Writing the Resume
Why Write a Resume?
Contrary to popular opinion, the purpose of a resume is not to sell yourself to a prospective employer. Your best tool for that is you and how you present yourself.
The true purpose of a resume is to get an interview. It is a screening device and therefore needs to present you in such a way that you are screened in, not out.
- An employer may only spend 10-30 seconds on your resume in a first review. It is critically important that he or she be able to easily identify relevant information-otherwise you may end up in the circular file.
- How do you avoid being recycled? By targeting your resume to the position. Put yourself in the employer's shoes and ask yourself what type of skills and accomplishments you would want to see and then be sure to hit on those first.
- Make it easy to read, not so packed with information that one gets tired just looking at it. Be selective about what you include; you don't have much space so make every line count.
How much space DO you have?
- This depends on your audience. If your resume is for a position in higher education, it's okay to have a couple of pages. If your resume is for business, however, it probably should be only one page.
- Rule of thumb, you are allowed one page for every 10 years of experience. So, if you're coming in entry level, one page should do it. Even if you have a great deal of experience, your most important information should be on the first page in case the reader is fading out by page two. Think quality not quantity.
- If you keep your information targeted and concise, one page frequently gets the job done. As long as you include your most relevant information with specific accomplishments, your resume should provide enough substance to withstand a second and longer perusal by the employer. This should interest him or her enough to invite you for an interview.
How do you target a resume?
- A resume that is targeted highlights the information that is most relevant for a particular position. What educational background, skills, experience (volunteer, internship, paid), research, community involvement do you have that relates to this type of work? That's the information you focus on. Try not to bury it in a lot of unrelated duties that the employer won't care about.
- Put your most relevant and powerful experience first. Is it your education or your work experience or technical skills? Your least relevant information goes last. If it's irrelevant, leave it off.
- Look at the description of the position for which you are applying if you have one, or look at the Dictionary of Occupational Titles for a description of that type of work. This will give you information about what you should highlight.
- For example, if the job requires the ability to supervise hospital volunteers, you'll want to hit on your experience supervising others. Even if your supervisory experience was in a different context like food service or cashiering, it has relevance to this position. However, describing unrelated duties performed in this unrelated work will be very tedious to the employer so be selective. Your whole life doesn't have to be on this page, just the strengths and experiences from which this position will draw.
- If you are looking for two different kinds of jobs you will need to write two separate targeted resumes as the type of information you'll want to highlight will be different. Some of the details you omit on one resume may be particularly useful for the other.
Rule of thumb, you are allowed one page for every 10 years of experience
Brainstorm before Writing
The easiest way to write a resume is to first brainstorm on all of your experiences, whether they seem relevant or not. Get all of your information down; include skills, accomplishments, educational background, affiliations, volunteer work, internships, jobs, etc.
Then, sift through the information with an eye to a particular position/field.
Then figure out the format and categories that will work best for you.
Types of Resumes
The format, style and content of your resume will be dictated by who will receive the resume and the skills, background, education and experiences you have to offer. Common resume types:
- Chronological: Experience is presented in reverse chronological order. Works well when there is a logical progression of experience with no major time gaps.
- Functional: Emphasis is on transferable skills categories. Highlight abilities and accomplishments then list jobs.
- Combination: A blending of these two formats.
- Internship: Highlight related academic strengths and projects as these may be your strongest selling points.
- E-Mail: Electronically created and sent resume.
- Curriculum Vita: An extensive document utilized in higher education as a means of determining the extent of your theoretical and experiential background.
- Targeted: A focused resume style that is used for teaching, professional, and technical positions.
- Scannable: A resume that is scanned by computer; often utilized by large companies to weed through resumes. The use of key words is essential in creating this type of resume.
A clean, readable, balanced resume is going to help employers find the information they need to see to determine if you are a match for a position. It is also a statement about the quality of work you produce.
- Use easy to read fonts like Times New Roman, Courier, Helvetica, Palatine, Futura. Remember different fonts use space differently-adjusting fonts may give you more or less room on your page.
- Type size should be between 10-14 points.
- Use a laser printed original and make good quality copies.
- Use bolding and/or underlining consistently and sparingly for impact. If overused, they can create confusion.
- Try to balance the information on the page so there's not too much white space or too much congestion.
- Margins should be one inch on top and sides and may be 3/4 inch at the bottom.
- Check to see that your spacing is consistent. For example, if you double spaced after one heading, you want to double space after all headings.
- For a resume that will be faxed, keep the style as clean as possible since faxing can blur letters.
- There are many possible headings that you can use; select/create ones that best represent your information. Some possibilities:
Objective- Academic Research/Strengths/Projects- Technical Skills - Education - Highlights of Qualifications - Summary of Experience - Experience/Relevant Experience - Fieldwork Experience - Work History - Professional Development/Affiliations - Community Service - Licenses and Credentials - Languages - Computer Skills - Additional Skills/Interests.