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Writing Your Resume

This document is designed to provide information about resume basics. It will get you started by defining the resume and explaining how it is used, by describing content information typically included, and by discussing formats and visual appeal. Please note that there is no right way to write a resume. There are a number of different models and expert opinions on the subject; you will be best served by drawing from many styles to settle upon the format that best showcases your background for the position(s) for which you are applying.

DEFINITION AND PURPOSE

The resume is a valuable marketing tool in the job search. The successful resume is:

  • a brief, positive statement of your work related skills, experiences and education
  • designed to capture employer interest so that she or he will want to interview you.

Note: As you prepare your resume, always think about the employer’s perspective!

Employers:

  • read resumes in 20-30 seconds
  • read 100’s per day
  • want to know specifically how you will add to their organization
  • expect you to advertise your strengths and will not assume anything about you
  • are interested in what you have to give, not what you have to gain.

Employers review resumes looking for evidence of certain skills and characteristics which are documented on your resume.

Employers are looking for people who:

  • can do the job (show related past accomplishments, evidence of skills
  • are dependable (may be demonstrated by a good G.P.A. or work history)
  • get along with others (may be demonstrated by leadership positions, sports, clubs, other jobs
  • know how to present a positive impression (may be demonstrated by visual appeal of resume
  • want the job being offered (show relevant experiences, specific career objective)

Everything in your resume should be included for a deliberate purpose; resumes are not comprehensive biographies, but rather, are ads designed to capture the attention of employers. The information provided should be relevant to their needs. Since different employers have different interests, it may be advantageous to design different resumes for different types of employers or positions.

CONTENT

The following information is typically included in a resume. Remember that the best way for you to write your resume will vary according to your background and the kinds of organizations and positions you are interested in. You will find that there are very few rules to resume writing. What you write and how you write it will depend on your background, your target audience, and your personal taste. You are encouraged to create sections which better reflect your background and your job target. Your goal is to showcase your experiences in a meaningful way for the employers you are targeting.

Heading/Content Information

In this section, include your name, address and telephone number. If you cannot leave a day time phone number, consider investing in an answering machine. You may also include a e-mail address if you have one and check it regularly.

The contact information needs to be clearly visible to make it easy for the employer to contact you.

The Heading is a section where you may be more visually creative.

Employers often keep resumes for 6 months, so give appropriate contact information.
Career Objective

The career objective is a brief statement of your short term employment goals.

The Big Debate

Job hunting specialists disagree as to whether or not it is necessary to include a career objective on your resume; however, the experts do agree that you will write a better resume and have a more successful job search if you define what you are looking for. A general resume does not appeal to any specific employer.

The objective statement gives you focus. It clearly communicates your interest to the employer. Your experiences may not be directly related, but if an employer reads your objective first, the rest of the resume will be read with that in mind and he or she may be able to make connections more easily. The career objective is the thesis statement of your resume. It helps to articulate the skills, experiences and education you will bring to the job.

Most employers find objective statements helpful. They like to see what you want to do in their organization; employers do not want to be career counselors.

Support your career objective statement with experience. For example, if you say you have “interpersonal communication skills,” cite evidence of interpersonal communication skills in your work, academic and/or community experiences.

A career objective must be focused to be effective. Omitting the career objective is better than using one that is vague or does not fit. Focus your objective by:

  • Position: position as elementary school teacher
  • Functional Area: position in marketing
  • Industry/Field: position in investment banking
  • Skills: position utilizing my research and written communication skills
  • Type of Organization: position in small consulting firm

Some combination of the above areas often results in an effective objective.

You can have more than one. Create separate resumes with different objective statements for different positions or employers.

Education

Use this section to help the employer see how your academics have prepared you for the job.

List current/degree granting institution, type of degree and program of study, year degree earned or expected, and the city and state where the institution is located.

List other universities or colleges you have attended following the same format. These may be omitted if irrelevant and/or if space is limited.

Omit High School unless it is your highest level of formal education.

GPA may be listed and should be if it is a selling point. If it is below 3.0, consider leaving it off as some employers will screen by this criteria (some may have a higher or lower cutoff). If you do not include it, the employer may wonder, “Is it Really Low?”

You may also list your GPA in your major or for your junior/senior year, if those figures are stronger, just to be clear to indicate how you calculated the GPA. In time, many employers will want to see transcripts. You should be prepared to discuss academics/grades in a positive way at any point–do not try to evade GPA questions. Be direct and not apologetic.

