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Tips for Resume Writing

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Your resume (pronounced REZ-o-may) is your advertisement for yourself. The resume is the basic door-opener for most careers. The resume accompanies letters of application to employers and is left with them after interviews as a reminder of your qualifications. It introduces you to an employer and advertises your most important skills, abilities, and accomplishments. Your resume should "package" your qualifications in an appealing wrapper that an employer will not pass up.

  • Identification section—who you are?
  • Job objective section—what you want to do?
  • Background section—what you have to offer in the way of education, skills, personal experience, and accomplishments?
Resumes may take two different formats: chronological and functional.

  • Chronological Resume Format

  • Name Address Phone number (Include area code)

  • Job Objective

  • Education

  • Work Experience

  • Military Obligation

  • Miscellaneous Information

  • References
Personal information:

Some experts advise specifying marital status, height, weight, and health, but the majority feel the disadvantages outweigh the advantages and suggest omitting personal information.

A brief statement indicating position sought and type of organization preferred. (Include only if the same objective can be used for all applications.)

Name institutions and dates attended in reverse chronological order:

Include all learning experiences after high school: military training, on-the-job training, college equivalency programs, and college work. List the schools attended, the dates enrolled, degrees earned, certificates or licenses, and dates they were awarded. Make note of significant honors, scholarships, and extracurricular participation. Put down your major field and overall grade point average if these are to your advantage.

List names and locations of former employers in reverse chronological order. Include titles and positions held, major responsibilities, skills and accomplishments. Omit or group together work experience that bears little relationship to the type of work you are seeking.

If applicable, summarize military experience and show draft classification.

Describe any relevant points not covered elsewhere in your resume: school honors, organization memberships, travel experience, foreign language expertise, outside interests.

References will be furnished upon request. Do not list references on the resume. This will enable you to have a flexible list of references that can be used as needed.
  1. Write short, concise sentences. Use as few words as necessary to express your accomplishments.

  2. Use action verbs to begin each sentence or phrase. Examples: created, exhibited, mobilized, repaired, designed, motivated, presented.

  3. Use the vocabulary or "jargon" of your field, but avoid becoming overly technical. Speak a language the person reading the resume will understand.

  4. List specific accomplishments and results. Use numbers when possible.

    •    Increased production by 25 percent.

    •    Devised sales campaign that netted $1,500 for class treasury.

    •    Won Atlantic Monthly national short story writing contest.

  5. Convey one selling point at a time. Don't confuse your accomplishments by grouping too many ideas together.

  6. Put the concerns of your potential employer ahead of your own needs. This may mean rewriting your resume several times in order to focus on various aspects of your accomplishments.

  7. Don't get too personal. No one usually cares that you do needlework or collect trains. Do not include your picture on the resume unless you are applying for work in a field like modeling or acting where physical appearance is part of the job itself.

  8. Type the resume in a clear, clean typeface. Commercial typing or word-processing services can do the final typing. The layout should look professional and entice people to read it. Retain sufficient white space, leaving at least one-inch margins, and double space between paragraphs.

  9. Fit your resume on one page of 8V2-by-l 1-inch paper. Employers receive many resumes each week and often spend as little as 15 seconds on each one.

  10. Even if you use a software program on a computer that checks your spelling, have someone proofread your final copy for any errors.

  11. Have the resume professionally printed or duplicated (photo-offset is best). Select off-white, beige, or light gray paper, and use a heavy grade quality. Buy from the printer matching envelopes and blank pieces of paper for writing cover letters.
Resume Strategy No. 1: Taking Inventory

In the highly competitive job market of the 1990s, you become your own advertising manager. Your task is to sell yourself. Any good sales campaign begins with an inventory of selling points. List all learning experiences, including military training, on-the-job training, and college equivalency programs in which you have participated. If you went to college, list the dates enrolled, any degrees earned, and the dates they were awarded. List any full-time work experience here, beginning with your current job and listing the jobs backwards.

Resume Strategy No. 2: Accomplishment Inventory

The following exercise lists action verbs. Use them to create phrases that explain your accomplishments. Try to think of things you have done in which you have performed one of the actions listed.

Resume Strategy No.3: Composing Your Career Objective

To formulate a career objective, begin by defining your strongest skill areas. List four accomplishments, things that made you proud. Begin the list with a series of action words. Here is a list of action words that could be used to begin each sentence:

Resume Strategy No. 5: Critique Your Resume

Always have some competent person proofread and evaluate your resume before duplicating it. Here is an evaluation form to help in making concrete suggestions for improvement.

Resume Strategy No. 6: Selecting References

Employers will check with references to verify statements made on your application regarding salary, length of employment, and your reason for leaving the company. They also want to obtain your previous employers' estimates of your work habits and strong and weak points.

It is best to have more than the required number of references. Use those who know your skills in the areas you want to emphasize most for each job.

List previous employers, teachers, and others who know your skills for at least two references. Pastors or people in the community who can vouch for your personal character may be used for a third.

Always get the permission of the person you list as a reference. References are typed on a separate sheet of paper and given to an employer when requested.


Sue applied for a position at a large company and was informed that the company would run a character check on her. Having nothing to hide, she gave her permission. She was not offered the job, so she suspects that whoever did the checking discovered something negative about her. Does she have the right to know who said something about her and whether the information was correct?


Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Sue is entitled to find out who did the investigating and what was reported. If the information is false, she has the right to have it corrected. The reporting agency must let the employer know that a mistake was made. Never mail your resume to any employer without writing a Wins Interviews personalized cover letter. Here is a sample newspaper ad and responding cover letter.

Notice that the ad asks for an experienced worker and that the duties will include supervision of others. Check to see what kinds of work will be handled by the department. Experience in these areas should be mentioned in the cover letter.

At the same time, you should be careful not to overload the letter with details- remember that you will want to have something to say during the interview as well. The resume and the cover letter should give the "big picture" accurately, but should not be so long that the reader loses interest.
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