Resume Preparation BasicsJustin Olsen, CPRW
There are certain basic elements that must be implemented into a resume to make it effective and many that should not. When it comes to your career, there is no room for error on the most important document you will hand over to a potential employer. First impression is everything and you must make sure that the following resume preparation basics are followed.
What are the basic rules of resume writing?
- Layout: The first thing you should do is think about the type of jobs you are pursuing and make an assessment of your actual skills and abilities that are relevant to those jobs. This will help you determine which type of resume format or layout should be utilized. Whichever way you decide to organize the sections of your resume, be sure to keep every section uniform. For example, if you have the name of one job title in bold, every job title should be in bold lettering.
- Page Margin: Most of the time individuals who attempt to prepare a resume on their own will forget this basic rule which can land their resumes in the “NO PILE” very quickly. You should want your most important information to be prominent and not dangling down at the top of the margin on a second or third page. Therefore, make sure you have uniformed margins on each page (if you have two pages or more) – preferably and inch or so from the top and bottom. This will give each page a clean look and feel and ensure your information remains where it is supposed to be on each page.
- Contact Information: Make sure you ALWAYS include your name at the top followed by your most easily accessible phone number and email address. It is also important to include at least your City, State, and Zip Code so your resume will get noticed on local job boards.
- Objective Statement: Many sources will tell you that objective statements are optional or not necessary. It is actually quite the contrary. A hiring manager always likes to see a short/concise summary of your abilities and relevant key strengths. Objective statements can also be written in the form of a hybrid Summary of Qualifications or Executive Profile which should include only a short synopsis of your background, qualifications, and what values you can offer to a future employer.
- Skills & Key Strengths: Deliver a very clear message in this section that you possess the necessary skills that match the requirements of the job by listing industry-related phrases such as “Operations Management, Insurance Underwriting, or Patient Care” depending on your profession. This is often the most important part of a resume.
- Work Experience: Include your work experience in reverse chronological order, meaning your most recent employment should be listed first. List the name of the company, city/state, your job title, and dates of employment. Present your responsibilities as concisely as possible, avoiding any redundancies and discrepancies. Always include accomplishments if you have them in a bulleted form underneath your basic day to day duties. Avoid listing volunteer work under this section. It should be listed in its own section because it is not paid employment and only if it is relevant to your targeted objective.
- Education: We all know what to put here. However, avoid putting how you were the “Star Quarterback” for your high school football team. Save that information for the interview if brought up. It is not relevant. Include the college/university name, degrees, relevant coursework, and GPA only if it is high. Yes that’s right, do not include a low GPA on a resume. Again, this is not relevant to what an employer is looking for and you run the risk of casting a negative impression. Don’t forget to make sure all of this information is also in reverse chronological order the same as your work history.
- Personal Information: Do not include personal information such as your hobbies/interests, marital status, social security number, date of birth, height, weight, number of children, etc., unless the job announcement requires it. Usually, this information will never be asked for unless you are applying for jobs overseas or with the government. It is not relevant to tell the reader that you like hunting or riding bikes when you are applying for a high-level managerial position that does not require shooting a gun or physical stamina as a skill set.
- References: Everyone has references and all employers will ask for them once they decide to proceed with the hiring process. It is not necessary to include references on a resume or the term “references available upon request” because it is obvious.
As long as you follow these basic resume preparation guidelines, you should have a good starting point to make a strong first impression. However, preparing a resume following these basic rules is usually not enough to “WOW” an employer. It takes a high level of skill and knowledge of what HR departments and recruiters are looking for in a candidate to prepare such a complicated document.