How to Write a Resume.

The number of words written on writing resumes is astounding. Just Google “resume” and the results go on forever. This article attempts to summarize some resume basics and put forth some ideas based on several decades of cumulative experience and countless thousands of resumes read.

Let’s start with the basics.

Why are you writing a resume? You are trying to sell yourself for an opportunity. You are the product you are marketing, so sell yourself! Why does a prospective employer need you? Explain your value proposition. Remember, your resume is typically your first opportunity to introduce and sell yourself; it is often also your last opportunity.

Readability / Storability

Keep your resume readable and fairly simple yet make sure you mention the most pertinent experience and accomplishments. In terms of format, use standard fonts, easy on the eye, limit how many fonts and styles you use, and be consistent with their use. And while your audience will be a human at some point, the resume may also be found via an internet search or stored in a database so the format should lend itself to electronic management (Word, PDF, HTML; standard fonts). Of course use spell check and have someone in your industry proof your resume.

Be consistent

As with the use of fonts and style, keep the formatting consistent with employment and education. Typically the Company/Institution is listed first, followed by the Job Title/Degree Obtained, and then the dates of tenure.  Typically years suffice for periods longer than one year, ex. 2007-2010. Use action verbs and appropriate jargon. Don’t use passive sentences. Focus on results.

Marketing Message

Remember this is a short marketing piece: sell your product (yourself). Prioritize and showcase your key successes, accomplishments, awards, skills, experience. The hiring manager or recruiter reading your resume needs to come away with a comprehensive understanding of your skills and value and what you bring to the opportunity. Be truthful and do not embellish to the point of misleading.

Keywords

Keywords are helpful in this age of the search engine. Whether you are targeting a particular position or not, you should consider using vocabulary that match the description of the job you want, and are best qualified for. Keywords can call out specific job titles, skills, abilities, certifications, companies and education.

Resume style: Functional or Chronological?

Years of screening candidates and reading resumes leads us to the conclusion that there is not really a choice between a functional versus a chronological resume. All resumes should have both approaches incorporated.

Below we’ll discuss the various sections that may be included in your resume. An effective resume summarize the objective, the skills and qualification as relate to a particular opportunity, and the special competencies or accomplishments that will be of benefit to the future employer. It then details the professional experience and education in reverse chronological order.

The Sections of your Resume

Your resume needs to cover the information that is important to an employer. It needs to paint a picture of your talents and abilities, and how you will be a valuable addition to your employer. The Sections of your resume will depend on your strengths and experience, and your own style. There is not a one-size fits all approach, yet there is a single objective: get the job! Here are some of the sections you might include.

Contact Info

Your resume needs all the basics such as your contact information: name, email, phone. We’d strongly suggest including your LinkedIn and/or other online resume URL. An address can be helpful, but especially if you are willing to relocate isn’t absolutely necessary.

Objective

The merit of such a section is that it succinctly states the position that you want to be considered for. If someone has had a long or varied career, this can be especially valuable. An effective objective statement will also communicate the skills and abilities that you can bring to the prospective employer. Your focus should be what you can contribute to the role and the organization.

Title or Headline

Beyond this basic data, the top of your resume offers an opportunity to brand yourself. Some people title this section as their “Objective” and describe what they are looking for and why they are qualified to get the job done.

As an alternative to the “Objective” section, try using a title or headline to catch people’s attention and position your area of expertise immediately. Ex. “Senior Manager Unified Communications” or  “Dedicated Customer Service Director with 15+ years of experience in building and managing efficient and productive support teams in E-commerce, Entertainment industries and Government.”

Profile or Summary

If you haven’t already covered this in an “Objective” or “Headline” style approach, you may want to include a profile or summary next. This is like a “bio” section that outlines your valuable talents and skills, your relevant accomplishments, and how you can bring them to bear for the employer. This is where you can describe the opportunity you want and why you are uniquely qualified to succeed at it. Mention the qualifications that are pertinent to the opportunity at hand, including any relevant certification, education, experience, awards or professional recognition. Make yourself stand out.

