Ohh, the dreaded resume. The toughest part of writing one is getting an actual resume built. Once you have your basic format and information added, it will be easier to tweak and adjust for any job you’re applying to.
I am a big proponent of building your own resume versus using a template or one of those online resume generators that spits out something for you. Writing your own resume from scratch gives you more control over the format and stretches out your writing muscles.
There are many key elements to writing a killer resume that gets read. Much like anything on this blog, we’ll break it down into smaller components to make the task a little less daunting. The first part we’ll tackle is the actual content that goes into assembling a resume.
So, Vanna, if you please . . .
1. Your contact information: Name, address, phone number and e-mail. This is an easy one to look over when proofreading. A friend of mine who did his work study in the career study at MSUM once saw a resume submitted by a student with her name spelled wrong. He knew this student so he knew what her name should’ve been. Talk about an epic fail. Also, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have a professional sounding e-mail. If you want to keep email@example.com for all of your posse to get ahold of you, that’s fine. However, e-mails are free so sign up for a second one for professional listings. Sometimes options are limited if you have a common name, but try to nab one with your entire name and as little of anything else as possible, i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org. This may sound incredibly picky, but I find Yahoo to sound slightly more professional than Hotmail. I love you MSN and I rely on my Hotmail account more for my everyday interactions, but maybe it’s just me that I don’t think the word “hot” should be anywhere in a professional sounding e-mail.
2. Objective. This one little piece trips me up every time. How does someone sum up their work history and give a vision for their career path in one little sentence fragment? Do I even need to bother anymore? I caught an article yesterday through MSN stating that objectives on resumes are going the way of the dodo. Here’s the link to the Nels Wroe article on what he thinks of resume objectives.
Some hiring managers are old school, I usually am, too, so throwing one on there probably isn’t going to kill you as long as it’s clear and error free. A simple, “To get a job in retail” is not going to cut it. To write an effective objective, try the A + B = C method. Think of two skills or experiences that you can bring into the career path you are seeking. For example, “To utilize experience in event planning and advertising within the field of marketing”. Since objectives aren’t full sentences there isn’t a need to add punctuation at the end.
3. College education. Even if it’s been awhile since you have been in college, this is an important part since most job postings require a certain degree within a certain field. If you’re a recent college graduate, one smart thing to add since you might be a little light on direct work experience is related coursework. If you’ve been out of school for more than five years, leave off that off along with your graduation date. List if you graduated with any honors. Any other special awards or accomplishments can be listed at the very end of your resume under, you guessed it, Awards/Achievements.
4. Work experience. This one’s the headliner. There are various schools of thought on how work experience should be laid out, which we’ll cover in how to format a resume a little later on. What should be listed under work experience should be the name of the company, dates with months and years listed, position held, and three to five bullet points of what you did. It’s all about the buzzwords. The start of each bullet point should sound active and accomplished, but there’s no need break out the thesaurus. If it sounds like something Chaucer would’ve used, find something else. Each point should have its own buzzword. I know it can be tedious trying to find new ways of phrasing your accomplishments, but it shows you put the time and effort to really craft your resume.
There is also some debate on whether or not a person should list work experience even if it doesn’t relate to what you’re applying to. I’m from the school of thought that says you can gain valuable experience from every place you work. If you spent four years flipping burgers at McDonald’s that gives you a starting point to showcase your customer service skills, commitment to setting forth a high-quality product, and the ability to multitask. Also, if you omit jobs that you don’t think will help your cause you run the risk of looking like there are holes in your work history.
5. Leadership experience. This can be a key section for multiple reasons. If you are fresh out of college and don’t have a lot of work experience, you can show potential employers your marketability through what accomplished at school. It can also be used to show skills you may not have gained on the job but still have ascertained elsewhere. For example, if I wanted to break into the field of college admissions but have zero professional experience doing so, I can highlight the fact I was very active in my collegiate organization that gave campus tours. Also, companies are moving towards individuals who are well-rounded outside of the office, so if you have any experience in professional networking groups or volunteering, showcase what you’ve done!
6. Awards/Achievements. These could be collegiate or professional. After the five year mark collegiate awards can start to fall off unless it’s a prestigious national award. It’s great that you made the Dean’s List but after a while it’s kind of like wearing your letterman jacket from 1988. Also, use your discretion when listing awards. If you won Chili of the Year at your company picnic, it’s best to leave that trophy on your mantle.
7. References. Sometimes job application sites will have you upload your references separately but usually reference lists go along with resumes. Also, don’t list “References Upon Request.” The last thing HR wants is homework. Three references should do the trick, however, some companies will ask for up to five. References should be people you have worked with. Professors can also work if you’re right out of school or applying to graduate school. Keep references up-to-date. A reference from a job you worked at 10 years ago isn’t going to look especially relevant. Also, no family members. I have had people list their moms as references on applications. The only way this is allowable is if you worked for the family business. If that’s the case then that family member should be listed as your supervisor.
So now that all of the pieces have been dumped out of the box, we’ll tackle how to put the puzzle together next.
Positive Thought of the Day:
“Resume: A written exaggeration of only the good things a person has done in the past, as well as a wish list of the qualities a person would like to have.” – Bo Bennett