Creating Your Résumé

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Creating your résumé is the first step to getting a job. Learn exactly what goes into this important document and start your career search off on the right foot by creating your own résumé.

Step-by-Step Résumé Breakdown

Your résumé is a summary of your experiences in work and in school. Employers match your résumé against their job openings to evaluate if you’d be a good fit. As such, it’s important to make your résumé a good representation of yourself. It’s your first impression on a future employer, and if done properly, will help you get a foot in the door. Here’s how, step by step:

1. Decide Which Type of Résumé You Want.

There are three different types of résumés: chronological, functional and combination. Chronological is the most traditional format and lists experiences according to the order in which they took place. Functional is a type of résumé that lists your experiences according to skill. Combination, as the name suggests, is a combination of the chronological and functional formats.

Tips:

  • Chronological résumés generally appeal to older readers and may be best suited for a conservative field.
  • The Functional style is the format to use if you’re changing career direction (and lack direct work experience). Because it displays your functional skills first, work experience, or lack thereof, is not the main focus.
  • While the Combination format combines the best aspects of the Chronological and Functional styles, you have to be careful with length because they can quickly get long.
  • You might want to consider more than one format of résumé if you’re applying for multiple jobs.

Here are some résumé critique sites that can further help you determine the right style:

2. Create a Header.

A header should include your name, address with ZIP Code, phone number and email address.

Tips:

  • Boldface your name to make it stand out.
  • Use a phone number that you’ll actually answer and change your voicemail to a more professional message if necessary.
  • Make sure your email address is professional. If your current email address, for example, is candygirl@mail.com or hotbod@inbox.com, it’s time to set up a new email, such as janesmith@mail.com or jsmith99@inbox.com.

3. Create a Career Objective.

In one or two sentences, state the job you’re attempting to secure in the organization you’re aiming to become part of. Make this statement simple. Consider the type of work you enjoy and are looking for.

Tips:

  • Think about the type of job and industry you’re interested in.
  • Tailor the objective to describe that job, job type or industry.
  • If you aren’t sure what you want to do or if you’d be willing to accept a variety of jobs, consider leaving “objective” off your résumé. It only serves you if you’re aiming for something specific.
  • Your objective should always be tailored to the specific job openings you’re applying to. If you are applying to multiple jobs, you should have multiple versions of your résumé, each with a job-specific objective.

Examples:

To obtain an entry-level editing position in a large publishing company

To secure a full-time executive sales position in the advertising industry

To obtain a professional position within medical sales

4. List Your Experiences or Skills.

For Chronological/Combination Résumés List Your Experiences

Starting with your most recent or current job, list your previous work experiences.

Tips:

  • This section shows where you have worked and when. It also states specific accomplishments for each position or job.
  • When choosing experiences to list, pick those that seem most relevant to the position you seek. As sources for your experiences, think of your full-time or part-time work, summer jobs, occasional jobs, internships, fieldwork and special projects.
  • Don’t worry whether your experiences are “good enough.” Employers admire people who have worked hard in a variety of positions.
  • Always start each achievement with an accomplishment verb. Examples of accomplishment verbs are accelerated, achieved, expanded, influenced, suggested, rescued, solved, maintained, generated, structured, effected, advised, controlled, trained and utilized.
  • Don’t worry if there are gaps in the timeline, but keep everything in chronological order, with most recent jobs at the top.

Examples:


Southwestern Writing Center, Peer Writing Tutor, Yuma, AZ
April 2004 – Present
- Tutored students in writing for all disciplines.
- Critiqued peers’ writing.

Camp Granite Falls, Area Director, Mountainville, TN
June 2003 – September 2007
- Directed staff of four while supervising 20 campers.
- Taught crafts, sports and cooking.

For Functional/Combination Résumés List Your Skills

The “Skills” section of your résumé is a place where you can show your strengths and individuality. Start by stating each skill. Then back it up with a two- to three-line explanation of how you learned that skill or why you believe you have it. Make these entries short, clear and to the point.

Tips:

  • List skills that are most relevant to the job you seek. Think about what the employer is looking for in relation to what you’ve done and who you are as a person.
  • Don’t forget to list computer programs you’ve had experience with, even if you are not a master-level user.

Examples:

Self-Motivated: Proactively organized volunteers to assist with distribution at the community food bank.

Bookkeeping: Maintained accurate, detailed inventory reports at school library and subsequently won top librarian assistant award three months straight for Brown County.

5. List Your Activities.

List activities in which you have participated and include what your specific role was in each.

Tips:

  • This is the place to note membership or leadership positions in clubs, organizations of any kind, athletic teams, community organizations and so on.
  • If you’ve had an interesting job unrelated to the field you’re pursuing – such as reading to blind children or teaching English as a second language (ESL) to foreign adults – add it here. Employers are always looking for people with diverse backgrounds to work for them.

Examples:

Track Team: Team Captain, Senior Year. Fall 2006 – Spring 2007.

Drama Club: “Crazy for You” and “West Side Story.” Fall 2007 and 2008.

6. List Your Education.

Tips:

  • List the schools you’ve attended, starting with the most recent one. Include details such as GPA, class rank or special awards.
  • Add any other educational experiences, such as training programs, community college or summer courses, seminars and so on.

Examples:

Oldham County High School, Oldham, PA. 3.8 GPA. Anticipated graduation: June 2010.

Bellville Adult Education, Bellville, NY. Introduction to Web Design. September 2008.

