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Connecting Wisconsin's Workforce

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Resume Writing -- A Basic Guide

... for the person with little or no resume writing experience.

When do you use a resume? Cover letter: Outline and example
Tips for good resumes Application letter: Outline and example
Selecting information for your resume Resume checklist
A standard resume should include ... Resume worksheet
Resume: Outlines and examples 10 tips for the effective resume
Electronic resumes and America’s Talent Bank

Resumes and application forms are two ways to provide employers with written evidence of your qualifications and skills. Generally, the same information appears on both a resume and an application form. The way it is presented differs.

Some employers prefer a resume and others require an application form. This booklet presents the basic information to include in your resume.

You want to apply for a job. Do you need a resume? That depends on the kind of job you’re applying for.



(Examples: Baker, Hotel Clerk, Electrician, Drafter, Welder)


(Examples: Fast Food Server, Laborers, Machine Loader, Cannery Worker, etc.)

There are many ways of organizing a good resume. Depending on the job, you should choose the format that best highlights your skills, training, and experience.

A resume must be very easy to read so that an employer can see at a glance who you are, where you can be reached, what kind of work you can do, and why you’re qualified for that kind of work.

A resume should be short, preferable one page typewritten. It must be error free. It includes honest, positive information that is related to your job goal.

A good resume will open the door for an interview.

When do you use a resume?

Tips for good resumes

You need two types of information to prepare your resume:

  1. Self information. Completing a background and experience list will give you the self information required to prepare your resume.
  1. Job information. Gather specific information on the job you’re applying for. Here’s what you need:

Selecting information for your resume

The best way to select information that belongs on your resume is to think like an employer. Ask yourself, "If I were hiring a person for this position, what training and experience would be related?" Give brief, specific, positive information that would be of interest to your next employer. Do not give unrelated or negative information.

A standard resume should include...

Contact information

Tell the employer your full name, street address, apartment number, city, state, zip code and telephone number (including area code).

Employment goal or job objective

Tell the employer the specific job you are interested in. Good examples are, "An entry-level clerical position", "A customer-service position in the retail industry", or, "A manufacturing position utilizing my five years of quality control experience."

Avoid vague statements like, "A position with growth potential", or, "A challenging position with a stable company." Remember, keep it simple and to the point.

Summary of Qualifications

Tell the employer your major selling points in 3-5 lines. Be brief, summarize, give facts — not opinions. (This section is optional)

Work Experience or Work History

Tell the employer about your work experience in one of two ways — either by job titles and dates, or by functions and skills. Later in the publication you will see outlines and sample resumes which will help you decide which way would work best for you.


Tell the employer about any job-related training or education. List your most recent training first.

If you are a recent graduate with little work experience, you might want to list the following information before your work history: the name of the school, the degree or certificate received, dates, course titles related to your job goal, scholarships, honors, grades, and extracurricular activities.

If you have been working for over five years, you don’t need to give as much information about your education. Name the school, city, state, degree or certificate, or course work and dates (dates are optional).

Include your high school unless you have a higher degree. Never include your grade school or middle school.

Military Experience

Tell the employer the branch of service, your highest rank, type of discharge, and date of separation. List any special assignments, duties, clearances, collateral duties, and decorations that relate to the job that you are seeking. Technical military training can be listed under the Education heading on your resume. (A Military heading is only listed if you have military experience.)

Special Skills and Abilities

Tell the employer any other information you feel might help you. (This section is optional.) You might want to include information about knowledge of foreign languages, volunteer or leisure activities, memberships in professional organizations, special skills such as typing, computers, machines you can operate, licenses or certificates you possess. Do not provide personal information such as your age, sex, marital status, or handicaps.


Tell the employer simply that, "References are available upon request," or, "References gladly furnished upon request." Do not list references on your resume. Instead, have them typed on a separate sheet of paper and have them available if the employer asks for them. You should have three to five references listed. They should be people who know you and your work — not your relatives. Be sure to get each person’s permission to use him or her as a reference.

Resume Outlines and Examples

The following pages have outlines and examples of two of the most commonly used basic resumes.

Example 1 lists each job separately, starting with your most recent job and working backward. Specific information is given about each job.

Example 1: Outline and resume

Example 2 lists the 3-5 skill areas or functions you performed that are related to your present job goal, briefly describing the work you’ve done within each area. Very little attention is given to when and where.

