You will probably need to write a different resume for each occupation that interests you. Each resume will emphasize what is relevant to one occupation. Remember: Even if you do not have many specialized and technical skills, most occupations also require abilities like reliability, teamwork, and communication. These are particularly important for entry-level workers.
The next step is to organize the personal information you have assembled. Most résumé writers use the following components.
This includes your name; permanent and college campus addresses, if they are different; phone number; and e-mail address, if you have one. Place your full legal name at the top of your resume and your contact information underneath it. This information should be easy to see; reviewers who can’t find your phone number can’t call you for an interview. Also, make sure the outgoing message on your answering machine sounds professional. If you list an e-mail address, remember to check your inbox regularly.
Placed immediately below your contact information, the objective statement tells the reviewer what kind of position you want—for example, “Seeking a position as an administrative assistant.” Some objectives include more detail, such as “Seeking an administrative position using my organizational, word processing, and customer service skills.”
Objective statements are optional and are most often used by recent graduates and career changers. But writing objectives can be tricky. A vague statement, such as “Seeking a position that uses my skills and experience,” is meaningless. And an overly specific objective can backfire, eliminating you from jobs you want that are slightly different from your objective. If you decide to include an objective statement, make sure it fits the job you are applying for.
The qualifications summary, which evolved from the objective, is an overview designed to quickly answer the employer’s question “Why should I hire you?” It lists a few of your best qualifications and belongs below your contact information or objective statement.
A qualifications summary, like an objective, is optional. It can be particularly effective for applicants with extensive or varied experience because it prevents the important facts from being lost among the details. Most resume writers choose either an objective or a summary, but some use both.
List all relevant training, certifications, and education on your resume. Start with the most recent and work backward. For each school you have attended, list the school’s name and location; diploma, certificate, or degree earned, along with year of completion; field of study; and honors received. If you have not yet completed one of your degrees, use the word expected before your graduation date. If you do not know when you will graduate, add in progress after the name of the unfinished degree.
The education section is especially important for recent graduates. Include your overall grade point average, average within major, or class standing, if it helps your case. The general guideline is to include averages of 3.0 and above, but the minimum useful average is still widely debated. Graduates should also consider listing relevant courses under a separate heading. Listing four to eight courses related to a particular occupation shows a connection between education and work. College graduates need not list their high school credentials.
Resumes should include your job history:
When describing your job duties, emphasize results instead of responsibilities and performance rather than qualities. It is not enough, for example, to claim you are organized; you must use your experience to prove it.
Job descriptions often specify the scope of a position’s duties—such as the number of phone lines answered, forms processed, or people supervised. If you worked on a project with other people, tell the reviewer your accomplishments came from a team effort. Also, mention any promotions or increases in responsibility you received.
Use specific accomplishments to give your experience impact. Note any improvements you made, any time or money you saved, and any problems you solved—for example:
Activities and associations
Activities can be an excellent source of additional experience. Since students in high school or college don’t have much concrete work experience, they should list their involvement in school or extracurricular activities—employers look for those kinds of things because they show initiative.
Activities might include participation in organizations, associations, student government, clubs, or community activities, especially those related to the position you are applying for or that demonstrate hard work and leadership skills.
If you have specific computer, foreign language, typing, or other technical skills, consider highlighting them by giving them their own category—even if they don’t relate directly to the occupation you’re pursuing.
Awards and honors
Include formal recognition you have received. Do not omit professional or academic awards. These are often listed with an applicant’s experience or education, but some list them at the end of their résumé.
Usually, resumes do not include names of references, but some reviewers suggest breaking this rule if the names are recognizable in the occupation or industry. Most resume writers end with the statement “References available upon request.” Others assume reference availability is understood and use that space for more important information. Regardless of whether you mention it on the résumé, you will need to create a separate reference sheet to provide when requested and to carry with you to interviews.
A reference sheet lists the name, title, office address, and phone number of three to five people who know your abilities. Before offering them as references, of course, make sure these people have agreed to recommend you. At the top of the sheet, type your name and contact information, repeating the format you used in your resume.
Other personal information
Your resume should include any other information that is important to your occupation, such as a completed portfolio or a willingness to travel. Your resume is your own, and you should customize it to fit your needs. However, some information does not belong on a resume. Do not disclose your health, disability, marital status, age, or ethnicity. This information is illegal for most employers to request.
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