7. List Any Awards You’ve Won and When You Won Them.

Tips:

  • When you’ve been recognized by someone else, you should let potential employers know about it. But you shouldn’t worry if you haven’t received any awards; just skip this section.

Examples:

Richmond County National Essay Contest, Honorable Mention, May 2006.

Honor Roll, South Satchewan High School, Junior and Senior Years, 2008-2010.

8. List Your Personal Interests.

Tips:

  • This section is where you show that you’re a well-rounded person, someone people would want to know and work with.
  • This section is often used by the employer at the start of an interview to break the ice.
  • Some interests are better not to list (e.g., napping, watching reality TV, gossiping). This is really about highlighting hobbies that have helped you grow as a person.
  • This résumé step is considered optional, so if you’re having trouble coming up with interests, or feel your résumé is already getting too long, feel free to leave it off.

Examples:

Ceramics, camping, reading, soccer, automotive repair, carpentry

Submitting Résumés Online

Just as the Internet has changed the way you look for a job, it’s also changed the way you can submit a résumé. More and more job applicants are posting their résumés online to résumé banks and personal web pages and submitting them through email. And while the Internet can be a powerful tool for job seekers, it also comes with some new considerations.

Emailing a Résumé

When emailing a résumé, you have two options: Insert the résumé into the body of the email, or send it as an attachment. Review the job listing carefully to see if there is a preferred method. Document formatting is also crucial. Plain text (.txt) files are always a safe bet, but Microsoft Word documents (.doc) and the Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (.pdf) are often accepted and allow you greater control over layout and design. Again, double-check to see if the organization you’re applying to has a preference.

No matter how you choose to email your résumé, you’ll want to include a brief online cover letter in the body of the email. Keep it short, but include the same basic information you would in a traditional cover letter.

Posting a Résumé

When submitting your résumé to an online résumé bank, formatting is once again your first concern. While some sites accept Microsoft Word documents, many will not recognize specialized text, bullets, tabs, boldface text or formatted text. Any résumé with that kind of formatting runs the risk of showing up on an interviewer’s computer screen as gibberish; this is not the way you want to be perceived. Avoid formatting issues by creating a plain text version. If you want to emphasize something, instead of using a bold font, use capital letters. And when you’re finished, email it to yourself or a friend. This will give you an opportunity to make sure it looks okay on the receiving end.

Another consideration when submitting your résumé online is using job-specific keywords. Employers often search résumé banks using software that looks for special words or requirements specific to a job description. You can identify such keywords by visiting company websites, reviewing job postings, reading industry trade magazines or checking out keyword resource books and websites. Including more keywords in the objective, experience, skills and awards sections of your online résumé will increase your chances of being flagged as a potential match. You should also use such keywords in the title and brief description of yourself which most job sites request.

Keyword Examples

Keywords tend to be nouns that are industry-specific qualifications, skills or terms. Some keyword examples include degrees or certifications, job titles, computer lingo, industry jargon, product names, company names and professional organizations. Here are some specific examples of popular keywords employers look for in résumés. Using such keywords and additional keywords specific to your industry where they apply will help your résumé stand out.

  • Strategic planning
  • Performance and productivity improvement
  • Organizational design
  • Infrastructure development
  • New media
  • Microsoft Word
  • Change management
  • Team-building
  • Leadership
  • Competitive market
  • Instructional materials
  • Investor and board relations
  • Oral and written communications
  • Problem-solving and decision-making
  • MBA
  • Project management
  • Customer retention
  • Business development
  • Photoshop
  • Long-range planning
  • Cost reduction

And, lastly, if you’re posting your résumé to a personal web page or résumé bank, be sure to conceal your contact information from casual viewers. Posting personal contact information on the web could attract unwanted attention. Avoid this by activating the privacy settings offered on most résumé banks or by only providing an email address on your web page and suggesting employers contact you for additional information.

Video Résumés

Video résumés are gaining popularity with many young job seekers. While few, if any, companies request them, they can be a great way to showcase your skills and experience while giving a real sense of your personality. Video résumés are not for everyone, however. If you’re applying for a job in a very traditional or conservative field, you might want to think twice about using a video résumé. In any case, keep your video short and professional and focus on your accomplishments. This is still a résumé, not a music video!

Some sites that offer video résumés:

Submitting Résumés by Mail or in Person

If you want to have printed copies on hand for an interview, or if an organization requires you to submit your résumé by mail, start with a well-formatted document and make sure it has been proofread. Use high-quality paper rather than regular copy paper; it will make a much better impression. Make sure your printer has fresh ink and then print a test run to check for any errors or inconsistencies. You should always bring extra copies with you to an interview. And – for interviews – make sure it’s the same version that you submitted previously. Also, if you’re mailing your résumé, use an envelope that matches your paper in size and quality and print the address on it.

Finding Personal References

While you don’t submit references with your cover letter and résumé, often job applicants are asked to provide them later if they are being seriously considered. It’s important for you to establish your reference list in advance and have a list ready when the request comes in.

Tips:

  • Never use someone as a reference unless you have his or her permission.
  • Good reference choices are former bosses, co-workers, customers, professors and colleagues.
  • Do not use your parents, guardian or friends as references, as they will appear biased. Also leave off anyone you don’t get along with or jobs you’ve been fired from.
  • Keep your references up-to-date on where you stand in your job search. You don’t want them to be surprised when your interviewer calls.

Examples:


Karen Smith
Human Resources
ABC Company
Address
City, State, ZIP
Phone
Email

George Brown
Manager
XYZ Company
Address
City, State, ZIP
Phone
Email