A good resume is an important element in the employment process. It gives the prospective employer a first look at who you are and what you can do for a company. Typically, an introductory cover letter should accompany the resume when it is sent to a company
Your goal is to make the resume easy to read, concise and convincing. Look at it as your initial marketing tool. With some luck, your resume and letter will result in an interview. Here are a few tips to help you put it all together:
- Reveal you're best. Look at a resume as a marketing tool, and you are the product. Be sure to include information on the biggest and best things you have accomplished - and don't be modest. It is ok to "toot your own horn" in this case. Remember that certain personal information should not be on your resumes such as age, race, marital status, or health status.
- If you use an "Objective." The objective is a clearly stated goal that shows a sense of direction. Without it, employers are at a loss as to what you are really looking for in a job. Keep your objective short and to the point, and put it up front in the resume. If you have several different objectives, write a separate resume for each. Note that you need to be sure that your objective matches the job you applied for. If your objective is to be in a management position and you are applying for an individual contributor position you may not be viewed as a good "fit" for the current opportunity.
- Outline your accomplishments. Use specific terms and give details about your major accomplishments. Generic terms like "I manage people well" are less effective than "supervised 37 employees."
- Be honest. Be sure your resume is down-to-earth and factual. You must be able to justify and explain in person everything you have included on the resume. Dishonesty will always disqualify you for a job if caught. If not caught, it may put you in a job that you are not a fit for or successful at. It is better to be honest and to get matched up to a job and a company that is a good fit for you where you will have success.
- Make a good impression. Employers are often impressed with SAR statements (situation-action-results) that describe how you corrected a problem on a school project or work problem or completed a project with beneficial results.
- Put things in the right order. A standard chronological resume is the most widely preferred style by employers. List your most recent employment first, and describe your experience under each employer. If you are changing careers then a functional resume might be better. List achievements first, separate them into several categories, and then add the employment section with minimal descriptions. Functional resumes often run longer than a page, so be sure the most relevant sections are on the first page.
- Bridge the gaps. If there are gaps in your employment history, try to briefly explain them.
- Dodge the "hopper" image. If you have been working off an on while attending school or taking care of family you may be better off to "group" short term positions. For example, "2005-07: Store clerk; K-Mart, Rite-Aid, 7-Eleven." Consider dropping the least important jobs, but include any that provided relevant experience to the position for which you are applying, regardless of their length.
- List summer jobs neatly. To keep a resume neat, students can represent seasonal jobs by the actual season. For example, use "Summer 2000" instead of 6/00 to 9/00. Then consider using the combined entry as described above.
- Include incomplete education. If you don't have your degree or credentials yet, describe what you are doing, such as: "Virginia Commonwealth University, Psychology major, Bachelor's degree anticipated May 2003."
- Leave some things out. Keep your resume focused on skills and experience rather than your favorite pastimes like snorkeling or snowboarding unless the activity is clearly relevant to your job objective. The same thing is true for ethnic or religious affiliations.
- Watch the jargon. It is important to include certain technical terms in your resume to let potential employers know your knowledge of their industry. However resumes packed with buzzwords are not the most effective means of communicating your skills and knowledge. The goal is to convey who you are professionally and give a potential employer an idea of what you may be able to do for him/her.
- Prepare carefully. Although your resume's content is most important, resumes also need to have a good appearance. Amazingly, some employers still receive sloppy resumes with grammatical and spelling errors. If it is difficult to read, some recruiters or executives may not take the time to wade through it. Your resume typically is the first thing an employer sees from you, and first impressions count. If it is sloppy and has errors the employer will think that your work will also be sloppy and contain errors. So be sure your resume features a clean layout with some white space between sections. Use short to medium sentences with bullets. Use good quality paper in plain or ivory color, and select printer fonts that are common and easy to read.