Example 2: Outline and resume

Cover Letter

Most employers prefer that a resume be mailed with a letter of introduction. This letter is called a cover letter. A cover letter should tell the employer which position you are interested in and why you are qualified for the position.

It should cover 1/3 to 2/3 of an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet of paper and should be on the same size, grade, and color of paper as your resume. It is best to use a personal computer, word processor or typewriter to write your cover letter. Some information in your cover letter may also be on your resume; it is all right to have some overlapping information. Be sure your letter does not have spelling, grammatical or punctuation errors. Have another person proofread it before you mail it.

Example 3: Cover letter

Application Letter: An Alternative to a Resume

In some situations, a traditional resume might not be the best way to contact an employer. Depending on the employer’s preference, the field of work and your qualifications, you may want to use a Letter of Application.

This is a personal letter you write to an employer that tells which position you are interested in and why you are qualified for that position. It should fill 1/2 to 2/3 of an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet of white or light-colored bond paper. It must be error free. Have another person look it over to make sure it is perfect before you mail it.

An outline and a sample for a Letter of Application follow.

Example 4: Application letter

Resume Checklist

Application forms

Resumes are required for some jobs, and are sometimes required for other jobs. An employer may have you complete an application form instead of submitting a resume. On some occasions, an employer may ask you to complete an application in addition to your resume.

When you fill out an application form, make sure you fill it out completely and follow all instructions. Do not omit any requested information and make sure that the information you provide is correct.

Resume Worksheet

Step 1: Read this brochure.

Step 2: Review the samples provided in this brochure.

Step 3: Tear out and complete this worksheet

Step 4: Write your resume using the information from your worksheet.

Step 5: Check it for errors. Have others check it, too.

Step 6: Have your resume word processed, typed, or typeset.

Step 7: You’re ready! Now USE YOUR RESUME!



City/State/Zip Code

Telephone (with Area Code)





WORK EXPERIENCE: List most recent jobs first.

1. Job Title:

Job Duties/Accomplishments:


Company Name:

City, State:

Dates of Employment (year to year):

2. Job Title:

Job Duties/Accomplishments:


Company Name:

City, State:

Dates of Employment (year to year):

3. Job Title:

Job Duties/Accomplishments:


Company Name:

City, State:

Dates of Employment (year to year):




Technical School and/or College:

City, State: Dates Attended:

Degree/Certificate or courses taken:

High School:

City, State: Dates Attended:

Diploma or courses taken:


MILTARY EXPERIENCE: (optional and if not used elsewhere on this resume)

Branch of Service:

Highest Rank:

Type of Discharge: Year of Separation:



OTHER WORK EXPERIENCE: List job titles/positions you want to show but do not want to go into detail about, i.e. short-term jobs, part-time jobs, volunteer work, etc.


10 Tips for the Effective Resume

  1. If possible, use a computer to prepare your resume. There are computer programs that make it easy to produce a professional looking resume. Your Wisconsin Job Center, school, library, or quick print shop can help.
  2. Do not include irrelevant personal information (age, weight, height, marital status, etc.).
  3. Do not include salary and wages.
  4. Center or justify all headings. Don’t use abbreviations.
  5. Be positive. Identify accomplishments.
  6. Use action verbs. For more information, read the publication, "The Right Words to Use in Your Job Search" (DETJ-9463-P).
  7. Be specific. Use concise sentences, Keep it short (one page is best).
  8. Make sure your resume "looks good" (neat and readable).
  9. Proofread the master copy carefully. Have someone else proofread the master copy carefully.
  10. Inspect photocopies for clarity, smudges and marks.

Electronic Resumes in Wisconsin and nationwide

The information for your resume can be fed into databases as an electronic resume.

Electronic resumes are searchable by potential employers who aim to select resumes for further scrutiny.

In Wisconsin, you may post your resume on Job Center of Wisconsin, an internet-based service.


From the “Job Seeker Tools” menu on the toolbar, you will first need to establish an account Once you have your password-protected account, return to the “Job Seeker Tools” menu and choose, “Create/Update Résumé”. Complete instructions, and help text is available on the web site.

When posting a searchable resumes, it is important to accurately represent your work experience, education and training, skills, and availability. Be sure to use keywords and phrases specific to your education, skills and work experience.

Job Center of Wisconsin permits searches on the following fields for your matching keywords:

You are in control of the information you provide. No personally identifiable information will be displayed to the employer. If the employer decides to contact you, it will be by email.