Resumes are of critical importance to anyone looking for a job. Composing a resume that gets results doesn't happen by chance. It may be part art and part science, but following a prescribed format will increase the writer's prospects of being invited to a job interview.
When writing a resume, it needs to stand out from the rest of the crowd. The competition in today's job market is fierce, so the document needs to make a lasting impression, and move the reader to take action. Selecting a format that highlights strengths and does not bring attention to potential weaknesses is imperative.
It's important to go through a systematic check to make the process of writing a resume as efficient as possible. A mistake many individuals make is to sit down and start typing without a plan; hoping the finished product is a good one. This is not a very efficient way to go about writing a resume. The correct process is straightforward, and only involves five steps:
There are only three resume formats in use today: chronological, functional and combination; each one has its strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, the choice comes down to only two factors: the objective of the job search, and the writer's depth of work experience. For example, the objective might be to move into a position of greater authority, or the writer might be looking to switch careers. New workers will tend to have fewer options than more experienced employees.
The functional resume style is a good format for students that are right out of college or anyone that has very little work experience. This format emphasizes the writer's skills, knowledge, and accomplishments. Unfortunately, this style can make some employers uncomfortable, since there is no formal account of prior work history.
Perhaps the most traditional of the three formats, the chronological resume style places work experience early in the document in reverse chronological order. This makes potential employers or recruiters feel more at ease about the job applicant's work history. Anyone with employment gaps, or looking to make a career change, has better choices.
This is arguably the most marketable of the three formats. The combination resume style leads with a functional arrangement, and finishes up with a chronological account of prior work experience. This format gives the writer the best of the earlier mentioned styles, and is well-suited to individuals that have a great deal of experience.
While each of the three formats mentioned above contain links to more detailed information, the following list contains the essential elements of a combination resume, which borrows from the other two styles:
The second step in writing a resume involves organizing content. This is a step that people often skip and regret later on. One approach to gathering this information is to assess strengths and weaknesses. Individuals that have been working for a while can pull out the feedback received in the past. This can be a Myers Briggs personality test, a survey completed by peers, or even a recent performance appraisal. Anyone right out of school can take a look at their courses completed.
Reflect on compliments received from peers, and make a list of strengths and weaknesses. Write down the work done in the past that was fulfilling. Look for patterns in the information, and don't rush this exercise.
The third step involves reading several resume examples to help generate fresh ideas. Preferably, these examples will be in the same format chosen in the first step of this guide. Analyzing resume samples can help spark new ideas, and act as reminders of past accomplishments. At least one example of each style appears in the following article: Resume Writing Samples.
The process of making an excellent resume doesn't stop after all of the information elements have been written and organized. The next step in the process involves refining the information as well as the words on the document. This is sometimes referred to as polishing a resume.
The process goes through several steps, as outlined by a simple three "B" technique:
The last step in the making of a great resume involves proofreading the document. When writing a resume, it's easy to overlook a mistake. That's why newspapers and magazines have line editors on staff. A great proofreader needs to look for proper word usage, correct grammar, as well as punctuation.
If possible, someone besides the writer should proofread the document. If that's not possible, the writer should review the resume over time. Proofreading "tricks" include reading the document from the end to beginning, and / or printing the document and using a ruler to expose one line at a time.
When choosing a proofreader for a resume, it's best to pick a trusted and knowledgeable friend, significant other, or relative. Unless it's acceptable for an employer to know the writer is looking for a job, the proofreader should never be a coworker, even a trusted one.
Finally, while it might seem frugal to print on both sides of the paper, don't do it. It's also acceptable to use more than one page for a resume. Use fonts in the 10 to 14 point range, using the larger ones to highlight important sections of the resume; pick one style and stick to it. The recommended fonts include Arial, Calibri and Times New Roman. Bolding can be used sparingly, but try to stay away from italics or other decorative styles.
Oftentimes a lack of inspiration will prevent writers from being able to express their thoughts on paper. This website has a number of resources that can help generate new ideas, and hopefully inspire individuals to re-write their resumes:
About the Author - How to Write a Resume (Last Reviewed on February 18, 2017)