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Monday, March 7, 2011

13 Tips to Writing the Right Resume

Here's a 13–step guide to constructing a professional resume that gets your foot in that all-important door.

  • Gather your materials.
    • Begin by putting everything down on paper--contact details, work history and accomplishments, academic background, seminars attended, honors received, skills and proficiencies, personal details, etc. Don't worry about organizing them at this point; just make sure you don't leave out anything major, substantial, or relevant.
    • Pay particular attention to dates and places--say, periods of employment--as mistakes in these areas may leave an impression of sloppiness, or worse, fudging on your part.

  • Start with your name and contact details.
    • Your contact information should come right at the top of the resume after your name for easy and convenient reference by the reader. Include all possible contact details: postal address, landline and mobile phone numbers, fax numbers, and e-mail address. The last one is particularly important, because in these tech-savvy times, an email address shows that you are, at the very least, computer literate.

  • State a job objective.
    • A well-developed job objective statement “can be a useful way of demonstrating yourself to be a focused individual,” says , an online job placement company. If you're responding to an advertisement, your job objective can be as simple as the position title (e.g., “Finance Manager”).
    • But if you're aiming to keep your options open for other positions within a broad range of expertise, you can write a more general description of the work and corporate environment you want to focus on (e.g., “To apply my extensive experience in finance and administration to senior management positions in a highly motivated, forward-looking multicultural company”). Beware of generic objectives such as “employment in a position commensurate to my qualifications” or “to secure a regular position.”

  • Write a brief summary of qualifications.
    • Cynthia Buiza, an HR and corporate communications officer at a Thailand-based NGO, says she appreciates resumes that provide upfront a concise summary of the applicant's qualifications.
    • number of years of professional experience
    • areas of expertise and career highlights (e.g., “at 26, youngest officer promoted to manager in bank history”)
    • unique skills and competencies (e.g., “part-time financials instructor at the SAP Academy”) other information underlining your particular qualifications for the job

  • Lead with your professional experience.
    • Unless you are a new graduate, you should begin the body of your resume with an outline of your employment history, starting with your most recent work. List down all the jobs you've had, the company names, dates of employment, titles and responsibilities.

  • Highlight concrete achievements.
    • When you describe your professional experience, don't just enumerate your job responsibilities. A comprehensive job description will only pad up your resume; save it for the interview. Instead, emphasize any major accomplishments you had chalked up in the job. Use numbers, figures, percentages if possible.

  • Emphasize your educational preparedness.
    • If you are a new graduate with no professional experience, lead with your academic background, honors, and extra-curricular activities. Don't believe the fillip that grades don't matter in the real world; in the beginning at least, they do.

  • Either include references--or don't mention them.
    •  There are two schools of thought on this: One says it's necessary to include references. The other says this only lengthens the resume, and should therefore be available in another sheet of paper only upon request.

  • Use personal details sparingly.
    • In the US where job-discrimination laws are wide ranging and explicit, “a potential employer has no legal right to request information about age, sex, race, religion, marital status, health, physical appearance, or personal habits 

  • Be concise.
    • Resumes are often read in 30 seconds or less so be brief, straightforward and to the point. Use bullet points to underscore important information. Employ paragraph breaks, lines, and numbers. A standard resume should be no more than two pages—three at most if you have extensive professional experience. Beyond that, your resume needs serious editing.

  • Proofread!
    • There should be no typographical or spelling errors in your resume. When using numbers, re-check decimal places or the number of zeros. Punctuation and date formats should be consistent. For example, if you write “2 February 2000” in one section, don't write “March 5, 2000” in another.

  • Make it an easy read.
    • Your resume should also be visually appealing; a carelessly printed, sloppily designed resume will reflect disastrously on you. Thus, make it easy on the eye with lots of white spaces, a font no smaller than 10 in size, and at most two conservative typestyles (such as Times New Roman or Garamond). Underlined and bold text should be used sparingly--only to highlight significant information or to indicate section breaks.

  • One more suggestion: Once written up, show your resume to friends or colleagues. Listen to their comments and suggestions, especially on how easy or difficult it is to find important information at a glance. Then consider all that when rewriting the final draft of your masterpiece.