Basic Primer on Writing a Resume

This posting is a guest entry from the Career Doctor, Randall S. Hansen, PhD: James writes: I’m searching for a guide on how to write my resume, but I can’t seem to find anything. If you could give me some tips, or a site that I could go to, that would be greatly appreciated.


The Career Doctor responds: Can’t find anything on resumes? Wow. There’s tons of stuff available on resumes — in magazines, books, and on the Web… but I’ll give you a quick primer. Your resume is a critical marketing tool. Your resume has to entice a prospective employer enough — through its focus, content, and style — to first consider your qualifications for the job at hand and then to invite you for a job interview. A resume is a statement of your unique mix of experiences, education, and skills. You must not lie on your resume, but you must always remember its goal. I think the most important thing any job-seeker should do before attempting to write a resume is to first sit down and make a list of your skills and accomplishments from all your previous experiences (work, volunteer, school, etc.) because you will take from this list those critical skills and accomplishments — not your duties and responsibilities — that highlight your fit for the next job you are seeking. The next step is researching and identifying the job — and all the requirements of that job — that you are seeking because it is critical that your resume is focused on specifics. You should also research the potential employers that may have jobs that you seek so that you can incorporate some of their keywords into your resume. Wait! Does this advice suggest that job-seekers need to have a specifically tailored resume for every single job they apply for? Yes! There is absolutely no reason for you not to develop a different resume for each job and employer. For most job-seekers, this task will simply mean tweaking small parts of your resume for similar jobs. Once you have the content down, you should focus on the style and look of your resume. Do not use a template; design your own. Follow a consistent style. Use normal fonts and sizes. Use bullets rather than paragraphs. Do not use personal pronouns. Consider using a career/job objective or profile section. Always list education and experience in reverse chronological order (starting with the most recent stuff). Do not list any personal information (such as age, marital status, weight). Do not include controversial information. And ALWAYS, ALWAYS, spell-check and carefully proofread your resume for any and all errors. Read our articles published on Quintessential Careers: The Scoop on Resume Length: How Many Pages Should Your Resume Be? and 10 Resume Mistakes to Avoid. You can gets lots more advice, including resume samples, resume-writing tutorial, and more, in this section of Quintessential Careers: Resume and CV Resources.

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