What is your Resume?
A resume is, essentially, a brief synopsis of who you are, what you know, and what you have done. Creating a good resume is more than just putting facts on paper, though a great resume can make the difference between getting your dream job and watching someone else get your dream job. Making the effort to create the best possible resume will almost always pay off in more and better job offers.
Make a Good First Impression
When you are applying for a job, your resume is the only thing seen by potential employers in the beginning, so it needs to be a good representative for you and convince that prospective employer that you would be a good choice to hire. Once your resume has attracted the attention of the person doing the hiring, you will be able to represent yourself at an interview and your resume will no longer be so important, but until then, you need to have a resume that makes people sit up and take a second look.
Make the First Page Pop
What, then, should your resume include that will give you the best possible chance at a job you want? The first thing to consider is that the person reading your resume probably has a large stack of resumes to go through, so they won’t be reading every word of every resume. It is much more likely that they will quickly skim the first part of the first page, looking for words that indicate that you have what they are looking for. They will put resumes that look promising aside, and then go through that (much smaller) stack more thoroughly. Your resume needs to get you into the short stack, and the best way to ensure that will happen is to use keywords in the beginning of your resume that give the most important bits of information clearly, concisely, and immediately. A quick glance should give the personnel manager your most important skillset, such as “BA in Nursing”, “Mechanical Engineer”, or “Ten years’ experience in retail management”. Those words need to jump off the page, because they are what will get you noticed initially.
Resume Writing Steps
So, you’re ready to begin writing your resume. First, choose a clear, easy to read font – nothing fancy. Leave a 1-inch margin, and leave a clear space between sections. Give each section a heading. You don’t want your resume to look crowded or cluttered – it must be clean-looking and easy on the eyes. Your name should be in large letters at the top of the page, with your address in a smaller size (although you should keep in mind that nothing smaller than an 11-point size should be used anywhere in your resume) below it. Make sure that any contact numbers you give in this section go straight to you. A personnel manager who has trouble reaching you will probably just move on to the next likely-looking resume and you will have lost your chance at that job.
Include a Summary Section
Right below your name and contact information, put a summary of your skill set. You can even use “Summary” for the heading for that section. Here is where you put your keywords – you can make them bold or put them in italics to make them stand out. Choose your keywords carefully, and arrange them in bullet points to make them even easier to read. Only put the skills, education, and experience that would be most relevant to the job you want in this section – anything more can go in the body of the resume to be read later.
How to Write your Job History
After you have completed your summary, it is time to go ahead and start listing your full work history. How much of your work history should be included depends on how long you’ve been in the work force. If you have more than, say, twenty years of employment, it is acceptable to only include that last twenty years in your work history, but if you’ve only been out of school a few years, you’ll be better off to list every bit of work experience you have. Each job entry needs to include basic information like your position in the company, the company’s name, address, the supervisor’s name, the date you started working for them, and the date your employment with them ended. Include a brief list of the job requirements as well as any notable accomplishments – things like increasing sales levels by a significant percentage, winning an award, getting a commendation from the boss, or any other concrete proof of good work performance. Be sure to use really clear language here – you want to be able to give numbers, dates, percentages, and other measuring kinds of words rather than descriptive words. If you say “reduced processing time for X procedure by 35% in 4 months” that is a clearly measurable accomplishment, but saying “I was really good at reducing processing time” doesn’t really tell anyone what you did, and won’t have the same impact.
Education is Extremely Important
The next section should be all about your education. In this part, you should not only list your main educational achievements, like a BA or a qualifying certificate, but also any short educational courses you’ve taken, especially if they are relevant to the job you are applying for. For example, if the job you want involves using Excel spreadsheets, and you have taken a training course on Excel, then listing that course may help you get the job.
Additional Skills if appropriate to the Job
The additional skills section of your resume is where you would put any unusual qualifications and/or skills you may have. If you speak a second language fluently, then this is the place to put that information. If your only additional skill is speaking a second language, you could title that section “Additional Language Skills” instead, just to make it clear.
If you have any technical skills or knowledge, you can do a section for that as well – do you have experience with computer programming, or running a forklift? Do you have a first aid certificate? List any skills you have that don’t fit into any of the other categories here, even if they may not have anything to do with the job you are applying for.
Add Volunteer History
Volunteer work can look really good on a resume if the volunteer work you have done shows your skillset to advantage. If you have been involved with a volunteer organization for any length of time and hold a position of responsibility in that organization, then it’s a good idea to add that to your resume. It shows that you have the ability to step up and do work without being told to do it.
Normally do not add Hobbies Section
You can put a section about your hobbies and interests into your resume, but it is not really necessary. Be prepared for any potential employer to check your social media pages before deciding to ask you in for an interview. Your social media pages will likely give them a fairly good idea of what your interests are, if not your hobbies.
References should be on a separate Page
Adding references to your resume is not necessary today, for many reasons, but that doesn’t mean you can skip getting references altogether. It is best to put “References available on request” on your resume and wait until they are asked for before you produce them. You should have a list of at least three referees who are not family members who can vouch for your quality of character and work capabilities. Your list of references needs to include the person’s name, position, company, and contact information, as well as a one-sentence summary of what your relationship with them is.
Wording and white space Matter
Each section of your resume needs to be as brief as possible, but still contain all the necessary information, so wording is important. A good way to make sure that every item in your resume makes sense is to read it out loud. If it sounds weird or confusing, you will need to change the wording.
What not to include
There are some things you should not include in your resume unless you are specifically asked to do so – like salary expectations. If the advertisement for the job requests that you include salary expectations, try not to be too specific. Salary is a sensitive subject in this situation – if you ask too much, you may not be considered for the job, but if you ask too little, you may regret it. Offer a salary range that is acceptable to you and state that you will be happy to discuss specifics at a later date. This allows you to learn more about the job before you decide what you need to be paid.
Get it right before you Send it
Last, but certainly not least, proofread your resume several times. Make sure every single word is spelled correctly, that you haven’t made any terrible grammar mistakes, and that your punctuation is correct. Back up and look at your resume from a distance – does it look crisp and clear? Are your sections clearly divided, with adequate spacing in between? Is your font large enough to read without eye strain? Take your resume to someone you know who has good English skills and ask them to proofread it for you, since it is easy to miss things when you have looked at them a dozen different times. Fresh eyes can often spot mistakes that you have missed.
Now that you have finished your resume, good luck with your job hunt!