Under Education, you also may list:

  • minor or area of concentration
  • course highlights
  • independent study courses
  • thesis name (if you have one)
  • study abroad
  • honors or scholarships
  • how you funded college expenses
  • training seminars

Experience

What Counts? Think broadly about your experience. The experience section may include: paid or volunteer, full-time or part-time, summer or school year work, co-curricular positions, internships, work-study positions, self-run business (sales, lawn care, etc.), class projects–anything which might help the employer to see that you have related skills.

How to List? Choose experiences most important to you and most relevant to the type of work you want to do. Be sure to include:

  • Name of the organization
  • Your job title or role
  • City and state located
  • Dates involved
  • Summary of your responsibilities and accomplishments

How to Describe? Be positive, active, and accurate, using verbs and verbal phrases to describe your experience. Describe your positions positively without exaggeration. Employers will easily see through elaborate ways to describing basic tasks. Emphasize relevant skills, highlight accomplishments and leadership roles, and quantify when possible.

Activities

Involvement is generally perceived as positive. Listing involvements may show your interests, commitments, energy level, leadership ability, management ability and/or communication skills.

Include campus and community involvement.

List the name of the organization, dates, and your type and level of involvement. If very substantial, consider listing in the Experience section. You may wish to include brief descriptions as you did in the Experience section. Names of committees or budget figures may add helpful details.

Do not list a club if you did not actively participate. Employers are interested in meaningful experiences, not “resume fillers.”

Be sure to include honors groups and volunteer projects.

Skills

A skills section may be included to highlight specific skills relevant to your job target.

Examples of skill lists include: computer software, language knowledge, and the use of scientific experimental equipment or procedures.

Interests

If you have additional space on your resume, you may wish to include a brief interests section.

Interests may work to round you out as a person, make you stand out among the crowd, and personalize your resume. They may be a point of connection between you and the employer.

Only list activities/interests that you regularly participate in and that have meaning for you.

Be descriptive. Instead of “sports,” specify “tennis and racquetball.” Instead of “reading,” specify “mystery novels.”

References

Many employers ask job candidates to provide references. These are individuals you have identified to speak or write on your behalf. They should be individuals who can speak to your job related skills and characteristics. Faculty members, advisors and former employers generally work well.

References typically are not listed on the resume as you will want the employer to talk with you first. You should, however, be prepared to provide references at any time after your initial contact. On your resume, you may wish to list that references are available, but it is not necessary.

Be sure to ask individuals you wish to list if they would be willing to serve as references for you. It may be helpful to prepare a reference page listing those individuals, their titles, organizations, addresses and telephone numbers. Most employers will ask for 2-4 references.

Resume Formats

There are two common resume formats:

Reverse Chronological: In each section, list your most recent experience first, and then work back through time. This format highlights your job titles and the organizations you have been associated with, and works best if these titles and organizations are related to your targeted position. It is the most common format and employers are familiar and comfortable with it. It is important to describe your experiences as well.

Functional: Draw from your experiences to create relevant skill categories. List each skill area and provide evidence of that skill by describing how you developed it, or by listing related achievements or accomplishments. This format highlights skills and abilities developed in a variety of settings instead of focusing on where you worked or what your title was. It can be especially effective for career changers and individuals re-entering the work force. It can be more difficult to write and is not as popular with employers.

A combination of these formats or a more creative format may work well for some individuals.

Visual Impact

The visual impact of your resume is the first impression it makes; therefore, make sure that your resume portrays a positive image of you. The visually appealing resume is:

  • Consistent
  • Scannable
  • Neat and professional in appearance
  • Organized in order of importance
  • Printed on high quality paper
  • Perfect (No typos)
  • Interesting to look at

Printing Options

The most popular way to create resumes is to produce them on a computer and then laser print an original. The original may then be mass produced onto high quality paper. Most office supply and copy stores keep what they call resume stock on hand. This is medium weight paper with a high fiber content. Typical colors include white, ivory, gray and similar shades. To achieve a color coordinated job application package, you may wish to invest in additional sheets of blank paper for your cover letters and matching envelopes.

There are a variety of resume services available to customers. If you chose to utilize a service, first shop around and then actively participate in the development of your resume.

Once your resume is completed, have as many people as possible proofread it and provide you with feedback. The counselors/advisors at UMA locations are available to provide you with feedback.

For additional information on writing a resume, visit the Augusta Career Resource Center or the CRC at your Center or Campus.

University of Maine at Augusta