Top ten must-haves for resumes

Those who are new to job seeking know the hardest part is getting started. They want to know, Do I need a resume?  One page or two? What to include? What to leave out? Who is looking at this thing, anyway? The answers are yes, one or two, not everything, not much, and anyone who wants to hire you.

Most job seekers do need a resume. If you are applying for positions that require only a company application, having a resume will speed up that process. To pull together a powerful document, follow a few simple guidelines.

1.       Start at the top. Put your name, address, phone number and email at the center top of a blank page. Do not omit any of this because, at best, someone will wonder what you are hiding; at worst, they will not be able to reach you to schedule an interview.

2.      Use only four headings:  Objective, Experience, Education and Key Words. Adding hobbies, marital status and favorite foods to your resume robs valuable white space and distracts the reader from what’s important: your skills and experience.

3.      Tell the truth. Don’t fudge on dates or credentials because you’ll get caught every time.  If you never finished college, use words like, “courses in ABC.” If you have gaps in your work history, just use the correct dates and leave it to the manager to ask you about it.  Gaps may or may not be a deal breaker; lying always is.

4.      But not the whole truth. If your first three jobs were cashiering your way through high school, but you have since gained experience in your chosen field, you do not have to include those first jobs. As you advance in your career, the earliest positions fall off the resume. A VP of Operations might have started on the factory floor, but it is not necessary to include that on the resume.

5.      One is enough. One page, that is. Two if you are advanced in your career. A resume is simply an introduction to your background. You can go into more detail during an interview.

6.      List your experience in reverse chronological order. Provide the name of the company you work (worked) for, comma, location (city, state) and dates of employment (month/year) on one line.  Below that, write your job title in boldface. Use a maximum of three bullet points below that; two are for listing job duties, the third is for describing an accomplishment relevant to that position.  If you have had more than one position with the same company, continue with the previous title, three bullets, title of the job before that, etc.

7.      Use the same format for every job you list on your resume. Make it easy for me to see what you’ve done.

8.      Key words are critical. You will not show up in electronic searches unless your resume aligns with the job you want. Tweak your resume for specific positions, lifting key words and phrases from your job descriptions. I am currently hiring a Supply Chain Manager and I am amazed at the number of qualified candidates who applied who omitted these key words in their resume somewhere – anywhere! The trend is toward adding a laundry list of technical knowledge and skills at the end of the resume. It isn’t pretty, but if you want interviews, I recommend it.

9.      Keep track. Know where your resume is going. If you don’t know where you have applied, you will sound pretty confused when someone calls to hire you. Tweaking your resume can leave you with multiple versions. Keep track by saving each one with this format: Your name (first and last), job title and the company you’re sending it to. For example, I might apply for the job of writing this column with a resume saved as:  Julie Desmond Writer Insight News. It’s long, but it’s clear to you and to the company where you want to work. Later you can easily go back and review what you’ve already told them about yourself.

10.  Stay strong, confident and positive in your language.  Did you manage a staff of three? Or are you an energetic, motivated leader and mentor to staff of three? Be an advocate for yourself, so others will want to work with you.

Writing a resume doesn’t have to be drudgery.  Have fun with it and let your unique professional style come through. If you are the right person for the job, your resume will reflect that, and the interviews will happen. Interviews? That’s another article.

Julie Desmond is Senior Recruiter for the Walstrom Group in Minneapolis.  Write to

February 16, 2009
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