Create a Killer Resume and Cover Letter

Tips for Writing an Effective Resume

Table of Contents  
  1. A Few Resume Resources:

Your resume is the single most important document for your job search and writing it can be a very challenging task.  There are hundreds of resume formats and countless resume resource sites available, all of which makes it even more difficult to decide the best format and content for an effective resume.

While you may consider paying for professional resume help (more on that later), no one can actually write your resume for you. You can get help with formats and fine-tuning the content, but only you know the details of your experience and skills.

Some Tips:

  • Less is more – Including all of your skills and experience is key, but if your resume is too long, no one will read the entire document.  Try to keep it to one page, unless you have more than ten years of experience with several companies.

  • Education – You should (obviously) include your education.  If you are a recent grad, you may want to put this at the top of the resume and include your GPA.  If you have 5 or more years of experience, your education should be at the bottom of the resume and you don’t need to include GPA (although many employers like to see this).

  • Extra-curricular Activities – Include what you like to do in your spare time, especially if there is any volunteer work.  Sports, community activities and hobbies should be considered.

  • Resume Delivery Format – Can Your Resume be Scanned? – PDFs are the best delivery format (what you see is what you get, no need to worry about issues with MS Word or other word processing programs.  Most recruiters and HR departments use internet spiders that can unpack and read your resume in real time, online. Moreover, some services scan your resume and post it in their resume database for a potential job interview match. Scanable resumes could potentially score you a few interviews you would never expect and as a result may positively effect your future career.

  • Triple Check Your Resume – Spelling and grammatical errors are unacceptable. Failure to check your resume for spelling errors is, well, just dumb. You’ve probably looked at your resume dozens of times and may not catch obvious errors. Your friends, family and recruiters can help review your resume and offer advice.

  • Include Your Accomplishments – While hiring managers do want to know your responsibilities, they really want to know what you’ve accomplished.  This includes saving money, finding efficiencies, creating new sales opportunities, etc.

  • Multiple Resumes – The concept of multiple resumes may sound strange, but if you have experience in several different areas you may want to consider having resumes that target specific aspects of your experience. The biggest factor driving multiple resumes is the depth and diversity of your job experience. The more diverse your work experience, the more likely you will need multiple resumes. Much depends on your and what is driving your job search. If you are interested in several different career paths, then you should have one resume version for each job function. Keep in mind that “too much of a good thing” applies to resumes as well. Many versions is hard to manage. See “versions” below.

A Few Resume Resources:

Some of my own thoughts:

  1. As mentioned above, it is not unusual to have different versions of your resume depending on the type of position (although all factual content should be the same)

  2. Most resume posting sites, headhunters/recruiters and company career sites scan electronic resumes for keywords.  Ensure your resume contains the action words which best describe your background and skills.

  3. Resume posting sites (and employers/recruiters who use them) scan for the newest resumes first.  You should periodically refresh your resume so that it gets noticed.

  4. Not covered in this post (but will be in a future post) are the career centers and most universities and colleges.  You should try to leverage these career centers at the university or college where you graduated.  Most have online sites as well.  Many allow some access even if you are not an alumni.

  5. Whether you use a fee based service or not, ask your friends and family to review your resume.

  6. Last, but not least, your resume should be perfect – no spelling errors, no grammatical errors, all prior work experience and educational degrees MUST be factual (they will check, sometimes after you’ve already started working at the company)

Suggested ReadingThe Resume Writing Guide: A Step-by-Step Workbook for Writing a Winning Resume

We are always eager to hear from our readers. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or suggestions regarding CareerAlley content.

Good luck in your search,

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