The main goal of any resume is to provide a brief snapshot of your basic skills, talents, and ambitions. It is usually a good idea to provide basic contact information, as well as an overview of your educational and work experience. In most cases, job applicants choose to tailor their resumes to meet the specific criteria of the job to which they are applying. This often includes industry-specific skills and past work experience that may be particularly relevant to the prospective employer.
Resumes are typically quite short — often only about a page — but they are often the first chance you will have to make an impression. As such, taking the time to carefully craft a new version for each job you are applying to is usually recommended.
At a minimum, a resume needs include information on how a prospective employer or hiring manager can reach you. This usually includes your full name, home and mobile telephone numbers, and physical address. An e-mail address is also usually a welcome addition, as many jobs that accept applications through the Internet will correspond with applicants primarily through electronic means.
Links to personal websites or online profiles can also be part of this section, so long as they are relevant. Overloading your resume with information that is not really related to your skills or job-related talents is rarely a good idea, as it can cause the employer or job recruiter to lose interest and move on to the next candidate. Listing a website that includes many of your professional articles or speaking engagements is usually encouraged, for instance, but a personal blog with pictures of family and friends should usually be left off.
Education and Degrees Earned
Employers are almost always interested in knowing about applicants’ educational backgrounds. As such, you should clearly state where you attended college or university, as well as the degree or degrees you earned. Any graduate work you have completed should be highlighted, as well, and listing the title of any master’s theses or doctoral dissertations is often helpful in providing a snapshot of the specialized knowledge you bring.
Filling out the education section might be hard if you are still in school, or have only recently graduated. Including your grade point average can be one way of setting a resume apart, as can listing completed courses that may have particular relevance to job you are applying to.
Job Search Objective
Many applicants choose to follow up on their educational qualifications with a brief statement of why, exactly, they are seeking the advertised job. This is usually known as an “objective.”
When objectives are included, they are usually quite specific. Simply saying that you want the job is not very compelling, but something that describes how you hope to use your particular skills to meet a defined end in the employer’s industry can be quite convincing. The main goal is to augment a profile, not state the obvious.
Nearly all resumes also include a brief work history section. Applicants who are new to the job market often include volunteer efforts or part-time work; those who are more experienced should usually only include the most recent jobs held. Normally, resumes need not go back more than 10 years in a long job history unless a job before that time cultivated skills of particular benefit to the new employer.
It is usually a good idea to include a brief description of the type of work you did in each of your former jobs, as well as any major responsibilities you assumed. While it can be tempting to provide a lot of details, usually just a sentence or two for each job is best.
Depending on the job, it might also be worthwhile to list specific skills such as typing speed, phone communication, or public speaking experience. Industry-specific certifications or licenses could also be listed in this section.
Personality and Learning Style
Some people include information about personality type on their resumes. A number of companies use strengths assessment or emotional quotient tests to screen applicants, which can make this sort of information both relevant and helpful. Applicants often begin by listing a few of their strengths, such as analytical thinking, assertive leadership, and goal-oriented work ethic. Taking a personality test at a career center or online can be a good place to get started.
Length and Formatting Considerations
Different industries have different protocols, but in most cases a resume should not exceed a single page in length. It is usually a good idea to avoid overly descriptive language, focusing instead on the few core ideas that you are trying to get across. Most recruitment experts recommend an economy of both space and language.
It can be tempting for job applicants to get creative with their formatting by using colors, graphics, and different fonts and stylings. In some settings — graphic design, for instance — this can actually be an asset. Deviating from standard formatting is not usually recommended, however, and a simple, clean layout is almost always preferable. The most successful resumes stand out on their merits, not on their formatting.
Intersection with the Cover Letter
Most of the time, applicants send their resumes alongside a cover letter. The cover letter is the place for expanded discussion of your qualifications and aptitudes. In most cases, the two pieces are designed to go together, and are written so as to complement each other. Including a detailed cover letter allows you to be more efficient in your resume without worrying that important explanations are being lost.