Tell them what they need to know.
The purpose of your resume is to make the reader want to
interview you. Resumes should be informative, concise,
consistent, and should highlight intriguing skills and
experience. They should grab attention early and provide a
concentrated, convincing argument that you perfectly match
the position at hand.
Those who have been in the workforce for several years would
customarily list professional experience first, followed by
education and other elements such as publications or skills.
Most resumes use reverse chronological order, listing
the most recent experience first with the rest following
chronologically. This type of resume gives a prospective
employer a sense of where your career is headed and how it
evolved into what it is today.
For entrepreneurs, sales personnel, recent graduates, and
others with less-than-standard experience, an alternative
format called the functional approach might make more
sense. This format puts an emphasis on your abilities and
achievements, categorizing your experience by industry, type
of position, skill, and what you did rather than when you did
There is no right or wrong way to write a resume. Whatever
sets you apart from the masses while requiring a minimum of
effort for the recruiter will probably be your best bet. Here
are some general guidelines to follow.
Be concise. Unless you have been working for a long
time, stick to one page. Even with extensive experience, a
resume should rarely exceed two pages.
Use vivid language. Include hard facts showing your
impact on the company. Employers want to know what you did
and how closely that experience matches their needs. Use
action verbs and eliminate pronouns. Be grammatically
consistent and proofread rigorously for mistakes.
Go easy on the eye. Graphics in a resume should make
it easy to read. Use topic headings and lots of space.
Forget clip art. Use one typeface. Pull the reader in from
the top. Be creative, but clean with the layout.
Tell them what they need to know
Resumes should start with your name, address, e-mail, and
phone numbers. Include your education, accomplishments, and
related experience. List unique talents or specialized skills
in hot demand, like those related to computers.
Objective. Write one line stating your career
direction and the job title you seek. It will direct your
resume to the proper department and provide a key to
interpreting the contents. This statement will be of
greater strategic value if you have a specific focus or are
in the midst of a career change rather than if you are just
starting out and unsure of your career path.
Education. List schools, years attended, graduation
dates, degrees, majors or concentrations, and awards.
Highlight a master's thesis topic or academic honors. Put
your most recent or most impressive educational achievement
first. If it is not your highest degree, leave out high
school unless it's extraordinary.
Experience. List your employers, job location,
employment dates, job titles, and descriptions of your
tasks, accomplishments and skills. Use statistics.
Skills. Highlight your computer, language, or other
technical skills. List software you have worked with
including any unique programs or expertise. For an Internet
job, list any certifications or Web programs and computer
languages you are familiar with.
Title the sections of your resume as you prefer, but remain
The order of the resume should reflect the position being
sought. If your computer experience is more relevant to the
job than your work history, put your computer skills first.
If your educational achievements outweigh your actual
experience, put them up higher. List other personal
information at the bottom.
Use discretion beyond the basics
Include a personal summary to provide a concise rundown of
your career, particularly if you are an established executive
or have an array of job experiences. Highlight volunteer
work or memberships in nonprofits if you are applying for
a related position. Include a brief section on your hobbies
to present a more complete and interesting picture, although
you run a risk that the information could prejudice your
Leave out overtly personal data, salary information, or
negatives like health or legal problems.
Customize as needed
When you are ready to apply for a position, tailor your
resume to that job. Highlight your qualities by addressing
the specific needs listed in a classified ad or employer's
description. If you have no direct experience in the field,
pay special attention to related skills. Even with
experience, show how your talents suit the position.
Update your resume every time you accomplish something new
to capture what's important and remain ready for new
opportunities, without struggling to get something together
under a tight deadline or stressful circumstance.
The following references provide solid examples of
objectives, layouts, and other aspects of resumes, as well as
- Leslie Tebbe, Salary.com contributor