Core Competencies / Technical Skills / Strengths

This section may be used to list your relevant core competencies or technical skills in a bulleted list or table format. If you’ve incorporates a Profile or Summary correctly, you’ve probably already hit these points and don’t want to be repetitive. The main goal here is that your audience knows the specialized knowledge or main strengths and competencies that you bring to the table from the outset.

Experience (Professional Experience, Work Experience, Relevant Experience)

This section should cover your work history, in reverse chronological order, giving the most emphasis to recent positions and relevant work. Typically you want to list the name of the organization, location, job title, employment dates. Use either brief text, or bullets to describe your responsibilities and accomplishments.

Consider the STAR approach (Situation. Task. Action. Results.) As an example, “As the International Channel Manager (situation) of a company trying to gain market share in international markets (task), I spearheaded and drove an International Distributor meeting with focus sessions on marketing and sales strategies and tools, introduction to add-on products, as well as software localization and OEM technology and coordination (action). The result was 2 additional language versions of the software being produced, strengthened communications and renewed marketing and sales motivation with a 20% increase in International channel sales and a strengthened relationship with our channel partners (results).

If you are a recent graduate or have gaps in employment, you may want to include unpaid jobs or other experiences. A Sabbatical, consulting or contract work, volunteer activities, continuing education, or taking time to care for a family member may be included such that the continuity of your activities is communicated. Any valuable experiences or skills coming out of such experiences should be briefly included, especially where there is a direct strength to be applied to the position at hand.

Education

Include the name of the university or educational institution, location, degree obtained (major, minor), graduation date, and optionally your GPA. Describe the areas of study, specialized instruction, and any accreditations, as well as any awards or honors. List all institutions from which you received a degree or certificate, in reverse chronological order.

Recent graduates may choose to put this section before Experience, and spend more time describing the field of study that relates to the employment sought.  Professionals with solid career experience will likely devote less detail to this section, and place it after the Experience section. Dates of graduation are not necessary for those in mid to late career. If your degree is completely unrelated to your professional experience, you may want to consider omitting the major.

Awards and Honors

If you’ve got them, list them! Professional and Academic recognition is highly valued and differentiates you.

Accomplishments

Were you a top performer, or have you achieved other accomplishments that you can succinctly describe? Quantify where you can, and include relevant successes.

Professional Development / Continuing Education / Additional Training / Certifications

Include any related specialized training, continuing education or professional development, license or certifications over the course of your career.

Activities / Interests / Volunteer Work / Affiliations / Memberships

From hobbies to association membership, we all have interests that go beyond the scope of our professional activities. Activities related to the position sought are interesting, but non-related activities also show dedication or highlight skills and talents that are complementary.
Often these activities

Military Experience / Military Background

Skills and training gained in the service of the military should be included.

References

Employers who want references will request them. It isn’t necessary to include them on a resume, nor to mention that they are available upon request. It is a good idea to keep your reference list ready so that when you need it, you can supply it in short order.

Other resources for creating your resume:

Articles on Writing Resumes, Tips, and Things to Avoid

Vast resources exist on writing and honing resumes. Looking online can get you any number of resources, some better than others. Amongst other resources, we’d recommend consulting with peers, viewing the resume of people in similar roles on LinkedIn, taking advantage of your relationship with your recruiter to get pointers. And here are some articles on writing resumes that we enjoyed.
Read the full article  

Non-Traditional / Alternate Media Resumes

The classic paper resume has already been replaced by the electronic version, but the format stays the same. But what about a website, blog, or VisualCV? Here are some ideas for great complementary resumes.
Read the full article  

Resume Writing Services

A professional resume is critical — you will likely never get a second chance so you’ve got to put your best foot forward. From Online Templates to Hiring Out the crafting of your resume, there are an uncountable number of services available. You know your experience, skills and abilities better than anyone, but if you get stuck or just want a total refresh, look for a professional resume writer.

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