In this tough market, it's crucial to have a job resume that really stands out from the pack. Your resume is your calling card, and it includes employment history and a list of accomplishments all compiled on one sheet of paper. On top of that, your resume has a very brief window of time to create an impression on a potential employer. Unfortunately, most resumes run the gamut of bland to wordy to just plain wrong. Use these tips to create a resume or cv that really rocks!
Let's start with the basics. Every resume should have the following characteristics:
- Include your name and current contact information in an easily-read format.
- When in doubt, use 12 pt fonts. Anything smaller is difficult to read.
- Use spell check.
- Don't do anything fancy or cute; play it safe and stick to simplicity and professionalism. There are some careers, especially in the arts, where you can be a little creative. But for most of us, staying professional and conservative is best.
- For a printed resume, use high-quality paper and have it printed on a laser printer (if possible). For an email resume, make sure it is formatted properly.
- Check online for sample resume formats if you are unsure where to begin.
- Focus on your own accomplishments.
Watch Your Language
Choose your words carefully for maximum impact:
- Use proper grammar. Use the grammar check option on your word processing program if you are unsure of your own abilities.
- Use appropriate keywords. Most potential employers specify exactly what they're looking for in an ad, so be very specific. If the ad says "Must know Adobe Acrobat," make sure your resume includes that specific term.
- Use action words. It's easy to slip into the passive voice in resumes, so be sure to use verbs that really describe your work. Some examples of strong action verbs are "launched," "accomplished" or "negotiated."
Be Clear, Be Brief
Your resume has a very brief time frame to make an impression. Make the best of this by being clear and concise:
- Don't list every single thing you have done since high school. Tailor your resume to include only your relevant experiences, and summarize those experiences briefly.
- Emphasize your accomplishments; don't simply list your job duties. Employers assume you were able to do your job, and they want to know what you brought to your jobs instead. For example, if you streamlined the ordering process at your previous job by implementing a new type of software, spotlight that success on your resume.
- Write clearly and concisely, and try to use as few words as possible. For example, instead of saying "I set up a new ordering system by researching and locating better software," try "Streamlined the ordering process by implementing a new software system."
- Use bullet points to break your resume up into easy to read lists.
If you are unsure about your resume or cv, ask a friend or mentor to look it over and make suggestions. There are also professional resume services out there if you are in need of extra help. It is worthwhile to make a few drafts and ask for assistance if you need it. Taking the time to craft a polished resume may just earn you the job of your dreams!
There is also a ton of samples and information about resumes and cvs at CVTips.com.
_____________________________Sarah Baker is a documentary filmmaker and writer currently living in New Bern, NC. Her first book, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, will be published December 2009. Read more about her.