Resumes for Dummies

In today's fast pace world, some individuals don't have time to read through pages of information.  The "Just tell me what I need to know?" attitude prevails.  That's what resumes for dummies is all about.

In this article, we're going to provide just enough information to help individuals get started in the right direction.  In fact, we've broken down the entire resume-writing process into just five simple steps.  While we've decided to address the needs of the "dummies" population, it's important to issue this word of warning before starting.

Resume Writing

The primary function of a resume is to document work experience and communicate it to others.  A resume is really not the place to cut corners.

Career Assessments

The first place to start is with a career assessment.  The assessment process can be as simple or as complex as needed.  A simple approach is to put together a list of the factors that are important in a job, and rate different types of jobs against those criteria.

At the other end of the spectrum, it's possible to hire a personal career assessment coach that will walk through a series of aptitude and personality tests aimed at finding the ideal job.  A personal coach might be appropriate for highly paid executives with a lot of time to figure out what they want to do in the future.  Individuals looking for a simple approach can pull out some paper and make a list.

Resume Formats

Once the ideal job has been identified, the next step is to figure out the correct resume format to use.  The career assessment can help to figure out if it's time to switch professions, or continue down the path already started.  Each resume format has its own strengths and weaknesses, which is important to understand before starting the document.


The chronological resume format is the most common style in use today.  At the heart of this format is a reverse chronological listing of work experience.  The format is good to use if the job applicant is continuing down the same career path, and they don't have any significant employment gaps; times when they were unemployed.


The functional resume format is a great choice for individuals with very little work experience, or with significant gaps in their employment history.  The functional format emphasizes what has been learned and the skills acquired, not where the writer has worked.  Some hiring managers are uneasy when they look at this format because they like to know where a job candidate has worked in the past.  The functional resume is also a good choice for anyone looking to switch careers.


Last, but not least, is the combination resume format.  Arguably the most marketable of all styles, the combination resume starts by outlining the skills and knowledge acquired, and finishes up with a listing of work history.  This is a good choice for individuals with rich work experience and the format can also be used to make a transition to a new type of career.

Templates and Samples

Once the correct format has been identified, the next step is to find resume samples, or templates, that illustrate these strengths and weaknesses.  This website has examples for all three resume formats, and even templates that users can download.

Cover Letters

A cover letter usually accompanies a resume, and is written to provide an introduction to the job applicant's skills and services.  Don't underestimate the power of an effective cover letter.  If the letter is of poor quality, the hiring manager or recruiter might not even bother reading the resume.  This website has a number of cover letter samples that users can download too.

Resume Distribution Services

Once a resume and cover letter have been prepared, it's time to get noticed.  There are basically three ways to distribute a resume:

  • Passive:  the most common example of passive distribution is posting to a job search website such as  This is considered passive because the job hunter is relying on companies and recruiters to find their resume among the millions on these websites.
  • Resume Blasting:  much like the direct mail business, resume blasting relies on sheer numbers to get results.  Blasting distributes a resume electronically to many email addresses.  The more resumes sent to individuals, the higher the likelihood that someone will respond.  This technique is oftentimes deemed as sending unwanted email, and may be categorized as spam if not done correctly.
  • Resume Distribution Services:  the final approach is to use a resume distribution service.  This approach uses a database to target the individuals that are subsequently sent a copy of the document.  The number of resumes sent is much lower, but the list is more targeted, so it's more likely to generate a higher response rate than blasting.

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