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Career Resources - Resume Tips

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What is a Resume?

A resume is an advertisement for you and a screening device for employers. It is the employer's first impression of you. A resume should be a reflection of you, give information about your abilities, and tell employers what you can do for them. Your resume is effective if you receive interview invitations from employers who have read it.

There are several types of resumes. The chronological resume is the most commonly used. It shows progressive education and experience in the same field, listed in reverse chronological order. The functional resume is used occasionally and effectively, in cases where the person has little work experience, or general areas of experience. A combination resume uses both formats, and can also be very effective.

Trends show that the high cost of recruiting is leading companies to use software that can scan resumes as a screening tool. In these cases, a different type of resume is needed. Job seekers need electronic resumes, in addition to conventional ones.

What is the Purpose of a Resume?

The main purpose of a resume is to get an interview. Your resume should not give an employer any reason to exclude you from an interview. The resume may be used as the basis for the interview. It may be used again by the employer after the interview as a reminder of who you are and what qualifications you have. Also keep in mind that you will be asked about your resume during the interview.

Resume Do's and Don't(s)?

  • Remember: there is no one 'right way' to do a resume
  • Organize data in reverse chronological order, most recent first.
  • Focus on your skills
  • Use action verbs
  • List skills with evidence to support them
  • Use a formal style - no abbreviations or contractions
  • Have someone proofread your resume for grammar, spelling, verb tense and syntax errors. It is difficult to proofread your own work. Be certain that your resume is grammatically perfect.
  • Appearance counts. The format and readability of your resume reflect your communication and writing skills. It is also a good indicator of your attention to detail. Research shows that 60% of employers make up their minds about a resume based solely on its appearance.
  • Look at your resume from a distance. Does it look neat? Is the layout attractive? Is it easy to read? Does what you want to emphasize stand out? Your name, section headings, job titles, and the companies where you worked should be clear and easy to read. Selectively use spacing to create emphasis. Keep in mind that your resume will probably be skimmed quickly - for about 20 seconds.
  • Use high quality white or off-white paper and black ink. Research shows that employers may react somewhat negatively to colored paper.
  • Make a photocopy of your resume to see how well your choice of paper copies. This is especially important if you use colored or speckled papers. Employers often make copies of your resume and distribute the copies to various departments.
  • Use 10 - 14 point fonts, a 1" margin all around, and simple typefaces.
  • Use underlining and italics to draw the eye to specific areas.
  • Limit the length to one page, adding a second only if it is absolutely necessary (when you have acquired significant experience).
  • Send a cover letter along with the resume.
  • Update frequently. Is your Career Objective current? Your address correct? Your most recent job listed?

  • Give an employer any excuse to eliminate your resume from consideration.
  • Try to make your resume stand out through the use of fancy graphics or artwork, unless you are applying for an artistic job.
  • Use complicated typefaces, graphics, or shadings.
  • Use acronyms without first spelling out what they mean.
  • Lie, exaggerate or misrepresent your background.
  • Include any personal information, for example, height, weight, marital status, age, health.
  • Overuse bullet points!

Resume Sections

As a recent graduate, you typically begin your resume with your EDUCATION. When you have a lot of experience in your field, however, you may choose to lead with the WORK section, and de-emphasize your education by moving the section farther down on the page. Think strategically about the order in which you list each section, and what you want to emphasize, depending on the job for which you are applying.

Within each section, be consistent with the way you list items, and be certain to use the same style for each item.

Each resume section is described below. See the attached sample resumes for several examples of each section.

1. Career Objective

Only use one if you are seeking a very specific job and would not accept any other position. For example: 'Seeking entry level dental hygienist position.' An inappropriate objective may limit you and screen you out of consideration. Do not use 'I.' Begin your statement with a verb.

2. Education

List the most recent first, and include the dates in which you attended. You may either list all universities, trade schools or community colleges regardless of whether a degree was earned there, or only list those that provided a unique experience or field of study. Be prepared to provide transcripts from each place, if asked.

List each degree, diploma or certificate earned following the institution where it was awarded. Also list your major(s), minor, emphasis or specialization.

You may list your overall grade point average or your GPA in your major. Specify which it is. List it with the index used for grading at the institution. If your school uses a 4.0 = A scale, express your GPA as: '3.5/4.0'.

The only items that go here are related to academics. Examples include:
'Recipient, Thomas Wolfe Research Scholarship'
'Dean's List, four semesters'
'Financed 75% of education' (This may be worth noting if over 50%, and may explain having few outside activities, or a low GPA)
If you have numerous, or very important honors, you may list them as a separate category.

List any professional degrees or certifications.

Use this section only if you have extra space, or have unusual or nontraditional coursework that is relevant to the job for which you are applying. Employers are generally familiar with the coursework for the majors in their fields.

3. Experience

Typically, the most difficult part of preparing your resume is writing job descriptions. Keep in mind that these descriptions are the 'meat' of your resume. Some helpful tips are to jot down your daily or weekly duties, and to note the skills you needed to accomplish each duty. Begin each description with an action word. Be concise and clear. Be sure to include the dates that you worked at each company.

Target the skills you list to the job for which you are applying. Use specific quantities instead of general descriptions: 'handled $1000 cash drawer balance daily' rather than 'Operated cash register.' List areas and levels of responsibility. Use the past tense for all job descriptions except your current one.

Describe companies you list that are unknown to most, and are relevant to the position for which you are applying. For example: 'A publicly held provider of database management for Fortune 500 companies,' or '$500 million manufacturer of highest quality office furniture.'

If you have had only one internship, you may include it with your other jobs. If you have had several internships, you may choose to set them apart in a separate section. Having a number of internships impresses employers, and shows them that you took the initiative to get experience in your field. List these in the same format as your work experience and outline your responsibilities.