The Professional Résumé
Résumés are what people use to get jobs, right?
Wrong! In most cases, a résumé is a one-page summary of your education, work experience, skills, and accomplishments. The main purpose of a résumé is to get your foot in the door of a potential employer by uniquely marketing yourself. The best way to do so is to outline your experience and promote your qualities geared towards the employer’s needs. A résumé does its job successfully if it does not exclude
you from consideration for the desired position, internship, or cooperative education.
However, a résumé is not just for employment, but for the entire career development process! Students need a résumé for scholarship applications, admittance into a degree-seeking program, graduate school applications, etc. Also, many alumni and career mentors ask to view a résumé if they are offering informational interviewing or job shadowing opportunities. Employers use résumés to quickly evaluate all potential new hires. Hiring managers or even computer programs briefly scan the page for key words and requirements in order to evaluate and possibly score your skills. To prepare a successful résumé, you need to know how to review, summarize, and present your experiences, skills, and achievements on preferably one page.
Before you start typing your résumé, take some time to do a self-assessment on paper. Outline your skills and abilities as well as your work experience and extracurricular activities (this will make it much easier to prepare a thorough resume). In addition, the more you know about the organization and position, the better you will be able to promote yourself by tailoring your resume to that specific position. Research the organization’s website or other employment websites and obtain detailed information about the position.
Your résumé must include the following:
- Your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address
- Your educational information
- Your previous and/or current work experience
- Your skills and additional qualifications
In addition, your résumé may include the following as well:
- A profile section (or an objective) following your personal information, but preceding any other information.
- Your work-related accomplishments, such as professional affiliations or licenses, certifications, publications, honors, awards, and military services.
- The statement “References available upon request.”
Your résumé should never include the following:
- Any personal data (i.e. birth date, marital status, religion, health information, height, weight, photograph, addresses of your references, salary information, reason for leaving previous employment, hobby
All your contact information should go at the top of your résumé. Use a permanent address or the address you plan to use after graduation. Use a permanent telephone number and include the area code as well. Add your e-mail address, because most employers will find it useful (note: choose an e-mail address that sounds professional.) When sending out your résumé, be sure to record a neutral greeting on your answering machine and/or voicemail on your cell phone.
The Profile Section
A profile section can replace the “Objective” section. Your profile should introduce the reader to your résumé by listing your strengths, competencies, and technical skills (i.e. computer skills) related to the desired position. Avoid sentences starting with “I” and limit the section to 3-4 sentences. You may also start off your profile with an objective leading into your strengths and skills (Example: “Motivated and organized business student seeking entry level management position that allows me to demonstrate my excellent communication and presentation skills, proven leadership skills and ability to work with a diverse population in a team environment”).
The Educational Information
Current students as well as recent graduates without a lot of work experience should follow the Profile section with their educational information. If you have extensive work experience related to your degree you may list your educational information after your professional experience. Your most recent degree is always listed first and should not be abbreviated. Include your major, the institution you attended, your minor (if applicable), as well as your (expected) graduation date. Add your cumulative GPA if it is 3.0 or higher. You may also mention academic honors and affiliations.
The Work Experience
Briefly but precisely give the employer an overview of your work experience in reverse chronological order - that is, put your most recent job first and work backward to your first, relevant job. Each employment entry should include: your position title; the dates of employment including the months and years; the name of your employer, the city, and the state. Include a brief description of your duties and responsibilities, but not your given job description! (Log on to O*NET Online to research tasks and typical work activities for over 1,200 job titles: http://online.onetcenter.org/)
Use action words to describe your accomplishments and job experience. Include measurable achievements and information, because they translate for a prospective employer how you will be able to benefit their organization. Use present tense to describe your current job and past tense to describe all previous positions. The dates for your current position should be your start date to “Present”.
If you have held multiple positions with a single employer choose a format that lists the employer’s name first and then your positions also in reverse chronological order. Also list the location and separate dates of employment for each position with a single employer. This format has an immediate visual impact and demonstrates your history of promotions.
Do not use company-specific jargon and spell out abbreviations or acronyms. Remember: the best way to convince a prospective employer of your potential is to demonstrate your abilities through your past accomplishments.
Feel free to include your affiliations and even awards received if they are somewhat pertinent to the requirements of the job you are seeking. You could also have one section titled “Relevant Coursework” and list courses taken that would highlight your knowledge within the field for which you are applying.
The Page Margins
Acceptable page margins for a resume are as follows:
Top and Bottom Margins: between .4” and .6”
Left and Right Margins: between .6” and .8”
These margins will ensure that your resume page looks full and professional, but also will allow the reader to hold the page without covering any information.
In general there are 3 basic formats for résumés: Chronological, Functional, and a Combination of both. There is not one format that is the best way to set up a resume. Your résumé represents you and it serves as a reflection of yourself. Therefore, choose the format that presents you in the most favorable light. (Just one short note: the most widely used résumé format is the Combination résumé, because it encompasses the best of the other two formats.)
The résumé content is listed in reverse chronological order with the most recent information recorded first. This traditional format is preferred among some conservative employers and is best suited for entry-level jobseekers or those who have stayed in the same field and progressed in their career.
The résumé content is categorized by functions, or areas of expertise and skills, rather than chronological employment order. This format de-emphasizes dates and concentrates on skills, experience and accomplishments. This works well for individuals with limited education, significant employment gaps, lack of work experience, or who are applying for a position in a field that does not match their career experience. Therefore, this format can be used by recent graduates and career changers.
The combination résumé is a contemporary résumé style. It is a hybrid of the two other formats and information is listed in sections or groupings that highlight your skills and abilities and then listed in a chronological order. The two formats may be combined in various ways that allow you to tailor the style to specific employers and positions.