead of “started.” You can also quantify your results. Rather than “Increased revenue between 2005-2007” you could state “Increased revenues from $500,000 in 2005 to $2.1 million in 2007.” The more specific and result-oriented your resume is, the easier it will be for the employer to see how valuable you are.
If your work history is limited or inconsistent, include non-work experiences related to the job you are applying for. This could include volunteer experience, self-employment initiatives, or other areas where you have used your skills.
Employers may view large gaps in work history suspiciously and not follow up with a jobseeker as a result. If you have a recent gap of more than six months on your resume, you may want to include some explanation in your resume or cover letter. It may be more helpful to include this in the body of your cover letter where you can provide more explanation. Your explanation should have a positive tone and convey that you can perform the job.
The education portion consists of your degree (BA, BS, MBA, MD), institution, concentration (major, minor) and grade point average (GPA) if it is over a 3.0. You can also include courses you have taken that are relevant to the job you¡¦re applying for.
Generally, you want to put your experience before your education if you have at least five years of work experience. Thus, for most college graduates or entry-level applicants, education can come before experience.
There are three types of skills that you can list. The first is job-specific and refers to the abilities necessary to perform the functions of the job you're seeking. The next is considered transferable skills, or those that can be applied to a variety of professions, such as data processing or people skills. Finally there is the adaptable set, or personality attributes that you think will be beneficial to the employer.
All other information falls into this category, including awards, publishing credits, and testimonials. Hobbies generally are excluded unless they are relevant to your career goals or demonstrate desirable character traits.
- Be concise but relevant. The average employer spends less than thirty seconds glancing at a resume to decide whether or not to discard it. You don¡¦t want to bog them down with dense paragraphs and wordy descriptions. Instead use bullets or asterisks, and be careful with your word choice so that you¡¦ll be able to present all the pertinent information about yourself in the simplest and clearest terms.
- Length. The rule of thumb is to keep resumes only one page long. Again, employers are not going to spend much time reading over your resume. Be short, concise and to the point. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however. Your resume can be two pages if you have over ten years work experience or are in a field that requires technical and engineering skills that you must list. In addition, your resume can be three pages long if you're a senior-level manager/executive with a lot of leadership experience, or you are in the academic or scientific field and need to list your publications, speaking engagements, patents, etc.
- Font. Use easy-to-read fonts such as Times, Arial, Palatino or Helvetica. Usually, your name appears in the largest typeset, but for everything else, use 10-14 point.
- Paper. Use white or off-white resume paper, which is heavier than regular paper. Also, use a laser printer to ensure your resume will be professional and easy to read if the employer must scan it.
- Proofread. Proofread your resume. Then do it again. Then ask a friend, family member or career services person to look it over. There is nothing worse than having your resume tossed in the recycling bin because you used “there” instead of “their” a dozen times, so make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors As for your final check, hold your resume at arm’s length and critique its overall appearance. Does it look simple and easy to read? Is it too cluttered or are there too many white spaces? The more streamlined and easy to breeze through, the better.
- Sending it in. If you’re mailing it, enclose a cover letter and use a letter-sized envelope. If you’re sending your resume via e-mail, you should cut and paste it into the body of the e-mail and use an appropriate subject heading. (“Here is my resume” does not suffice). Unless the employer specifically asked for attachments, refrain from sending your resume as one, since many companies are wary of viruses. Basically, follow the employer or recruiter’s instructions or else you risk them not even bothering to glance at your resume.