In today's competitive job market where job-hunting is global and resumes can be sent instantaneously, writing an effective resume can be a job in itself. The good news is you can acquire a competitive edge with just a few minutes of reading. What follows are some general guidelines to writing an effective and powerful resume. These guidelines, together with our resume tips and a good resume template can give you a great head start.

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The 5 C's of Resume Writing
  • Convincing
  • Concise
  • Clear
  • Consistent
  • Clean

To begin with, it is important that you know exactly what a company is looking for. Put yourself in the employers' shoes and ask, "Who would make the perfect candidate?" Once you can answer that as succinctly as possible, determine what it is about your background and who you are that makes you best suited for the job. Crafting an effective resume means convincing your employer that you are "just what the doctor ordered." This is the first C of the 5 C's of Resume Writing.

Prepare a convincing and clean resume that will put you in the best light possible. Be clear about the direction you wish to take and back up your statements with concise, clear, consistent facts about yourself.

Key Career Skills

It is a good idea to start the process by taking an inventory of your skills. The following is a list of the common career-related skills that employers look for (not necessarily in order of importance). Use these keywords and the related action verbs throughout your resume.

  • Communication
  • Computer Skills
  • Teamwork
  • Initiative
  • Technical
  • Analytical
  • Flexibility
  • Organizational
  • Interpersonal
  • Management
  • Creativity
  • Problem-solving
  • Research
  • Work Ethic
  • Writing

As you prepare to write your resume, keep in mind that people more often buy the best-advertised product rather than the best product. If you don't have the perfect history to satisfy an employer, highlight the qualities and skills you DO have that will get you in the door.

Remember Your Purpose

The primary purpose of a successful resume is to win an interview. To craft a successful resume, consider it as having two main parts, each with a specific aim.

1. Spotlight Yourself

Spotlight yourself in your Objective section and/or the Summary of Qualifications section. These sections of your resume assert that you are the best choice for the job opportunity. They are the first section(s) in your resume. Your Objective may be all an employer has time to read and must sell YOU as the perfect person for the position.

2. Prove Your Point

The Work Experience, Education, Certifications, and/or Achievements sections provide the specifics that support the earlier Spotlight sections of your resume. Strive to present these sections in a clean, concise manner. Use action verbs and key words when listing the facts about your experience.

What follows are examples and more detailed information about what each section in a resume is intended to do.

Spotlight Yourself

Name and Contact Information

Your name is the title of the document. Don't include "Resume" in the title as in "John Doe's Resume." Your contact information should include your mailing address, phone number, and email address. Avoid unprofessional usernames in your email address.

Make sure the greeting message on your phone is professional. Call back as soon as you can during the employer's business hours. Keep in mind that cell phones routinely drop calls or have poor reception. You may or may not want to include your cell phone number.

If you will be moving soon, you may want to include a school/current/local address as well as a permanent address. It may not be wise to include your current work address. Employers may not like calling you at your current place of employment, and your current employer might not like it either.

The Objective Statement

The Objective section of a resume is where you clearly state the position you are seeking. You'll want to customize your Objective for each resume you write. Use the exact job title, job posting number, and key words that were used in the job posting. Employers who review many resumes for various positions, appreciate a clear objective statement.

Examples:

  1. A position as a barista supervisor at the Atlanta, Georgia store on Peachtree Rd.
  2. Summer navigational internship with Fly Faster Inc. at a location of the company's discretion.
  3. ... more sample resume objectives

The examples above are specific to the opportunity and clearly stated. However, they lack any description of your talents and abilities. This may be fine if a Summary of Qualifications section immediately follows the Objective.

Summary of Qualifications

The Summary of Qualifications section of your resume is where you list/summarize your most sterling qualities. State your most impressive positions, your most applicable accomplishments, and/or your professional characteristics that will capture the attention of your future employer. Consider using focused sentences with key words followed by a bulleted list giving specifics such as percentage of increased sales, awards and promotions received, and special assignments handled.

Be brief but aggressive. Say not what you hope to obtain in landing this job but what it is you can do for them. Consider listing specific qualifications you bring to the table in filling that position. Be as engaging as possible.

Examples:

1. Masters degrees in Business Administration AND Mechanical Engineering have provided an excellent foundation for technical management. My current Senior Level technical management position is the result of ten years of experience building on such a foundation. I look forward to working at ________ where each day I can contribute by solving problems, negotiating disputes, guiding technical meeting, and balancing project budgets.

2. Dynamic, motivated salesman of Widgets. My recent efforts have resulted in implementation of a new product design and marketing strategy. I used the following skills to accomplish this recent success.
     • Listened to and discerned customers' concerns
     • Inspired and motivated the design team
     • Redirected marketing efforts to include internet outlets
     • Directed and edited website updates

You may consider combining the Summary of Qualifications section with the Objective section.

Examples:

1. Seeking a permanent position as a piano salesman and musical instructor with the Key Piano Company at the Michigan store. As a salesman, I intend to provide excellent customer service, customer follow-up, and closure of a sale. As a musical instructor I will marry consistent encouragement with disciplinary inspiration.

2. A Grade 11,12 chemistry teacher at Lexington, KY High School. My bachelors in chemistry and my teaching certificate have prepared me to plan, organize, and orchestrate chemistry lessons. I anticipate and look forward to using my oral communication skills to discuss challenges with students, students' parents, and other educational faculty.

The examples above include brief skill summaries using key words. The employer may have specified these key words in the job description, such as: permanent position, customer follow-up, teaching certificate, organize, oral communication, etc...


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Prove Your Point

The skills you claimed in the Objective and/or Summary of Qualifications sections are supported by specific examples listed in rest of the resume. Strive for clear, concise organization and listing of your experience and accomplishments.

You may want to organize this portion of your resume using either a Chronological format, Functional format, or a combination of the two.

