Resume Tips for Job Seekers
What is a Resume or a CV?
A resume and CV (Curriculum Vitae 'The Story of my life") are marketing tools for an individual seeking employment or advancement in an organization. Your resume should tell your story, and sell your skills and work experience. It is a quick advertisement of who you are. It is a "snapshot" of you with the intent of capturing and emphasizing interests and secure you an interview. Since your resume is a primary tool in your job search, it needs to be carefully written and critiqued.
The purpose of your resume is to secure the interview!
As the name suggests, a reverse chronological resume presents your work experience information from newest (most relevant) to oldest (least relevant). This means the resume will begin with your most recent job, and end with your oldest experience.
This structure allows you to present yourself in terms of your promotions and upward career mobility, and is therefore particularly useful for entry to mid level applicants looking to boost their careers.
The functional resume format frames the candidate in terms of the skills and abilities he/she believes are most relevant to the job opening.
Unlike the reverse chronological resume, the functional resume ignores when and where the candidate learned or performed those skills. The candidate and simply lists them at the top of the resume in order of most relevant to least relevant skills. Even the ?least relevant? skill should still be relevant to the job you are applying for. ?Least relevant? here really means ?the least relevant of your most relevant skills.?
By using the functional format, job candidates can achieve three big goals:
- provide evidence that they are strong candidates for the job
- hide work experience gaps (if they haven?t been working for periods of time.)
- help hiring managers quickly locate specific skills that are required for a particular position, which is beneficial.
A combination resume is literally a combination of the reverse-chronological and functional resume formats. Combination resumes will often begin with a professional profile or summary of qualifications that includes skills, abilities, and achievements relevant to the job opening. (This is the functional part.)
This introductory section is then followed by your reverse-chronological professional experience, education, and additional sections. (This is the reverse-chronological part.)
Resume Writing Tips
In order to effectively convey your strengths, you must do a self assessment.
- Begin with a list of your greatest accomplishments and personal qualities.
- Describe your skills and accomplishments with each employer by using action words. List only the skills that you would like to use on a new job. If you are writing a scannable resume then use key words.
- Write a chronological history of your employment, training, volunteer work and extra-curricular activities.
- Analyze the requirements of the new job you want to apply for.
- Compare the skills required with your background and indicate how you have demonstrated these skills. (Apply for jobs where you have the closest fit and interest.)
How to organize a resume
The entire resume must be targeted to a specific job objective. Arrange a resume to highlight your strongest or most extensive skills. For example, if you have just graduated from college, your education, class-work and internship or co-op experiences are most important and should be placed at the beginning.
If you have an extensive work history which is the highlight of your resume, the education section would go near the end of the resume. If you are not quite finished with your degree and you are currently taking college courses directly related to the position; then either your co-op work history, the highlights of school achievements or specific courses can be indicated. Below are some suggestions in setting up your resume.
- Organize the resume so it is easy to follow. Margin space should be approximately one inch around the edges.
- Write short sentences.
- Distinguish categories clearly with headings that are bold, underlined or CAPITALIZED.
- Use bullets, underlining and capitalizing sparingly to guide the reader to detail within a category.
- Place key words or the main point of each statement at the beginning of each line.
- Leave a space between lines to enhance readability.
- Keep resumes to one page, if possible; however, two pages is acceptable. Use whatever space is needed to relate information to potential employers. Resumes should be long enough to convey your qualifications and experience, but not wordy. If you are not able to concentrate information into one page, make sure the information on the second page has sufficient content. It is important to share your resume with someone who can provide objective feedback.
What is included in the resume content?
In order for a resume to make a positive impression, you must develop a theme. Do you want to show your extensive work history? Do you want to highlight your educational background or stress your skills/qualifications and achievements as well as duties and responsibilities.
The heading is always at the center or the left-hand side of the resume or near the top of the page. List your name, city and state, and e-mail address. Do not forget to include your home or wireless phone number if you are comfortable with prospective employers calling. If using an answering machine be certain you have recorded a message that is clear, concise and businesslike.
Including a "job objective" is optional but highly recommended. This indicates what your job goal is; be specific. In twelve words or less, clearly state what type of job you want. Avoid overused phrases, such as "utilizing my skills" or "offering a potential to grow" without being specific about how to accomplish that goal. If it adds no value, leave this part out all together.
Indicate the school or college you have attended, any seminars, workshops, military training or special courses you have taken. If you have taken college courses, list the college, city, major, most recent degree awarded and when you graduated. You may also list your grade point average (G.P.A.), if desired but specify on what scale (e.g., 3.5 on a 4.0 scale). If you are just beginning college, list the high school, as well as any significant college courses you have studied. If you have been out of high school for a number of years, omit the high school; a significant career history may be more meaningful. If your career history is more important than the education, list the experience first and place the education later in the resume.
Employment, Work History, Experiences, Work Experiences, Military or Volunteer Positions.
