Writing a Resume
What is a Resume?
A resume is simply a written-out description of your experiences and what you offer a prospective employer. A resume will include your education and work history, skills you've learned, and experiences you've obtained. Its purpose is to show you in a positive light and highlight what you bring to the table.
The resume is usually the first thing a prospective employer will see. By reviewing resumes, they're able to weed out the applicants who don't fit what they're looking for. Therefore it is very important to put your best foot forward and make an impressive resume that will make employers want to hire you -- or at least call to set up an interview.
Resumes can be tricky, and there are certainly plenty of services out there that will help you design, plan, and tweak your resume. Below are some basics and tips for putting together your own resume.
Parts of a Resume
- Contact Info: At the top of your resume is the most important part: you. Your name, address, phone numbers, and e-mail address should all be clearly laid out at the very top of the page.
- Objective: This section is optional, as many are now steering away from identifying what the employee is looking for. Instead, this section can be labeled "Skills and Experience" and lay out how the employer will benefit from this candidate. What do you bring to the position you're looking for? What skills have you acquired that would be an asset to the company?
- Education: High school diploma, college degree, continuing education classwork -- this is where it all goes. Include the school(s) you went to, the date(s) you graduated, the degree(s) you received (if applicable), and your GPA (if available). If you received an honors (Honor Society, Dean's List, etc.), include those as well. If you are currently enrolled in a degree program, but haven't graduated yet, include your expected graduation date.
- Work History: The work history is what most people equate with a resume. It's a detailed description of where you've worked before, up to and including your current (or most recent) employer. Included in your work history should be the company name, the dates you were employed with that company, and your job title. After that is explained, describe the position. Don't just list the job duties. Instead, detail what you learned in that position, accomplishments you achieved, and any awards you earned.
- Interests and Activities: If you have any extracurricular activities that shed a positive light on you, this is where you would include them. If you are affiliated with any professional organizations, list them here, as well as any titles you may hold with them. If you volunteer, or participate in community organizations, add those as well. These help show that you're a well-rounded person, and that you show an interest in other people, the community, giving back, and honing your personal and professional skills.
- Languages: If you know any other languages, include those here, with a brief description of how fluent you are.
- References: Here you can either list your references or simply state "available upon request." Make sure you have a list of at least three personal or professional references, should the prospective employer ask for them. These references should be able to discuss you in a positive way. A mix of personal and professional references is usually expected. Ask your potential references for permission before listing them.
- Don't lie: Stretching the truth on your resume may be tempting, but it can quickly become a slippery slope. You may be asked to prove the skills you've said you have or verify your employment or education. If a prospective employer finds out you lied, it is likely that employer will no longer consider you as a potential candidate. It shows you are not trustworthy, and that there may be other things you've lied about as well. Even if you're not caught, you may be called upon to use those skills while you're employed with them, and if you cannot comply, your employment status may be at risk.
- Don't be afraid to brag -- but just a little: While you don't want to come off as egotistical, you want to describe your accomplishments and any awares you've achieved. Are you good at something? Make sure you put it in there. Were you the top salesperson? Did you save your previous employer a considerable amount of money? Don't be afraid to put it on the resume. Your prospective employer wants to know you're a valuable asset. Don't sell yourself short.
- Include only what's relevant: It's not necessary to go back to your very first job if it doesn't relate to the one you're applying for. If you've only had two jobs, by all means include both of them. But if you've worked for several different employers, you don't have to include your first job as a newspaper carrier (unless, perhaps, you're looking for a job in the media!). At the same time, if you have a side job that has nothing to do with the job you're applying for, and it won't affect your employment at that job, it's not necessary to include it. Avoid cluttering your resume with useless information that will only frustrate the person looking at it.
- Keep it brief: While you want to include all relevant information, it's not necessary to write a full page description on each job you've held. Include only the highlights -- the most important information that tells employers what they need to know.