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A Dozen Tips for Writing Your Resume

Posted on 19 August 2008

1. Don’t be vague, and be sure to customize your resume for each employer. The inability to do this online accounts for some of the low return rate for online applications. Anytime you try to do a one-size-fits-all approach (by agency, computer, or just passing a resume around an organization courtesy of a friend), you lose the all-important opportunity to craft the resume to fit a particular position.

2. Don’t be long-winded. Be pithy and keep it to one or two pages unless you want a job in academia, research or the arts.

3. Don’t confuse a resume and a curriculum vitae. The latter is for employers who will want to know all about what you’ve studied, taught, written, researched, exhibited. Resume readers want a quick summary of what you’ve done with just enough detail to let them know the depth of your skills. The rest they’ll find out in the interview. If you drown them in verbiage, you’ll never get to the interview.

4. Students and recent grads should highlight their studies. Put your education up top and include relevant courses.

5. Find out which skills the employer is seeking and be sure to showcase them. If you’re short on actual job experience, include a Highlights or Skills Summary section to editorialize about yourself a little.

6. Be clear about what you want. If you intend to be both a full-time student and a full-time employee, for instance, this might be a turnoff for some employers. You don’t want to waster their time — or yours.

7. Use verb phrases, not sentences. You’re not writing a school essay or an editorial for the local paper, so don’t fret about having complete sentences. Phrases such as these will work well for the purposes of a resume: “Conceived campaign for student elections,” “Created online student newspaper,” “Initiated weekly meetings for minority students.”

8. Use dates to show when you did things. Refrain from vague references such as “one year”.

9. Never overlook spelling errors or typos. That’s a one-way trip to the circular file. Check and recheck. Typos and spelling errors usually occur when you try to do something at the last minute, so always leave enough time.

10. Have an Experience section. For new grads without much work experience, this is preferable to having a section titled “Employment,” because you can include internships, class projects and independent study under the former, but not the latter.

11. Tailor the objective to a given position or leave it out altogether. Objectives are helpful when you’re trying to show the relationship between your skills and a particular position, but they merely annoy when they say inane things like “a challenging position suited to my education and skills.”

12. Don’t be a poet. Poets don’t write resumes; they write and rewrite poems and enter contests. It’s unlikely that flowery writing will serve you well on your resume.

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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Resume Tips says:

    Number one offers excellent advice. Customization is definitely key to helping your resume stand out and it let’s the employer know that they are worthy of much more than a “form Letter.” Just think back to the last time you received a “dear resident” letter or a “dear sir” letter. Chances are you tossed it before reading the first line! If at all possible, find out the contact persons full name (be careful with spelling) and the correct address. You will be surprised at how something that’s seemingly small can have a big impact on employers.

    Resume to Referral
    Resume and Career Services

  2. Resume Docket says:

    Great tips. Totally agree with Resume Tips also. Customizing your resumes to the jobs applied for dramatically increase your chances for an interview.

  3. Jay says:

    Should a job seeker:

    1) write his or her own resume?

    2) hire someone to write for them?

    3) use some automated fill in the blanks software or builder?

    I’m in the industry so I have strong opinions on this, but how does the average job seeker see these options?

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