Resume Writing 101
Your resume is a brief history of your accomplishments that you prepare for potential employers. A good resume is:
- Clear. Effectively state your skills and experience in a concise, easy-to-read manner.
- Well-Organized. Employers should see your strong points at a glance.
- Dynamic. Content and action verbs should enliven your resume and engage the employer.
- Your resume should be designed with one thing in mind – to get you job interviews.
- Name as you want to be referred to professionally. Example: Grace Evelyn Goodwin. Grace E. Goodwin. Gracie Goodwin.
- Current address and phone number with area code. Where you can be reached now.
- Permanent address and phone number with area code. If you will be in different locations during your search, use an address of someone who will always know how to reach you. This could be a family address.
- Email address. Use your school address (if a non-graduate), or create a new professional email. Example: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For each degree-conferring institution
- Degree/Certification and date obtained. Example: Bachelor of arts degree in education, May 20xx.
- Concentration/Emphasis/Minors and date obtained. Example: Reading endorsement, May 20xx.
- Institution, City, State and GPA (if above 3.0). Example: Clarke university; Dubuque, IA, GPA: 3.2/4.0.
- Any specialized certifications like teaching, CNA, etc. EXPERIENCE
This part of your resume may include several sections such as work experience, volunteer experience like internships, community service, and student teaching, campus leadership, and any area in which you may have significant experience, such as publications/presentations or knowledge.
Briefly describe each position:
- Job Title, Organization Name, Location, and Dates.
- Bullet points: Use a variety of action words to describe situations and achievements – What did you do and how did you stand out? Include scope of responsibility such as: Trained eight student workers.
- Concretely outline outstanding results like projects completed or significant improvements
ACTIVITIES AND DISTINCTIONS
Front load these with those most important or most pertinent to your career goal. You may want to use specific headings such as professional organizations, computer skills, and leadership positions. Include any relevant honors, scholarships or recognition awards that you have received. if you were actively involved in any clubs, teams or committees while in college, those may be included also. The key to this section is keeping it brief.
The trend is to keep away from any extraneous information that does not clearly connect to your career goal. However, if you are applying for a position in which you have experience through a hobby or volunteering, you may want to consider adding it to your resume.
POLISHING IT UP
Once you have all of your information down on paper, decide which experiences are directly related to your objective, which are not and which are questionable, and edit accordingly. The questionable information can be used only if there is room, otherwise stick with the directly related experiences.
THE COVER LETTER
Effective cover letters convey a sense of purpose, project enthusiasm for the position or program and demonstrate your knowledge of the employer or graduate program’s goals and needs.
Remember that your cover letter not only accompanies your resume, it is typically the first to be seen. To make a positive first impression, your cover letter should be neat, concise, use correct spelling and grammar, and be customized to the position you are applying for.
COVER LETTER BREAKDOWN
HEADING AND SALUTATION
- Your contact information (formatted like your resume)
- Date cover letter is being sent
- Recipient name, company name and address
- Salutation to the recipient
- State purpose of letter
- Indicate your interest in the position and company
- Catch attention
- Flatter your audience by using company/ program information found through research
- Explain how your background makes you qualified
- Use specific achievements to show this
- Highlight information found in the resume but do not simply repeat your resume
- Indicate your intentions for follow-up
- Repeat a number where you may be reached
THE REFERENCE PAGE
The term reference refers to a person who may be asked to talk about your skills, experience and work ethic. A potential employer may call a reference and ask questions about you. A reference may be asked to write a letter of recommendation as well.
When choosing your references, ask individuals who will provide honest, candid, and positive recommendations.
CHOOSING YOUR REFERENCES
Select professional references. Unless requested, do not select friends to serve as “character” references. Ask people with whom you have worked, people who know your skills, abilities and career goals.
When asking people to serve as references, give them a copy of your resume. Ask them for advice or feedback. Talk to them about your career goals. This way, they are more prepared to talk to a potential employer in a helpful way.
Remember that people have busy lives. If there are deadlines for writing letters or completing forms, be sure to tell your references. Check in with them if necessary. While doing so, be respectful and gracious of their other obligations.
Always follow up with your references when you have accepted a position. Send them a thank you note telling them about your new opportunity.
LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
Letters of recommendation are written evaluations of an individual’s performance, whether at work or in the classroom. This information is an integral part of the world of work and education. Communication of this information is necessary and appropriate. Often, references are requested to convey this information through a written document.
- Avoid using reference templates. They are generally restricting.
- Use 10-12 point font. Anything smaller is hard to read and anything larger looks unprofessional.
- List information in chronological order. Within each heading, from most recent to least.
- Add hierarchy by bolding headers and job titles. It will focus the employer’s eyes to what you’ve done.
- Spell check and grammar check. Have others look over your resume to be sure you have caught everything.