A Chronological Resume focuses on your Work Experience and Education. The sub-headings in these sections denote the positions you have held, places you worked, and the associated dates. Your skills and accomplishments are highlighted under these chronological headings using bullets, action verbs, and concise/clear/convincing descriptions. The chronological format is commonly used and is easy to read and create.

A Functional Resume focuses on your Skills and Accomplishments. Sentences and bullet points under the skill headings list job positions, specific projects, or certifications that support your claimed skills. The functional resume is less commonly used, but may be a good choice for an occupation that cares most about particular skills than about years worked or positions held, if your job history is spotty, or if you are changing careers.

Whether chronological or functional, use the organizational method that works best for you. Consider which will make the best impression, best advertise your skills and qualifications, and be clear and readable for your potential employer.

The descriptions of the following sections are mainly for chronological resumes or combination resumes. See the Functional Resume page for information and examples.

Work Experience

List your work experience in reverse chronological order (most recent first). Allocate more space to the jobs you've held most recently. Create subheadings within the work experience section containing the company name, dates, locations, and job titles. You may choose to either put your job title in bold or the company name in bold, depending on which you'd like to emphasize most. You may choose to list the months you started and ended a job if you worked there less than a year.

Education

The Education section may dominate the content of your resume if you are a student or a recent graduate. If such is the case, you may choose to place this section before the Work Experience section. If you have considerable work experience, the Education section might be dramatically reduced. List your most recent, advanced degrees first.

If you have not yet graduated, list your expected date of graduation. If you attended college but did not graduate, list the field you studied, the name of the school and the dates attended. Consider listing your GPA if you are a recent graduate, or if it was significantly higher than average.

Skills and Accomplishments

Consider adding this section if you are in an industry with many and varied skills, or you have a long list of licenses earned, certifications, and/or professional awards received. You can title this section in a variety of ways; "Computer Skills," "Selected Accomplishments," "Areas of Expertise," "Professional Skills," etc.

In this section you can add to and increase the list of specific skills you may have mentioned in the Objective and/or Summary sections. It is recommended that you strive to list your skills and/or accomplishments cleanly and clearly. Careful use of white space on your resume page can dramatically affect the organizational appearance of your lists.

Other Sections You Might Include

Be judicious about just how much you include in a resume. Carve the resume content down to your most applicable and noteworthy accomplishments. If any of the following sections will help add credibility to your resume, they may be worth mentioning.

Honors and Awards

This is a common section in student resumes for listing scholarships, fellowships, awards, and honors. You may want to include a brief description if a scholarship is prestigious but not well known (like a top university scholarship named after a specific person). This section is often combined with Activities (see below).

Coursework

An entry-level resume for someone still in school or recently graduated might include a list of specific courses that apply to the job the student is seeking. Do not list every course you have taken. Just list those courses that help identify your qualifications for the position you are seeking. You may want to include related courses in your Education section instead of as a separate section.

Interests and Activities

If you've done something that's particularly impressive such as climbed Mt. Everest or earned a Purple Heart, this would be a good place to put it.

This category is often used to list club and professional memberships, awards, honors, hobbies, interests, volunteer experience, and community service, especially when there is not enough information to create a separate category for each.

Including interests and hobbies is optional and somewhat risky. Personal hobbies or endeavors that require significant effort and passion may help a potential employer recognize your work ethic, personality, community contributions, and other positive personal attributes that can carry over to the work place. If you share a unique interest with the hiring manager, that might be a bonus. However, if the hiring manager has a bias against a particular activity, that could lead to a negative affect.

Publications

If you can be given credit for two or more publications that would raise an eyebrow, include them here. Be brief if there are many. You may choose to include educational publications in the Education section.

Languages

A company may highly value an employee who can speak more than one language. If it will win you some points, consider highlighting it as its own section here. If it is a valued skill, but unessential to the job application, consider listing it with your Personal Achievements or Interests section instead.

Professional Affiliations

This is where you would list community leadership positions, clubs or associations that you are a part of that will add to your appeal. You may want to highlight achievements accomplished in your community such as fund-raising, managing an organization or event, etc. with additional detail. Consider a separate section titled "Community Leadership," "Community Service," or "Community Activities."

Availability

If you are not available until a specific date (such as after graduation) you can indicate your availability in a separate section, in your cover letter, or perhaps even in your objective.

References

If you've got the space, it is common to put "References Available Upon Request" at the bottom of your resume. Omitting this phrase is fine because it is assumed. Be prepared, most employers will request references if they are seriously considering you.


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Conclusion

Remember to limit your resume to a single page unless you have enough professional background to warrant the use of a second page. In most cases, one page is better.

Make your resume appealing to look at and easy to skim to find out just what you're made of. Give it balance and use the white space carefully by using your bold headings, dates and italics with uniformity and consistency.

You may only get 10-15 seconds to make it past the first round of cuts.

Be careful there are no errors in your resume. Ask a friend or someone to proofread your resume before submitting it. A resume with a careless and/or sloppy mistake may not be given a second glance.

Try to find examples of resumes for your specific industry, job type, and experience level. Not all sample resumes are good examples, so be sure to refer to these guidelines and our resume tips.

If you follow the 5 C's, you will dramatically increase your chances of making it past the second round of cuts and landing an interview.

Your Cover Letter

Coming soon: How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

Synopsis: A resume is not complete without a good cover letter. Use your cover letter to say what job posting you are responding to, state the position or company need that you are intending to fulfill, briefly express your interest in the employment opportunity, include some key attributes and skills that have prepared you to meet the offered position, and of course get the reader to want to read your resume.

References and Resources

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Disclaimer: The information on this page is for educational purposes only. Your situation is unique and we do not guarantee the applicability of this information to your specific situation.

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