Career Tips: How To Write A Top-Notch Resume

How to create a professional looking resume that will not only read well but help you to land an interview or job. What to include, what type of paper to use, and how long it should be.

As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. In today's competitive job market, the first impression that prospective employers will have about you is your resume. Since this "calling card" of your talents and credentials will often make the difference in whether you are scheduled for an interview, you need to make sure that it's informative, error free, and will whet the reader's appetite to want to meet you in person.

Here are ten tips for creating a top-notch tool to get your foot in the door.

1. Most people spend more time listing job duties as opposed to identifying performance results. A prospective employer wants to know that you will be a value-added to his or her company. Accordingly, you'll want to use action words and statistics that demonstrate initiative in saving time, money or resources in your past positions. For example: "Increased division sales by 24%," "Implemented new software program for processing client complaints," "Trained and placed 10 students per month in after-school internships."

2. Tailor your resume to the specific position you are seeking. Let's say you're applying for a job as a writer. Structure your resume so that your writing related experience will be front and center. While most resumes follow a chronological approach (with most recent experience appearing first), you might find it practical to use the style whereby your background is identified by talent areas; i.e., writing, publishing, marketing, etc., especially if you have diversified experiences that are spread out over a number of years.

3. Do you have a lot of volunteer experience? For those who are just starting out in the job market or those who have been away from it for awhile, non-paying experiences are a valuable asset to your portfolio. Why? Because they demonstrate passion, commitment, responsibility, teamwork and leadership. If you can also include results in the write-up (for example, "Coordinated Board of Directors Annual Talent Show which raised $8,000 for charity"), all the better!

4. Don't resort to chit-chat or whining. Although this mistake tends to occur more in cover letters than in actual resumes, novices at the job-hunting game often include inappropriate information and/or inject a desperation that is a turn-off to employers. Nor should you ever cite as your reason for leaving a job, "My boss was a jerk," "My co-worker's wife found out we were sleeping together," or "The company was going bankrupt but didn't want anyone to know."



5. Keep your resume to one page. Even if you have reams of scintillating experience, HR personnel and supervisors really don't have the time to read all of it. They want material that cuts to the chase so that they can proceed to the next step of scheduling interviews. Let's say that your first draft runs three pages. Using the word count function in your computer, divide this number by three which will yield the number of words to which you need to trim your bio. As you do this""and it's always a challenge at the start""you'll discover that you've used a lot of words that are expendable and can be deleted.

6. Don't use cheap paper. Cheap paper conveys to the reader that you're a person who is probably doing mass mailings and going the most inexpensive route possible. Invest in a ream of high quality paper plus a package of matching envelopes. White or cream color is preferred, although a pale grey or pale blue is also acceptable. Go for class, not crass if you purchase letterhead that has a design. Avoid fancy fonts as well. Courier, Times New Roman, Palatino and Bookman are the easiest to read (and nothing less than 12 pt., please!).

7. Your name, address, phone number and email address should be at the top of the page and centered. If you have a website with materials which supplement the résumé's content, it's permissible to list your link, too. For instance, perhaps you're applying for a job as a graphic artist, an interior designer, a landscaper, etc. Sharp color photographs posted on the site will speak a thousand words about your talent.

8. The first line below your contact information should be your areas of specialization. This is a capsule summary of what you're best at doing, inviting the reader to go to the next section and learn where and how you acquired this background. For example: "Fluency in English, French, Russian and Mandarin Chinese" or "Copywriting, Editing and Graphic Arts." Keep these brief as they are the "teaser" to encourage further review.

9. Your job experience will comprise the bulk of the resume and, as indicated earlier, can either be done chronologically or segmented according to specific areas of expertise. As your reputation and job credits continue to grow, your earliest employment positions can be deleted.

10. The bottom portion of your resume will address your educational degrees, as well as association in professional organizations. You may also want to list pertinent references, although these are often relegated to a second sheet.

Last but not least, enlist someone whose proofreading skills you trust to read your resume prior to submission. A second set of eyes is always invaluable in catching errors that you may have missed.

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