Resume Tips

Your resume provides potential employers their first look at your talent, skills and experience. Make it count with these tools and tips for building a resume that gets noticed.

Golden rules of resume writing

These resume-writing guidelines apply to every individual, regardless of the industry, professional level or job of interest.
You should …

  • Customize your resume
    • Tailor resume for each position.
    • Focus on employer's needs, identifying how individual skills & accomplishments meet/exceed their requirement.

  • Practice brevity - keep it short
    • Make resumes one to two pages long.
    • Write qualifications & accomplishments in concise bullet points that can be read quickly.
    • Select words with care and avoid run-on sentences. Read every sentence out loud. If you find yourself gasping for breath, break the sentence in two.

  • Showcase your achievements
    • Mention at least two or three of your top achievements within the top third of page one–this is the most valuable real estate on your resume.

  • Use action words
    • To add life to your resume, use bulleted sentences that begin with action words like prepared, developed, monitored, presented, etc.

  • Match your resume with the position
    • Review want ads for positions that interest you. Use the key words listed in these ads to match them to bullets in your resume.

  • Make it readable
    • Select an easy-to-read font & type size–no less than 11 points.
    • Leave some white space, rather than a full page of text, with no breaks.
    • Use a standard font if sending resume via e-mail. And, to preserve formatting, send the resume as an attachment, rather than cutting and pasting into the e-mail text box.

  • Edit & proof your resume
    • Read resumes carefully–check spelling, grammar and punctuation.
    • Send to friends, a mentor or a career counselor to review.

  • Think quality
    • Use good quality paper stock.
    • Select white or cream-colored paper

Plan before you write
Use the following outline for your resume:

1. Contact heading
Name, address, phone, e-mail address

2. Career objective
Clear, brief, specific

3. Summary statement
A bulleted list of your key skills & qualifications
Example: Accounting & Finance professional

  • CPA
  • Experience includes: Big 4 accounting firm background, project budgeting and reporting, SEC reporting and cost accounting and cash flow analysis

4. Work history
Include specific results for which you were personally responsible, with supporting data

  • Use action verbs and quantify your experience as much as possible.
  • Cite sales goals achieved, production volumes increased, lines of code debugged, number of employees managed, revenues increased, etc.

5. Education
College degrees, relevant courses or workshops, list of internal or corporate training courses completed

6. Optional information
Relevant memberships, awards, publications, certificates, etc.

7. Personal statement
An overview of the personal characteristics that make you an excellent candidate for the job.

The mistakes of resume writing.  Check to make sure your resume does not contain any of these pitfalls.

Never …

  • Lie
    • Employers can and do verify resume facts. Lying about job titles, dates of employment, awards or inflating statistics, financial figures, or numbers of employees supervised will definitely catch up with you in the end.

  • Get personal
    • Do not include personal information. By law, employers can’t factor race, gender or age into hiring decisions.

  • Get messy
    • Nothing turns off employers more than a messy resume. Misspellings, poor grammar, boring or lazy page designs all say to the reader,  This person did not care enough to take the time to do it right.’

  • Be inconsistent
    • Job hopping and presenting work experience in various fields can be disconcerting and raise red flags about your ability to stick with a job for any length of time. If you have moved about and changed fields over the years, group these positions by category (a functional resume style) rather than by date.

  • List duties without results
    • Don't fill your resume with a laundry list of duties and responsibilities … then expect busy employers to read between the lines and realize your value. Blatantly spell out why someone should hire you. This means you must focus on achievements and results.

  • Talk salary
    • Do not mention previous or expected salaries unless an employer asks for it

Put your best skills forward
Your resume should reflect how your skills and accomplishments have made workplaces more organized, more efficient and more productive. If you are having trouble identifying specific achievements or responsibilities, consider the following questions:

Have you ...

  • Restructured or reorganized a work environment or organization system (such as a filing system, database or storage facility)?
  • Trained other staff members on a process or workplace tool?
  • Managed any major events or critical company projects?
  • Received any service awards or promotions?
  • Increased sales or revenues by effective marketing techniques?

Did you ...

