Writing an Effective Resume

What is a Resume and how do I write one?

Creating an Effective Resume

Creating an Effective Resume

Essentially, it is a professional advertisement about yourself that is attempting to translate what you have done in the past into what you can accomplish in the future. In many ways, this is the most important document you’ll ever create!  Your resume needs to captivate the reader and in quick fashion.  It’s ‘goal’ is to plug yourself into the reader’s mindset and what their organizational needs are in that moment of time.

An effective resume is one that gets it right on many levels.  It needs to be visually pleasing in terms of layout, have attention grabbing content that speaks to the reader and the reader’s needs, all while with writing that is clear and concise.  

Spelling, grammar, and neatness are of paramount importance and errors of these types in a resume can be fatal to employment chances.  Remember that neatness and organization in the way your resume is presented and laid out are projections of your personality on paper.

Keep in mind that potential employers are skimming resumes, perhaps for only a few seconds each, and in the process, sorting through dozens, sometimes hundreds of resumes for one job opening! In planning for that sort of scenario, you need to make your best presentation, in as quick and easy-to-read way as possible.

Some quick tips for putting together your resume and getting started:

1)  First make a master list of all your experiences, paid, volunteer or otherwise.  You can make edits later after you consider what is most relevant in the context of your goals or the opportunity at hand.  What you’re working to create at this stage is a ‘master’ resume that will be a catch-basin for all of your professional history. Account for all of your education, employment, internships, volunteer experience, projects, and community leadership… what have you done, who did you do it for, and when did you do such?

2)  Your resume is not simply a summary of what you have accomplished in the past… it is an evolving document you will use throughout your career.  Refining and polishing your resume is an ever moving target and takes time! What are your goals and hopes when the reader looks at it? What do you need to be ready and competitive in pursuit of those opportunities and how should the experiences be worded to express such?  Use your resume as a tool to identify what skills you already have and the areas you want or need to develop.

3)  Be strategic and make put most of your time to good use.   While creating this approach for seeking a new opportunity think about what employers will be looking for.  Become involved in and out of the classroom.  While in school, seek opportunities to gain tangible experience that is complementary to your academic studies.  Bolster your experience by adding to what is primarily an academic presentation at the moment and you can differentiate yourself to a potential employer.  If employed, ask for projects to enhance your skill set, tasks that are learning experiences that you can connect and use as a springboard to your next venture – Your resume will be the tool to market these valuable skills, experiences, and accomplishments!

4)  Be honest and descriptive.  Use concise phrases to highlight and fully describe your responsibilities for each experience, but be sure not to exaggerate as this is not a time or place for literary embellishment.  Instead use dynamic words to highlight your key skills and accomplishments and never stop thinking what this prospective employer will be looking for.

5)  Remember that ultimately your resume is a unique reflection of you.  It is a verbal portrait of your experience and history. It’s what, on paper, you have to offer so again, never lose sight of the prospective employer’s needs.  Also, consider the fact that while the resume is about you, demonstrating your past & history, it really is about the employer and their needs.  It needs to be targeted and crafted with that always in mind.  It’s goal is to ‘solve a problem or fulfill a need’ for that prospective employer so in crafting it, while it IS about you, it’s about how you fit in to the organizational needs of that organization, in that moment, compared to all the other candidates!

6)  Avoid using ‘ready-made’ templates.  Microsoft Word or the variety of online offerings are often difficult to edit later as your document evolves so they can be more trouble than they are worth.  When you have finished a version for a particular opportunity, it’s not a bad idea to convert it to a pdf so that anyone you send it to will see it in the same way you meant it to be seen.  Varying iterations of Word or other programs can manifest very differently and a pdf will guarantee it always looks the same on the recipient’s end.

7)  Include your contact information, educational details, and descriptions of your experience. Make sure you put in email and phone numbers that are current, professional and that you check regularly.  If you have a voice mail message or an email signature line, keep them brief, clear and also professional.  If you have a LinkedIn account, use that address on there too so that they can (and they will) look at your profile.  On a typical resume, at least here in the States, one does not provide photos or personal information such as birthdate, marital status, family obligations, health status, faith, race, height, weight, or your social security number.

8)  Your resume is an employer’s first impression of you.  Be consistent and professional in your format and presentation – and very mindful of typos, spelling and grammatical errors.  Remember to proofread, proofread and then proofread again!


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