(Need not be paid to be included.) This is a critical section of the resume and probably the most extensive area. Begin with your current or most recent job and use reverse chronological order. List the information in this order:
- Job title
- Name of the employer and dates (if applicable)
- City and state of the employer
- A summary of your accomplishments and responsibilities
- For a military entry, current or most recent rank and job classification
When writing the summary of accomplishments and responsibilities, explain concisely the duties relevant to the position you are seeking. Emphasize the responsibilities and skills that would readily transfer to your next job. Be careful not to overstate your duties. Use action words to describe your qualifications. Use key words if you are writing a scannable resume.
Other Related Work Experience.
In today's job market, internships, apprenticeships, co-ops and other related experiences are very important. State as briefly as possible those activities which are relevant to the job for which you are applying. This information could be similar to that provided for work experience.
List certification and licenses in your field of expertise, indicating the dates and type of test taken for licensure. Include the number of the license, if appropriate.
Skills, Accomplishments or Achievements ( optional )
If you are creating a functional resume, divide into skill headings, with specific examples bulleted under each section. Begin with the skill for which you are applying. Some of the headings may include: communication, management, leadership, customer service, financial skills, etc.
Awards and Achievements.
If you have won athletic awards, presented research at a professional conference or were recognized for community involvement or a competition then consider including them.
Memberships or Professional Organizations.
List any memberships, campus activities or professional organizations you are currently or were engaged in that relate to your career objective. Indicate office(s) held.
Hobbies or Interests ( optional ).
This section may be included if you have hobbies or interests which demonstrate and highlight skills, abilities and characteristics about you. Some examples are: work with your hands, theater, art work, travel, historic preservation, hiking or even hunting.
This section is rarely used in resumes today, but should you feel some personal information relates to the job objective, it may be included in the resume or in the cover letter.
Preparing a separate sheet of four or five professionally related references is acceptable. References are not normally included with your resume but may be furnished upon request on a separate sheet of paper. Divide references into work related, professional and personal.
Final considerations are the selection of text, fonts, paper, printing and mailing methods.
- Text The most popular typefaces are ( new century schoolbook, bookman, times, courier ).
- Fonts (type size). Two types are generally used, 10-point and 12-point. An exception to this could be a header typed in a large font to highlight your name.
- Paper and Envelopes. Resumes, cover letters and thank you letters should be printed on a high quality cotton paper. These choices reflect your style, your attention to detail and thoroughness. Variations are acceptable in some instances if they accentuate or highlight your field of interest or expertise.
- Printing Methods. Always use a quality method of printing, such as a laser printer. If you do not use this, then have your resume typeset. Use graphics very sparingly or not at all unless their use appears appropriate for the field for which you are applying.
- Mailing/Distribution. If you fax a resume, use white paper. Use the largest font which comfortably fits within your resume margins. Always mail or deliver a original to the prospective employer the same day. When doing a global job search, consider the electronic resume. Some local printing companies can help with the service of on-line resumes, but consider the fees and confidentiality issues involved in this choice.
How to prepare a cover letter.
A cover letter is a strong personal communication between a prospective employer and a job applicant. It is usually the first letter you send or transmit electronically to an employer, and it should be accompanied by a resume. It should leave the employer with a clear impression of your credentials and should encourage the reader to review your resume.
It is probably the most important letter you will write, so be enthusiastic.
The purpose of the cover letter is to draw attention to your qualifications which will result in an interview. You must get the reader's attention not only by what you say but by how well you say it. Since the letter demonstrates your communication and writing abilities, express yourself logically, concisely and confidently. Be sure to write error free.
- The cover letter should not duplicate the information on your resume. Rather, it should highlight your major achievements and show how your qualifications relate to the position for which you are applying.
- Each cover letter should be typed individually, addressed to the person who is doing the hiring, and targeted to the position and the needs of that company. It should be three to four paragraphs on one page. Do not use a form letter.
- The tone should be confident and enthusiastic without resorting to gimmicks. The cover letter should not be too formal, nor should it sound desperate.
- The paper and envelope should match or complement your resume. Off-size paper or conservatively colored stationery can be effective in making your letter stand out.
- Necessary information that is not in your resume should be noted in the cover letter; for example, a temporary telephone number where messages can be left.
- Language in a plain, easy-to-read style is appropriate. Do not try to sound impressive by using unnecessarily long words or trade jargon. Avoid abbreviations and acronyms that the employer might not understand.
- It is important to be informed about the potential employer. Do your homework and read about the employer in city magazines, trade journals, information from the Chamber of Commerce, Dun and Bradstreet, the Thomas Register, annual company reports, websites and advertising as well as talking to people affiliated with the business. Use this information to show your interests and how your skills can be utilized
- Remember to include important contact information.
After the interview.
Following an interview, a brief letter of appreciation should be written to the person(s) with whom you spoke. This letter should be mailed in the same day, or latest by the next day.
After a reasonable period, if you have not heard from the employer, call about the status of your application. Recap the history stating dates of your correspondence and your interview(s). Tell the employer why you need to know your status (perhaps because you have other opportunities). Be certain to express your continued interest in working with this employer and your appreciation for being considered.
If you have questions about resumes or interviews, please feel free to contact us today for more tips or to find out if there are any upcoming free resume, job fair prep, or interviewing classes you can attend. Or, please also visit some job seeker resources in our Employee Resources page.