It’s no secret that a “well-written” resume is essential to a successful job search. But what constitutes a “well-written” resume? First, let’s start with the basics. In almost all cases, the following areas should be covered:
- Contact Information. This is traditionally centered and at the top of the document.
- Education. High school, GED, college, etc. I also suggest listing your major if it is applicable to the job, and include any pertinent job-related training in this category.
- Licensing or Certifications. If you’ve attained them, industry specific certifications- CPA for accounting, PHR or SPHR for human resources, etc. are important to include and will set you apart from other applicants.
- Work and Volunteer Experience. Often applicants omit volunteer experience but this can be a great way to demonstrate initiative, leadership, and other job-applicable skills.
- Awards and Honors. Even small inter-company awards such as “Employee of the Month” can show prospective employers that your skills and abilities exceeded those of your co-workers.
- Special skills or Specific Talents to the job at hand. If you are applying for an administrative assistant position and have the ability to type 3000 words per minute, the resume would be the place to list that specific ability.
- Memberships/Activities. This isn’t necessarily limited to work-related memberships. For example, if you are a member of Habitat for Humanity and use vacation time every year to volunteer to build houses, include it! Community and charity involvement demonstrates altruism and teamwork.
- Once you have the necessary information, it’s time to start formatting. Formatting is every bit as important as writing the resume. Sad but true, aesthetically pleasing layouts get second looks whereas poorly-formatted documents often end up in the HR department’s “No-Thanks” pile. Here are a few tips for an eye-catching resume:
- Use proper spacing. Most basic and management resumes should not have densely packed information. I typically use 11pt or 12 pt font, nothing smaller. The only exception to this rule is a true “executive” resume which will commonly have more information and will be heavy on text.
- Use an appropriate font. Times New Roman is a good standby for a traditional resume. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule; a resume for a “creative job” such as a graphic designer can use a more non-traditional font.
- Bullet points and italics are acceptable if not used too frequently. You want the resume to “pop” but not to be chaotic-looking or confusing to the recruiter.
- Traditional paper and traditional color are essential. Black ink on good quality white or cream paper. Often my clients fancy a more “eye-catching” color, but I always advise them to stick with the basics. You want a prospective employer to notice your resume for its overall appearance and layout, not on the fact that it’s printed on neon green paper.
It is so important to always have an up-to-date resume. I often get calls from clients who are “caught off guard” by a job loss and then are in a real time crunch. It’s never too early to update your resume. Whether you are in transition, seeking new employment, recently graduated, or even comfortably employed, a well-written, professional, current resume is simply good business sense.
Lastly, keep in mind that you must be reasonable about what a resume can do in terms of getting you that “perfect job.” Undoubtedly, a great resume is a huge advantage, but keep in mind that the resume is just one step in the process. A well-written resume is your personal marketing tool, an advertisement that convinces the prospective employer that you, the job seeker, have the skills and abilities he/she is looking for. The resume itself won’t necessarily get you the job, but a “well written” resume is essential for you to land you the interview.