How to Write a Resume

ResumeToday’s post will focus on resume writing. With the job market as it is, it is important to portray yourself in a way that an organization will take notice and give you a shot at an interview. I will give you some advice on how you can effectively communicate your experiences and skills to prospective employers.  I will even provide a template for you to get started with at the end.

Please note that this post will not focus on cover letters, which some job postings require as part of your resume submission.

What is a resume?

To illustrate how important a resume is, let us consider the following scenario.

You have decided to purchase a laptop computer and have decided to buy it online. You log onto bestbuy.com and begin to sift through the selections. Because you don’t have enough time to research each computer, you need to purchase based on the computers specifications. This is the computer’s resume and the same way you have requirements for a laptop, the potential employer has requirements for its prospective employees. You will probably pass up computers that might be great but do not list all of their information. The same is true of employers who see a resume that doesn’t accurately reflect your experiences.

Types of Resumes

There are a few different types of resumes:

  1. Internship or College Graduate: Students in college who are applying for an internships or students who just graduated and are looking to land their first job.
  2. Experienced Worker: Individuals with some work experience behind them (3+ years) and who are changing their jobs or career. These types of resumes are also used for applying to business school.
  3. High School/College Bound Student: These resumes are used to obtain jobs in high school and to apply to colleges.

This post will focus on #1. Although some aspects of this post is true for experienced workers and high school students, there are other things that come into play such a highlighting specific types of work experience or extracurricular activities.

What do I include in my resume?

This is a point of much contention. It seems as though everyone, from teachers to guidance counselors to parents, has their own opinions on how to structure a resume. This often leads to the addition of what I like to call “resume garbage”, which is information that does not contribute to the overall value of the resume and reduces space that otherwise might be used for something more meaningful.

I consider the following resume garbage:

  • Objective/Purpose – Your objective is to get a job. Period. You don’t need to tell the potential employer that.
  • Hobbies – I know that some people like think employers want someone well rounded, and thus recommend adding a hobbies section. Yes, employers do want to see that you are well rounded, through your extracurricular activities and experience. Adding that you like to “read” or “play video games” isn’t going to help you unless it’s something that stands out like “National Crossword Champion), which would go in extracurricular activities, not hobbies.
  • Coursework – Every computer science major takes programming classes, every business major takes accounting classes and every journalism major takes journalism classes. Employers know this and will view this section as fluff.

So what should I include?

The following sections are essential to a well written resume:

1. Your name & contact information

There really isn’t much to explain here. You should include this as a header. And make sure it is as non-intrusive as possible. No fancy letters or word art.

2. Education

The education section is where you highlight your credentials. It should be formatted in the following way:

School Name
B.S./B.A. Degree Name, any concentrations
Minors
GPA: X.X  Degree GPA: X.X
Summa/Magna Cum Laude, Etc

In addition to schools, you can also add certifications here. As expected, GPA is the contended topic here. If your GPA is low (below 3.0) you will want to also list your “degree GPA”, which will highlight your GPA for degree specific classes. Note: if you have a high GPA (3.5 and over), you do not need to list it, as anything higher probably won’t make a difference unless you are very light on experience.

3. Applicable Skills

In this section, you want to list skills that you have acquired that make you a good match for the job. These skills can be the distinguishing factor if experience between two candidates is relatively the same. For example, you might say that you have experience with Microsoft Office (Excel, Powerpoint, Word) or an engineering modeling program. Many people do not take full advantage of this section. Many applications and skills that you learn in class can be listed here to great effect. For example, if you used Final Cut Pro to produce a video in junior year of college, list it!

4. Experience

Experience is the bread and butter in your resume and will give your prospective employer a taste of what you have accomplished over the past few years. One common misconception is that this section should only contain actual work experience. This is not true at all. In fact, being president of a large student organization where you have managed multiple meetings and committees looks much more impressive than your part time job at the book store.

There are a few ways in which people organize these experiences. I prefer listing them by order of importance and relevance to the job for which you are applying. The reason is because recruiters often have many resumes to go through and you want to make sure you catch their attention early, rather than later. It also gives them a sense of how you prioritize your accomplishments. It is also important to make sure you prioritize the experiences you list with the requirements of the job. For this reason, you may have to tweak your resume for various jobs that you are applying for.

The general format of an experience is as follows:

Company (Date 1 – Date 2) – Role: Brief and generic overview of the job role.

  • Accomplishment 1
  • Accomplishment 2
  • Etc

This is the most difficult section for most people. The reason is because most people will just put a brief description of what their role entailed and that is it. You need to ask yourself the hard questions. How many meetings did you lead? What did you do as president of XYZ club? Did your employer trust you to lock up at night? Etc. These are the unique accomplishments your potential employer wants to know. Anyone can be “President of XYZ Club”, but what did YOU do as president?

Extracurricular Activities

Ah, extracurricular activities. This section is reserved for various awards you’ve won, distinguishing things you’ve accomplished, clubs you were a part of, and sports you’ve participated in. Because this section should generally be small, the format is simple:

Activity (Date 1 – Date 2), any positions held, awards won

Or

Honor Society XYZ, inducted on Date 1, positions held

Final Thoughts

If you have the right tools, such as a stellar resume, it can make all the difference in the world in landing your dream job. Job hunting is stressful and if you don’t know how to create a resume it can prevent you from reaching your fullest potential.

With this post, I have included a template for you to get started. Feel free to use it how you wish. Good luck!

Download Resume Template Here (MS Word Required)

Posted in Writing Wisdom.

2 Comments

  1. Hey guys,

    I gotta admit, after having Chuck and yourself help with my resume I definitely got some more feedback from employers. These tips are great!

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