A clear, concise resume is a powerful tool that acts as a written calling card for a job seeker. Research reveals that, on the average, people read just 60 percent of the first page of a resume and only 30 percent of the second page. This means it is essential that the information contained in a resume be effective and to the point, since the purpose is to entice the reader to want to meet you.
A resume should contain brief, accomplishment-oriented statements. The most effective resume demonstrates a person’s ability to produce results. A top-notch, professional resume creates a favorable first impression.
Generally, a resume should be no more than two pages long. This rule can be broken. For example, publications and patents can be listed on a separate page.
To begin writing a resume, consider life and work experiences and answer the following questions:
- What is a significant personal challenge that I have faced in my life and how did I meet that challenge? If it was a major problem, how did I solve it?
- What specific skills did I utilize to meet that challenge or solve the problem?
- What was the result or outcome?
- How did I feel about myself?
Try to identify at least five major life challenges, using as many work-related examples as possible. Then, consider each example in terms of what was accomplished. Create an action statement for each example that describes what you actually did. This will help summarize your skills, talents and experience and it will provide a prospective employer with a good picture of who you are, what you can do, what you have accomplished and how you can be of value to an organization.
Action statements should be clear because they are an integral part of the resume. Each action statement should have three parts:
- Begin with an action verb that describes a strong skill, such as “directed”.
- Describe what you did, such as “a management training program on customer service improvement.”
- State the outcome, such as “resulting in a 75 percent increase in customer satisfaction ratings in six months.”
Now, put the three parts together to form an action statement.
The Four Basic Sections to a Resume
The first part of the resume is the summary, which describes who you are and what makes you unique.
The second section includes professional experience. This should be a chronology of your experience, scope of responsibilities and accomplishments for each job. Include the company names for former employers, the cities and states in which they are located and the dates of employment. Anyone who has filled several jobs with the same employer should list the total period of employment as well as the dates in each position. Write a brief statement to address the scope of responsibilities for each job, and include accomplishments.
The third section of a resume revolves around education/knowledge. Consider including both formal and informal training. List schools, dates and degrees. Training courses or seminars can also be included. Anyone whose work experience is limited may be better off listing their educational background before the professional experience section.
The fourth section deals with professional/community service. Include information about professional and community affiliations or special interests that either demonstrate your leadership, knowledge and expertise, or acquaint the reader with additional information about your unique qualifications. This section points out how well you balance your professional and personal lives.
Optional sections that can be included are military experience, technical skills, licenses/certificates, patents and publications.
The Three Different Formats to Choose from When Writing a Resume
The first is chronological, which is the most common format. It begins with your current or most recent position and works backward through your employment history. The advantage of this is that it emphasizes continuity and career growth. It is best used when your career direction is clear and the job target is directly in line with your work history.
The second format is functional. This format lists only various accomplishments and makes no mention of employment history. The advantage of this format is that it allows you to list accomplishments in the order of their importance rather than in the sequence they occurred. It is best used when your employment experience is inconsistent or if you want to market yourself in a different industry.
The combination format highlights significant accomplishments from your career followed by a chronology of employment history. It gives a clear, complete picture of your accomplishments and experience. This is best used when you are listing similar accomplishments in all positions, when you have held the same position for many years, or when you have held several jobs with significant accomplishments in each position.
It may take several attempts at writing a resume before you determine what information is most pertinent and which format works best to showcase your skills.
Your first draft may be several pages long, so trim and revise it several times. Potential employers receive dozens, even hundreds, of resumes for each job opening. It is worth the effort to make your resume the one they notice.