How to write a Professional Resume

Posted by | November 6, 2008 | How to ...

So the economy is in turmoil and you’ve suddenly found yourself without a job. What now? It’s time to update that resume, or in some cases, build one from scratch. What should you include; what should you leave out?

Before you get started, it’s important to know that a potential employer only spends about 30 seconds scanning your resume, initially. If they like what they see, they may spend up to 2 minutes reviewing it further. That’s a short window of opportunity to make a good impression.

Here are some helpful tips to guide you on your way to building a great resume:

Formatting:

  1. Always use a common, easy to read font; such as Times New Roman, Arial, Book Antiqua, or similar. Using an odd font not only makes it more difficult for a human to read your resume, but also more difficult for OCR software. OCR is Optical Character Recognition; it translates what it “sees” into predetermined data fields (name, address, etc).
  2. Bold Sparingly. Only titles, employer names/dates, headers and footers should be bolded. Too much bolding creates confusion for the reader.
  3. Use bullets sparingly. Bullet if you must; however, it is always best to use full paragraphs when composing your summary and/or work experience.
  4. Do not use tables. Ever. Every person that processes your resume, including recruiters who are often required to reformat your resume, will hate you if you use tables.
  5. Learn how to set and use tabs. Simply hitting the Tab key over and over until you get to the right spot isn’t proper formatting. Using set tabs will help your resume to have a more “even” appearance. Make sure dates of employment line up accurately, to make it easy to see the “years” at each employer listed.
  6. Text or Microsoft Word format are the preferred documents. Very few employers use WordPad, Works, WordPerfect, et al. PDF files are acceptable in some cases, but generally it needs to be a document that can be editable. This is especially the case when working with an agency recruiter; they must have the ability to remove your contact information before sending to their client.
  7. Your resume does not have to be 1 page. It doesn’t need to be 10 pages, either.

Content:

  1. A good resume includes a header with your full name, address, phone number and email address. Below that should be your summary (not an objective), a skills section, education and/or certifications and employment awards or accolades, and finally, your employment content.
  2. Do not include your hobbies, marital status, religious beliefs, number of children, charities or any other irrelevant information. While some experts believe that including this information will help the potential employer to see your “human” side or character traits, it won’t. It only distracts from your experience. Stick to relevant information only.
  3. Use an appropriate email address for your resume header. Email addresses like [email protected] are seen as unprofessional. Sign up for a free email account on Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail or the like using only your name or initials. For example: [email protected] or [email protected] et al.
  4. It is imperative to include skills used within the meat of the job description. Employers want to know when you last used your skills and in what capacity.
  5. If your experience spans more than 20 years, it is best to cut short the information regarding your early years of employment. Instead, include any relevant information in a summary. For example, instead of listing every employer for the last 20 years – include only those worked for the last 10. Summarize the rest, using a date range as your header.
  6. Keep your resume concise. Review and rewrite paragraphs if necessary. Your goal is to be informative without boring the reader.
  7. Last but not least, SPELL CHECK. Make sure you use complete sentences; do a complete read through to make sure what you’ve written makes sense when read out loud. You can also ask a friend or colleague to review and give their feedback.

Additional tips:

  1. It is always best to send an electronic copy of your resume. Faxed or mailed copies of resumes clutter desks, fill trash cans and kill trees. Be green.
  2. Google other resumes of professionals like you, to use as an example. It’s always a good idea to include current buzz words pertaining to your position and industry. These buzz words change over time so if your resume has dust on it, it’s time to update those!
  3. When in doubt, consult with a professional. Resume writing is an art; if you aren’t a good writer it’s wise to invest in a professional to assist. This isn’t just a document, it’s your career!

These tips were written and contributed by Robin M. Eads, Talent Acquisition and Recruiting Expert; President @ A Place 4 People, Inc.

Have additional tips not listed here? Please share!

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