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Writing Your Resume

You can improve your chances of getting the job you want by creating an effective and powerful resume. Here are some or our best tips on how to present your skills and market them to potential employers.

Building Your Resume
 
A strong resume will get you an interview. You have the opportunity to sell yourself at the interview, but without the right resume to open the door, you'll never make it to the interview. The person reading your resume needs to be convinced within the first ten seconds of reading your resume that you merit further consideration. To be convinced, they need to review a summary of your education, skills, accomplishments and experience in that time frame. Format, design and vocabulary play big roles.

Basic rules for a successful resume

1. Be brief
If you have one to five years' experience, one page is sufficient. One to three pages are appropriate for a candidate with more than five years' experience.

2. Use standard resume structure
List jobs and education in chronological order with the most recent first. When listing specific tasks or accomplishments within a job summary, use bullet points whenever possible. Make it easy for the reader to follow the format.

3. Presentation is critical
If you're mailing your resume or giving one out at your interview, it should be on white or off-white paper. Use an easy-to-read font and do not use attention getting colored paper, artistic borders or pictures. Try not to cram in too much information. White space can be very effective as well as make it easier for the reader to absorb content.

 

New Graduates and Candidates with Less than Five Years Experience
Your resume should consist of one page. The following guidelines have been specifically developed to help people with limited experience meet the criteria important to the hiring decision.

FORMAT

Header
Center your name, address, telephone number(s) and email address at the top of the page. Indicate whether the telephone numbers are home, work or cell phone. Only list your work number if it is appropriate for a prospective employer to call you at your current job.

Objective
Although "Objective" is a standard resume section, be careful! Objectives that qualify you for one position can immediately disqualify you for another. Always review the objective on your resume against the requirements of a specific job opportunity and change it if necessary.

Education
Always put your education before your work experience because it tells the prospective employer more about your current qualifications. List your education in reverse chronological order including: degree, major, school and year. Add honors and awards you have won and relevant courses, projects or activities that are applicable to your stated career path.

Employment History
List dates (month/year), title, company and location for each job held, beginning with the most recent. Give a one-sentence summary about the company if it's not an immediately recognizable name such as "$1 billon pharmaceutical R&D Company."

Briefly summarize duties and accomplishments in each position held. Use action words such as: Achieved, Designed, Generated, Launched, Supervised and Budgeted.

Group all jobs unrelated to your field(s) of interest, full or part-time, that you held while attending school. An introductory statement such as:  "I worked at the following positions to cover 75% of my tuition during college" will show your sense of responsibility and ability to hold a job.

Don't disregard any experience just because it was unpaid. Internships or other unpaid positions that you gained valuable experience from can be included here.

Never assume that the prospective employer will understand accomplishments and duties implicit in a previous job. Be as complete and concise as possible. When applicable, clearly point out how your efforts have led to revenue generation or cost-savings.
Additional Skills
This is the section in which you can place skills and abilities that are not immediately obvious by your degree(s) or positions held, such as familiarity with software programs, photography or knowledge of foreign languages.

Professional
If you are a member of a professional association, list it, along with any committee position you hold with the association or awards you have won from the association.

References
Do not list references on your resume. The simple line: "References available upon request" is appropriate, but optional. When asked to submit references, do so on a separate sheet of paper and make sure you check with the people you name first. This is important because:
• The person may not want to be a reference
• The person may have moved, changed jobs or otherwise not be at the number you're listing
• The person may be open to suggestions as to what will be said about you. It may not be immediately obvious to them why you are a good match for the position and you need to spell it out.

Honors, Awards and Activities
It may be appropriate, based on your specific background and experience, to include one or more of the following sections:

 • Honors
 • Awards
 • Activities

A resume update is only necessary once a year, or when you change jobs. When you reach the three to five year plateau, a radical change should be made to more clearly define your qualifications.

 

Resume for the Experienced Candidate
The basic rules still apply, but now the resume may be extended to two pages. Regardless of length, the following format changes should be made.

FORMAT

Qualifications Replace Objective
It's time to remove the objective stated at the top and replace it with a summary of your professional qualifications. You are now a specialist by virtue of your professional and personal strengths and overall experience that transcend a specific job duty or function. You must package yourself as you would a product by determining what it is that a prospective employer is buying when they are hiring you.

For example, if you have 10 years' experience as an office manager in positions where you managed both staff and a budget, you can package yourself as "Successful office manager in the medical industry working through team building and staff development, as well as contributing to the bottom line through cutting expenses and developing revenue-generating policies." Follow this with bullet-pointed specifics such as:
• Demonstrated expertise in analyzing, interpreting and solving problems
• Skilled in operation of a variety of analytical instruments
• Excellent problem solving skills

Employment History
Following your professional qualifications, this section contains your employment history presented in the same format discussed earlier, i.e. date, title, company, location and duties. Employment history now precedes education because years of practical experience become a greater factor in hiring decisions.

Your accomplishments should also be introduced within each employment listing, as these are the milestones within the scope of a job. You should present them in bullet format and they should be stated, if possible, in quantifiable terms that show how you personally contributed to the company's bottom line. 

For example:
 • Supervised 30 employees, reduced department turnover 50%
 • Managed new product introduction which increased sales 25% over previous year
 • Developed successful five-year strategic business plan

Additional Skills
This follows employment history and is presented in the same way as the earlier resume. This section may include special licenses, certifications and training you've acquired during your years of employment.

Education
This section follows additional skills and is presented as described earlier. Coursework listings are removed from your resume, as work experience becomes the most relevant factor for employment. Be sure to include your academic thesis title, if appropriate.

 

Writing a Cover Letter
Cover letters are critically important when applying for a specific job. Your letter should directly address the job requirements as posted and emphasize the items from your resume that are most pertinent to the job posting. Make it easy for the person reading your letter to see how your previous experience makes you a perfect candidate for the job.

• Note the order of importance in which requirements are listed on the job posting and reflect that order in your cover letter.
• Draw attention to your industry-related experience
• Add anything else from your professional history that may be relevant to the position
 
 The main things to avoid when applying for a job:


1. Never send a form letter
These do nothing to build your stature with the reader. In fact, they create a negative first impression because the reader feels you're not interested enough to take the time to respond specifically to the posting. Customize every cover letter you write to focus on your specific qualifications and keep a copy for reference.

2. Never change your resume to suit the job
Your resumes may end up on the desk of the same recruiter if you respond to blind ads or different divisions within a company. However, when applying via internet postings, review your resume for usage of keywords listed in the job posting. For example, if a posting calls for a nurse manager to supervise a staff of 10, use the words "nurse," "manager," and "supervise staff" in your resume. Without emphasizing such terms, a company using scanning software may dismiss your resume. 

3. Never send out a resume or cover letter without checking spelling, grammar and appearance.
Typos are an automatic turnoff!

4. Never include any of the following information
Age, ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, birthplace, photos, height, weight or health.

Finally, remember to refer to the job posting number and job title exactly as they appear in the job posting as the recruiter may have several positions with the same title to fill.

Conclusion
Following these simple resume-writing rules won't get you the job. However, assuming you are well qualified, you will have a much better chance of getting an interview. Getting an interview is a significant accomplishment, since a small percentage of all applicants for a particular job make it to this stage, especially in today's tough job market.
 

 

 

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