How to Write a Good Resume

Here is a large list of ideas for you to keep in mind when preparing that masterpiece also known as your resume!

– Write brief phrases. No need for full sentences

– Treat your first written copy as a first draft. You will likely be revising it and editing it, before it is finalized

– Begin it by summarizing your key skills

– Always include your Name at the very top, and your address, phone number, and email (if necessary) after that. You do not need to type the word “resume” on it

– Be consistent in your resume design-  All dates appear on the right hand side

– Omit unnecessary information, outdated information, and information that may be used to screen you out. The resumes purpose is to shed light on your qualifications for the job.

– Small numbers from 1 to 9 should be spelt out (Ex: “one”, “seven”, “nine”, etc).  Numbers 10 and up can be displayed in their numerical form. (Ex: “12”, “42”, “32000”, etc)

–  Proofread your final resume. Have a someone else look at it as well. They will be able to help you find spelling and grammatical errors.

– Avoid using italics or -dashes-. It confuses the scanning machines.

– Do not use coloured paper, bordered paper, or odd-sized paper. Make your resume look professional in appearance

– Do not include your picture with the resume

– Leave out personal data, marital status, number of children, and statements like “in great health”.

– Devote more space to your recent job positions, and less to your older jobs. Employers want to see the most recent and relevant details of your work history.

– List your job dates as years, rather than by month. Do not leave unexplained gaps between work periods. Provide a brief explanation for them. (Ex: Family responsibilities, left for college, etc…)  

– You should not include grade point averages, or honors awards unless you have recently graduated

– List educational background (College, University, etc.)

– Always include a cover letter explaining why you submitted the resume.

 

Creating a Cover Letter

You’ve just spent several hours preparing your resume. Now you think to yourself, Do I need a cover letter? It’s a fair question. Most people don’t really understand the function of a cover letter or why they might need one. After all, doesn’t your resume contain all the information a job recruiter would need to know in order to qualify you for an interview?

To gain an insight into the real importance of a cover letter, job recruiters were randomly asked to give their opinion on the importance of cover letters. While all agreed that a cover letter is important, about two-thirds said that they would read a resume anyway even if it arrived without a cover letter. The other third placed more importance on cover letters. They said that in some cases, but not all, they might discard a resume that was missing a cover letter. Interestingly, less than 5 percent said they would never read a resume if it did not contain a cover letter.

What A Cover Letter Will Never Do

A cover letter will never get you a job that you are not qualified for. Job recruiters are busy people and some of the busiest may have to work through several hundred resumes per day. When it comes to filling a position, the first two things they look for are education and experience. If these don’t make the grade, in all probability they will not even look at your cover letter.

What Does a Cover Letter Do?

Think of applying for a job as going through a series of gates. The first set of gates is education and experience. These are grouped together because in most cases a recruiter will substitute one for the other. That is, if a job candidate lacks the prerequisites in education, experience is often accepted as a good substitute. Likewise, a better education can be used to make up for a lack of experience.

Once the job candidate makes it through the first set of gates, it’s the other, more subtle qualifications that begin to weigh in on his or her chances of securing a job offer. It’s not uncommon for a typical recruiter to locate only 20 or 30 qualified candidates out of 500 resumes. If you make it to that small selective group, your chances of being called in for an interview increase substantially. But this is the time when your cover letter really matters if you want to make it through the next set of gates. Since recruiters are busy people and their time is limited, they may select only 5 to 10 candidates out of the original 20 to 30 for the actual interview. You can be certain that employers will do everything possible to make sure that the 5 to 10 candidates they do call in for an interview are the very best qualified out of that initial group.

The Function of a Good Cover Letter

You can think of your resume as a sort of generic overview of your job qualifications. A good resume should list all the technical details of your employment and educational history without delving too far into the more human, personal side of the equation. The cover letter, on the other hand, is you talking personally, one-on-one, to the recruiter. It is the precursor to the interview and should amplify the human side of your qualifications. It should answer two basic questions:

  1. who you are and
  2.  why you think you will be an asset to their company.

