A few useful guidelines for creating a successful resume

Jul 2 2011 - 3:35pm


Most of us already know that the purpose of a resume is to get interviews; it doesn't typically get you the job. The interview can get you the job.

Resumes come in a variety of formats, styles and type fonts. Whichever you use, there are a few useful guidelines that can help you create a great resume.

There are two important rules of writing resumes. Rule 1 is to always be honest. Rule 2 is always be positive. Rule 2 is never more important than Rule 1.

Resumes should include your name and contact information, a summary section, an experience or work history section and typically an education section. Additional sections might include skills, technical expertise, achievements, accomplishments, awards, community service and volunteer service.

The popular notion that resumes must be limited to just one page is bogus; use as many pages as needed, but anything over three pages may be too long. Try to use common type fonts such as Times New Roman, Calibri, Garamond or Arial. Always use 11- or 12-point font size and 1-inch margins all the way around. Use bullet points when possible. Avoid the temptation to use smaller fonts and margins.

We have talked before about the importance of creating a 30-second summary of your skills, experience and what you have to offer an employer. The summary section of your resume can be the same statement, with just a few minor adjustments. For example, as you state your 30-second summary, you may say something like, "I have worked for more than 10 years as..." while in the summary section of your resume, you would write, "Worked more than 10 years as..." leaving out the "I have."

In the experience section, include the name of the company, your job title, your specific job duties and any accomplishments or special awards or achievements. This is where using bullet points may be helpful and make your resume easier to read.

A common oversight in developing resumes is to not include specific accomplishments. They can be presented in a PAR format:

  • Problem (state the problem you faced)
  • Action (state the action you took)
  • Results (state the results you achieved)

It is always helpful to use dollar amounts, percentages and actual numbers increased or improved whenever possible.

It is OK to repeat a statement or message two or even three times within the same resume. For example, if you received an award for your performance, it can be stated in the summary section, again in the experience or accomplishments section and a third time in the awards section.

Make a separate list of three references, including name, job title and company, if applicable, address, phone number and email address. Do not include the references in your resume. Keep the information in a separate document and only present it to an interviewer or a company if asked.

Do not put "References available upon request" on your resume. It is always assumed references will be available if the company desires them.

You can and should adjust your resume to fit the company or job you are seeking. For example, if your work history includes two fields of work, you can offer more detailed information about your skills and experience in the field that most closely fits the job or company you are seeking. Offer more general information for the field that doesn't apply as well.

Always show your draft resume to at least one other person and ask for honest feedback.

Remember, resumes won't typically get you the job, but they can go a long way to get you that interview that can lead to a job.

Click here for some sample resumes.

Ron Campbell has worked extensively in the job preparation and job search industry. He is vice president of strategic planning for Enable Industries. He can be reached at 801-386-1111 or campbellrv@gmail.com.

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