Writing a Resume

Your resume is the first impression that you give a prospective employer. A well written resume can show a company that you are exactly the type of person they want and it can get you in the door for a job interview. Conversely, a resume written carelessly with no special attention given and no consideration for a company’s needs shows an employer that you are not worth a look at all. Considering this, it’s easy to see why writing a resume can be an intimidating task for job seekers. How can you summarize all that you’ve done in school and your career in an effective one or two page format? And how can you do it in a manner that grabs the reader, gets their attention, and wins them over? The key is to get organized, pick your format, and then go from there.

We cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of targeting your resume. It is simply the most vital aspect of resume writing. Never send a generic resume. Always start fresh and tailor your resume to a specific company and job. This is the main idea we are working from here. If you feel you’re not up to the task of working hard to create a resume that is specifically targeted to this one job, it may be a good idea to consider the services of a professional resume writer. Otherwise, we will look at how to go about writing a concise, targeted resume.

ORGANIZE

Start with a blank sheet and start writing all your details. List schools attended, certifications, degrees, maybe even coursework that is relevant to you career that you may like to highlight. Then list all jobs you’ve held, dates of employment, and all duties and accomplishments. We are not targeting yet. Rather, this will be your “database” from which you will pick and choose items when writing a resume. So cast a broad net and list every single thing you can think of. Save this master list. While you be writing a new resume and cover letter targeted specifically to every job, you will revisit this list when writing each one.

CHOOSE A FORMAT

There are two basic resume formats: chronological and functional. The chronological format is the more commonly used of the two. Job seekers with experience looking for a new job in the same field will choose this format. A chronological resume lists employment in reverse chronological order, starting with the most current job first and then working its way down. After this, education will be listed in the same order. A functional resume is used mostly by students just getting into the workforce or by workers looking to change careers. The functional resume focuses on education and skill set, especially skills that are transferable from one type of career to another. This resume serves to emphasize your strengths (your knowledge, skills and abilities) while downplaying lack of experience.

STUDY THE JOB POSTING

You will need to target your resume to the job, so print out the job posting and start studying it. Make notes on the title of the position and what duties they emphasize in the job description. Note the specifics of education, certification and number of years experience required. Be sure that you are paying attention to all the needs and requirements they have seen fit to list in the posting. When you are finished, you will have a complete list and you can move on.

CONSULT THE DATABASE

You should have two lists in front of you:

  1. Your “database” of all past job duties, education and all personal details and qualifications
  2. The list of notes you took while studying the job posting

Your next step is to compare these lists and take note of all the areas where they coincide. This is how you will tailor your resume to match their needs. You must always keep in mind that this is the whole point of a resume. You are not writing a historic document of your life story as a student and worker. You are writing a sales pitch. You are the product you are selling, the employer is the consumer who is coming right out and telling you their needs, and you are writing a resume that touts all the “impressive features” you have that match these needs.

Once you have the list of matching items, you can start writing.

WRITING

Start your resume with your name and contact information right at the top. Even if they lose or throw out your cover letter, it’s all right there. Use your full name, not a nickname. Regarding your email address, do not use anything that may look unprofessional. If your only email address is something that incorporates an embarrassing nickname or something of that nature that you just know a prospective employer wouldn’t want to see, get a new one.

Next, it’s good to list a career objective. This can be long term or short term, but it must be related to the job you are applying for. If your objective has nothing to do with this particular job, the employer will think this job is just a stepping stone to what you REALLY want to do, or just a source of income. If that is indeed the case, just leave the objective off or revaluate whether you really do want this job.

Next is the meat of the resume: what I can do for you. This is where the list you made when comparing your job posting notes with your database is used. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a chronological or functional resume; you need to hammer the point home that “this is what you need, and this is what I can do.” Be concise! Don’t write paragraphs. Nobody wants to read paragraphs. Instead, use bulleted lists of short sentences or phrases that get straight to the point. List the job duties, accomplishments, educational details, etc. that match their needs first in your lists. This way, even if they are just scanning and not reading completely, they will still see the information you need them to see. With paragraphs, this is impossible. By using concise points organized into bulleted lists, you are determining exactly what the reader should take from the resume. With paragraphs, the interpretation is left up to them.

DON’TS

Here are some don’ts to consider when writing your resume. These are the pitfalls to watch out for, as they can sink your best efforts.

  • Don’t overdo it or lie: People who evaluate resumes for a living can see through this and even if they can’t, they can definitely fact-check.
  • Don’t include a photo or personal information like politics and religion. There are legal issues here and even if there weren’t, you don’t want to turn anyone off who may not agree with your views.
  • Don’t forget to proofread. Ask several friends to proofread for you. By the time you’re finished writing, you’ll never want to look at your resume again. This will cause you to proofread too quickly and miss mistakes. Grammatical and spelling errors can kill even the best resume, so be sure to have someone proofread for you.