  • Create any organizational processes (such as systems for scheduling meetings or sharing resources)?
  • Streamline any workflow processes?
  • Work with popular software and hardware technologies?
  • Support any special projects? Marketing initiatives? Events? Communications?
  • Implement new technologies or procedures?
  • Once you have gathered your answers to these questions, you will have the results-oriented resume employers want to see.
A whole new world

Going paperless – the advantages
Emailing your resume or applying online are becoming the preferred methods for employers and search firms to receive resumes today for many reasons:

  • It’s faster than paper processing
    Not only does a paper resume take time, but it may also take several days to be converted to electronic format if there’s a backlog in scanning.
  • Faxed resumes are hard to scan accurately
    It could be uploaded with errors that prevent the resume from being retrieved.
  • It’s cheaper
    Not only is the cost of mailing increasing, but it also costs the employers to convert the resume to electronic format.
  • Distribution is easier
    HR recruiters can quickly review the contents of an emailed resume and forward it to the relevant hiring managers. E-mail speeds distribution within the organization.
  • Immediately searchable
    When e-mailed or uploaded directly to the organization's resume database, it's immediately available for any searches being performed.
  • Displays your skills
    Sending your resume electronically (whether by uploading to the organization’s Web site or e-mailing) demonstrates PC skills. Conversely, sending a resume via "snail mail" suggests (whether fairly or not) that you are PC illiterate.

Make it readable

Not so long ago, the only decision you needed to make regarding your resume was whether to mail it, fax it or hand it to a contact. As long as it arrived, it really didn't matter how it got there. Today, you have to make decisions about:

  • Which resume format to use (Word, ASCII or HTML)
  • How to make your electronic resume stand out
  • How keywords can increase your chances of an employer locating your electronic resume
  • What resume to use when employers use automated resume management systems
  • How to submit (mail, fax, e-mail, upload to the employer's Web site or hand deliver)

Sending your resume in a format the potential employer can’t open or read is a sure-fire way to land your resume in the “toss” pile. Put yours in a format appropriate for that particular employer. Below you’ll find a comparison of the following formats and when to use each:

  • Word-processed
  • ASCII (plain text)
  • HTML

Screening Technologies
How are they screening you?

Your paper resume could end up being stored in a database without your knowledge. Employers are using several technologies to screen. Let's take a closer look at the technologies being used. “Resume readers” can be categorized as “human” or “computer” readers.

  • Traditional screening
    At one end of the spectrum, there's traditional paper sorting and human screening. Some companies hire the same way today as they did 10 years ago.
  • Skill-based screening
    Leading-edge employers are beginning to adopt “skill-based screening,” which involves a series of job-specific questions applicants must answer online in addition to, or sometimes instead of, submitting a resume. These questions are designed to filter out all but the most qualified candidates.
  • Applicant tracking/resume management
    These tracking systems offer the recruiter some form of electronic storage and retrieval of your resume using keywords.

Standing Out

Remember, technology doesn’t replace human screening. After automated systems have sorted and ranked candidates, a person will verify that you meet the requirements and should be invited to the next step.

There's a wide range of practices being used, from traditional to hi-tech. As a job seeker, you need to quickly assess how sophisticated the organization is and adapt accordingly.

Tips for responding:

  • Assess the employer's screening methods by visiting its Web site. If there's an option to upload a resume, assume there's a resume management system on the backend of the Web site.
  • If the position is published online, be sure to apply online where this option is offered.
  • Don't mail or fax a resume unless these are the only options offered.
  • Make sure your electronic resume is keyword searchable.
  • Don't rely on your cover letter when it comes to keywords. Cover letters will seldom be searched, even if they are stored electronically with your resume.

More and more employers today are using technology to ease the manual process of sorting through hundreds of resumes to find candidates whose qualifications meet the job description.
Applicant tracking or resume management systems offer the recruiter electronic storage and retrieval of your resume–using keywords. An electronic search pulls up only the resumes that contain certain keywords relevant to the open position. Those people are then contacted for an interview.

To make sure your resume makes the cut, create a keyword summary at the top of your resume. Additional keywords should also be used elsewhere in your resume, where it makes sense, and in your cover letter. Follow the tips below to ensure your keyword summary compliments your electronic resume.

Creating a keyword summary
Your keyword summary should list approximately 50-100 nouns and noun phrases that will produce hits on your resume when keyword searches are performed. Your goal is to catalog all relevant keywords in your field. The summary should:

  • Maximize the potential for retrieving your resume from the resume bank
  • Get a high ranking for your resume (when sophisticated resume management systems are being used to store your resume)
  • Print a copy of your resume.
  • Highlight any words that you think might be retrieved via a keyword search.
  • Use the keywords worksheet at the end of this section to help you list all possible keywords. Don't worry about the number of words, or the order of them, just yet.
  • Jot down ideas as they occur to you. The following examples are designed to stimulate your thinking
  • Narrow the list to the top 50 - 100 keywords and organize these into groups (or themes).
  • The organization of your keyword summary does not matter to the computer that searches for keywords. However, once retrieved, a person will perform a final screening, so it needs to be readable.
  • Keywords should also convey to the reader that careful thought went into its content, even though the appearance may give the impression these words were randomly committed to paper!