Writing a Resume

Choose the format that works best for your experience and the job

Writing a resume shouldn't be an all-day affair. It should take a matter of several hours. The well-written resume offers an overview of your employment history and other accomplishments without overwhelming a potential employer.

According to the "Occupational Outlook Handbook" from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you should have the following information in your resume:
  • Name, address, e-mail address, and telephone number.

  • Employment objective. This should include the type of work or specific job you are seeking.

  • Education, including school name and address, dates of attendance, curriculum, and highest grade completed or degree awarded.

  • Experience, paid and volunteer. For each job, include the job title, name and location of employer, and dates of employment. Briefly describe your job duties. Special skills, computer skills, proficiency in foreign languages, achievements, and membership in organizations.

  • References, only when requested.
Once you've collected all this information about yourself, it's time to put it to paper. Most experts recommend keeping your resume short; one page to two pages. Use bullets instead of long sentences or paragraphs. The idea is to offer the employer as much pertinent information as possible in quick, easy-to-read format. A resume, according the jobstar.org, is a selling tool that allows an employer to see your value to their workplace at a glance.

Your resume may only get a passing glance, so make it as effective as possible. The most effective resumes should be tailored to the job requirements for the position you are applying for.

Be sure to review your resume carefully; if possible, have someone else review it for you as well. The most important thing about your resume, according to "Resumes, Applications, and Cover Letters," by Olivia Crosby, is that it is error free. Here are some additional tips from Crosby:
  • Use action phrases, not complete sentences.
  • Include quantifiable results when possible.
  • Mention special work-related skills.
  • Identify coursework relating to the employer's needs
  • Show how your qualifications fit with the job you are applying for.
There are two elements that should be part of any resume: education, experience. There are also a number of elements that may be part of a resume: objective statements, qualifications summary, activities and associations, special skills and references. Information about your education is an important piece of your resume. List all of pertinent training you have received, working backwards from the most recent school attended. You will need to include the name of the institution and its location; the diploma, degree or certification earned; the year of completion; what you studied and any honors you received. Recent graduates should focus on this section of their resume, including information that helps qualify you for the position you are interested in. Your experience, or job history, should include:
  • Information about your employer.
  • The dates of employment.
  • Your job title.
  • Your responsibilities.
Be sure to described specific duties important to the job your interested in obtaining, and if possible, include concrete accomplishments. If you don't have work experience, list volunteer experience and internships here.

Objectives are an optional element on your resume, mostly used by new graduates or those changing fields. If you include an objective statement on your resume, tailor it to job you are interested in - make it specific. More experienced job seekers may want to use a qualification summary instead of an objective statement. This is also optional and should describe, briefly, why you are qualified for the position you are seeking.

Other elements you may want to add into your resume are activities and associations, which can help show experience; special skills, which can help sell your suitability to an employer; and awards and honors, which can be listed with your experience and education or can be separated out.

The final element you may or may not include on your resume is your references. Most resumes state "References available upon request," but they can be included, especially if they are high profile. Your reference should include three to five people who can give a fair assessment of your abilities and would recommend you. Make sure you ask your references if you may use their name.

There are a number of different ways to present your resume, according to jobstar.org: chronological, functional and curriculum vitae. A chronological resume is best for someone with a solid work history. It focuses on work experience, listing job titles and descriptions, with the most recent first. A functional resume may be easier for new graduates or those lacking job history to write; it highlights areas of skill and accomplishment - this can work for you if you need to show how disparate experiences qualify for a position. Curriculum vitae are a very detailed, very specific resume format used mostly for applying for academic and professional positions. Choose the format that works best for your experience and the job.

If you are still unsure how to tackle writing your resume, there are a number of resources available at the library and on the Internet to help you. Once you have your written your resume, proof it. Ask your friends to proof it for you. Then proof it again. Once you're sure that it is error free, you're ready to send it out to employers.

Sources: "Occupational Outlook Handbook," Bureau of Labor Statistics; "Resumes, Applications, and Cover Letters," by Olivia Crosby from the Federal Citizen Information Center; jobstar.org.



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