The cover letter should leave the recruiter with the feeling, this is someone I want to meet in person to further discuss your interest in working for the company. You could also think of the cover letter as a sort of tie-breaker. When it finally comes down to the handful of resumes that have more-or-less the same technical qualifications, it will be the cover letter that determines who will get the interview and who will be passed over. Stated simply, it’s the function of the cover letter to get you an interview.

Parts of a Good Cover Letter

A good cover letter should answer the following questions:

  • Which job or type of job you are applying for
  • How you found out about the job
  • Why your qualifications make you a good fit for the job
  • Why you believe you will be an asset to their company

Keep in mind that your cover letter does not work in a vacuum. In all likelihood, the recruiter is only reading your cover letter because he or she liked your resume. Use your cover letter to embellish and highlight points you made about yourself in your resume that may have been hastily read or overlooked. Remember, recruiters often just scan a resume for certain technical details the first time through. Use your cover letter to entice them to want to read your resume through one more time, slowly and carefully this time.

Creating the Perfect Resume

At some point in his or her lives, virtually everyone who is looking for work will need to create a resume. The importance of a good resume cannot be overstated because it is often the only link between you and that good job you are seeking.

It is often said that first impressions last, but a resume is often the only way an employer can determine whether or not he may even want to ever meet you for that first impression. You definitely don’t want that resume that you worked so hard to prepare ending up in the round file (trash can). Here are some helpful hints that will help you achieve the perfect resume to land that dream job you have been seeking.

Introduction:

The first three things employers look for in a resume: Clarity, clarity, & clarity.

Other things they look for:

(1) Neatness (no coffee stains or crumpled edges)

(2) Formatting (follows industry standard norms)

(3) Missing information (i.e. unexplained gaps in employment history)

(4) Questionable claims (e.g. do you really speak fluent Swahili?)

(5) Length (1 page is best but no longer than 2 pages)

(6) Generous blank areas for making notes

(7) Spelling and grammatical errors

Three Basic Styles:

(1) Chronological: (most common)

  1. Emphasizes employment experience
  2. Documents growth in responsibility over time
  3. Best used when pursuing growth on a stable career path

(2) Functional: (less common)

  1. Emphasizes achievements
  2. Focuses on establishment of usable skill sets
  3. Best used when pursuing jobs outside of current career path

(3) Combination or Hybrid: (rare)

  1. Not recommended for most people
  2. Often lacks clarity
  3. May confuse employer

Decide which type of resume best meets your needs and career goals. Keep in mind that most employers are more familiar with the chronological type and prefer it to the functional type. It is best to use the functional resume only when you are changing careers or when a chronological resume would not adequately portray your accumulated experience.

Basic Parts of a Chronological Resume

Contact Information

  1. Your Full Name: Make sure you list your name here exactly as you wish it to appear on your Federal Tax Return. Often, if you are hired, the HR department will use this information to set up your file, and once established, it could be difficult to change.
  2. Address: Make sure it is up to date. You’d be surprised how many people lose out on desirable jobs because they can’t be located at the address listed on the resume.
  3. Phone Number: Don’t forget the area code.
  4. Email Address: Make sure it works before you list it.

 Objective:

  1. No longer recommended for most resumes as they tend to all read the same.
  2. Employers tend to skip over this part.
  3. Tends to be somewhat limiting.
  4. Consider using a summary instead.
  5. May be appropriate for recent graduates and some entry-level jobs.

 Summary:

  1. This is the most important part of the resume because it will either motivate the reader to either continue reading or place your resume in the round file.
  2. One or two sentences maximum.
  3. Focus on who you are, what you do, and where you are going.
  4. Keep it simple and right to the point.
  5. A well-written summary can open up opportunities that you had not anticipated.

 Experience

  1. List your current or last-held job first.
  2. Then list previously held jobs, arranged reverse chronologically.
  3. Go back at least 15 years.
  4. List the Dates of Employment, Employer’s name, City and State, and Position Held. If you held more than one position at this employer treat it as a separate listing.
  5. List your duties and achievements. Leave out items that are common skills and expected for the position held. For example, a receptionist should not say Excellent phone skills because this is expected for that position.