Thoughts on Resumes
developed to help you design an effective tool to sell your qualifications to an employer.
Your resume is a tool.
It is a tool for selling your "qualifications" to an employer. It should state your personal qualities, past accomplishments and abilities in a positive, concise way.
Almost everyone needs a resume in today’s competitive job market. Even teenagers seeking their first "real" job can benefit by having a resume.
A resume is a written tool to market yourself. Many prospective employers ask for and expect applicants to present one. Think of yourself as the "product" and the employer as a selective shopper. Before the interview, the resume demonstrates to the employer what makes you the best qualified prospect for the job.
The resume helps you organize relevant facts about yourself. It should be a brief but sufficient introduction of you to the prospective employer, stating:
Give your name, address and telephone number. List a message number, if possible.
Career Objective or Position Desired
Your objective should identify the function and general level of the position you want. State it in terms of what you can do for the employer.
Three to five sentences which describe your outstanding qualifications.
Describe your education after the career objective only if it is your most qualifying experience. Indicate degrees earned if graduated; otherwise simply list major subjects studied. Be careful not to "date" yourself if education is not recent.
If education is your only support for your career objective, give it more space than other categories listed. Be specific about work-related education and include relevant special achievements.
Describe your experiences that support your objective. Decide which style of resume (chronological, functional, combined or targeted) best represents your qualifications for each career objective. Give "top billing" to those experiences that are most valuable to your stated objective.
Describe your responsibilities, specific skills and duties, and include examples of successful performance and results produced whenever possible.
Dates of Employment
Dates can be shown if there are no large gaps. Modern resumes will only include years worked, not month and day.
If abilities important to your career goal have not been used for a long period of time, just indicate length of time used, rather than specific years.
Personal and Other Facts
Keep this brief and applicable to the position desired. Present only information which will be seen positively. This can include professional or civic activities, special honors, interests and attitudes that you will bring to your work.
Never list names or addresses of references. Simply state that, "References will be furnished upon request."
The elements of Identification and Experience are absolutely essential. The others can be altered to suit your style.
Remember, your resume should promote your abilities, so include only information that would be viewed as positive by the employer!
There are four basic resume formats:
Each has advantages and disadvantages, as outlined in the descriptions below.
After weighing these factors, choose the format for the resume that works best for you.
NOTE: Examples of the different formats are found below.
Words are powerful tools in finding work. The words used to describe experience and education can convey the skills you have developed.
Effective use of words is crucial in getting interviews and job offers. Use concise phrasing for applications and resumes; use complete sentences in letters and interviews. Quantify as much as possible.
On your resume, start your thoughts with "ACTION" words (verbs) or descriptive words.
— Campus Newspaper
Motel Desk Clerk
— Summer Job
Action words give your resume power and direction. Here are examples of action verbs. For additional information, read, "The Right Words to Use in Your Job Search" (DETJ-9463-P), available in your Wisconsin Job Center.
Words that stress your ability to handle details:
Words that create a positive impact:
Words that stress your ability to assume responsibility:
Words or phrases that indicate your desire to get ahead:
perform well under pressure enthusiastic
Words or phrases that reflect a capacity for reasoning and understanding:
ability to think analytically perceptive
Words or phrases that show you are profit-oriented:
results-oriented adept at saving money
John has a stable and focused work history, with no gaps in his dates of employment. Most recently he worked for a prestigious company and wants to stay in the same field.
This targeted resume is in chronological format. Jane’s education, skills and work history are directly linked to her objective of an administrative support position with this company.
Leo has marketable skills related to his objective, but has held short-term consulting positions over the past 10 years.
Thomas has many job-related skills and is able to operate a wide variety of equipment and tools. He’s had less than 4 years’ work experience with 3 different employers.
Karen has very limited work experience, gaps in her employment, and did not finish high school. She markets her abilities in the workplace and credits her volunteer experience.
Many employers ask for references. You may send your reference list with your resume if the employer asks for them. More often, you will take a list of references to your job interview and offer it to the interviewer.
Choose your references carefully. People who are the best references are:
Do NOT give a relative’s name as a reference. Recent contacts in a related field that are enthusiastic about you are excellent references.
You should always contact your references before giving out their name. Tell your potential reference that you would like to use them as a reference and ask for their permission. Discuss the types of positions you are applying for and which of your skills potential employers would be most interested in. Be sure they have up-to-date information about you.
References should be typewritten on a separate sheet of paper. Normally, 3-5 references are sufficient.
Following is a sample reference list that you may want to use as a guide:
Do not underestimate the importance of a cover letter!
A cover letter is used when inquiring about a job or submitting a resume or application form. In most situations you will want to send a prospective employer a letter with your resume.
It is an introduction to your resume. The cover letter should show why the employer should read your resume.
Your letter should tell the employer which position you’re interested in and how your job talents will benefit the company.
In it, state the position you are seeking and the source of the job opening (JobNet, newspaper ad, reference from a friend, etc.).
You should ask for a job interview. If possible, suggest a specific date and time.
Address each letter to the specific person you want to talk to, usually the person who would actually supervise you. Highlight your job qualifications.
A formatting example and a sample cover letter appear on the following pages.
Cover Letter Basics
A marketing letter is an alternative to the traditional cover letter/resume combination. It is usually a one-page letter sent directly to the hiring authority or department head (not to personnel) which states your objective, qualifications and relevant accomplishments.
A marketing letter may be advantageous to individuals who could be easily screened out because of a flaw in their qualifications that is highly visible in their resume but not noticeable in a letter.
develop a rough draft, then edit, edit, edit.
highlight special accomplishments.
seek help and advice. Have another person read your resume to avoid spelling and grammatical errors.
keep the length to one 8 1/2" x 11" page preferably, never more than two.
use white or light-colored 25% cotton bond, 20-24 lb. weight paper.
use wide margins and lots of white space to make it easy to read.
emphasize headings using capitals, bold print, underlining, indentation.
use a computer laser or ink-jet printer, a letter-quality printer, offset printing, or a good typewriter.
send perfect, error-free copies. Check grammar, spelling and content for mistakes before having copies made.
use active, descriptive language (see Some Words on Words, page 3).
use phrasing — "telegram language" — rather than complete sentences. Start sentences with action words.
choose the same color and grade of paper for your resume, cover letter and envelope.
include a whole life history.
use long-winded, flowery sentences.
use the words: I, me, my.
include personal information such as age, date of birth, marital status, number of children, condition of health, driver’s license, social security or passport numbers, religion, physical description, height and weight.
date your resume.
use the following headings: "The confidential resume of ...", or "Resume". It should be apparent this is a resume.
use abbreviations (exceptions: G.P.A., Inc., states, degrees).
just describe duties ... everyone has duties on their job.
send photocopied or dot-matrix computer-printed copies; the quality is usually not as good as originals.
include the reason for leaving your past job(s).
include references; they go on a separate sheet.
include previous salaries or names of supervisors.
say "thank-you" or give a closing and signature; this is not a letter.
attach a picture of yourself.