Résumé Building Blocks
Résumés are built in logical categories that make it easy for a reader to scan and evaluate, identify, and contact the person presented. It is best to use standard categories and order them in a way that will put your most compelling qualifications on the top half of your resume. Following are some strategies to consider in each category.
Present your name and contact information with some pride and style. It has been said that your name is the most important item on your résumé, and should be at least as prominent as your headings. Selection of the type of style for your name, along with associated contact information, permits you to individualize your résumé in a style expressive of your professional taste and consistency within professional standards in your field.
Marketing, graphics, public relations, and advertising majors have greater creative latitude in résumé layout. Their résumé is a demonstration of their skills customized to the reader.
Candidate data usually includes - name, address, email address, and phone where messages can be left - usually centered or split on the top of the résumé, with other options preferred by some writers (see examples on page 44 for ideas).
Personal - In some countries personal data is entered on the resumeâ€”such as marital status, number of children, height and weight. This type of personal information is not appropriate on resumes prepared for the American employer. In some cases, it may be appropriate to provide "Work Authorization Status" - U.S. Citizen, Permanent Resident, or Work Experience authorization. If you are uncertain whether to address this in your resume, ask a career counselor in the Career Center.
Be sure that your name is at the top of Page 2, or subsequent pages, usually at the right margin. But do not repeat the rest of your contact data after the initial presentation on the first page.
Contact Information Heading Sample:
Home Address 1975 E. Oak St., Fullerton, CA 92834
Home 291-555-2444 Cell 291-555-3111
A well-crafted objective makes a résumé stand out.
How to Write a Career Objective
You can construct a career objective to answer one or more of the following questions that will suggest to an employer whether you are a match for the job. The objective infers, and you do not need to say, "Seeking a..." Complete the phrase with answers to questions 1, 2, and 3 below.
- Full-Time, part-time, or internship opportunity?
- Doing what kind of work? Applying what skills and abilities? Working at what level of experience or responsibility?
- Leading to what career advancement, in what industry?
"Internship (1) in public affairs (3) where I can sharpen my skills in writing, promotions and event planning (2)."
"Professional staff position (2) in business finance or budget management (3) utilizing my business degree and accounting coursework (2)."
"Full-time position (1) in marketing and sales (3) that rewards initiative, ingenuity, and new business development (2)."
Resume objectives are concrete yet elastic. They suggest some- thing about what the candidate has to offer, as well as what the candidate is looking for.
The qualifications summary is an executive statement of two to five sentences or bullets. The summary brings together different life experiences into a single career focus. It is often effective for re-entry students and career changers. A summary can be used with or without an objective.
A résumé with a bulleted qualifications statement should reflect skills and potentials related to the career objective.
- "Proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint"
- "Over 5 years of reception and customer service experience"
- "Bilingual in English and Spanish"
- "Financial report writing experience"
The first two lines present your current or most recent program of study, including your major/degree and institution. Be careful not to invent your own names and abbreviations in this section. Some employers require your GPA in this section. Consider including your GPA if it is 3.0 or above.
Previous colleges are reported in reverse order. It is only necessary to list college(s) that awarded you a degree or certificate. If you earned credits that transferred into your current degree program, it is generally better to omit other colleges attended.
- This category helps fill out entry-level resumes.
- Select classes that will help you do the targeted job.
- This is not a transcript, just upper-division coursework highlights.
- Include elective classes like Public Speaking, College Writing, Foreign Language, Theater, or Sports where they contribute to the overall profile of success.
The Education section drops to the bottom of your résumé after your first or second job establishes your career status.
Some students insert a category similar to the qualifications summary either after the education or after the experience section. One common format is to start a line with a skill category and follow with related skills.
- "Computer: Microsoft Office Suite, PC and Mac"
- "Languages: Bilingual and bi-literate, English/Spanish"
- "Interpersonal: English tutor, peer advisor"
Identify and Market Transferable Skills
Transferable skills are competencies that have value in more than one type of employment setting. For instance, if you have learned to read financial statements, you can offer this skill to many kinds of employers – you can integrate this skill in your professional profile for a great range of opportunities.
Many transferable skills are connected to your personality and character. You have probably seen résumés with statements like the following.
- "Aggressive closer; comfortable making cold calls"
- "Well organized, efficient managing multitasks and meeting deadlines"
- "Detail oriented, accurate, enjoy solving problems"
- "Easy-going, friendly, excellent team leader"
Functional résumé formats are organized around transferable skills. The functional résumé clusters related achievements and experience in categories that suggest competencies related to the career objective. Functional résumés often list employers toward the bottom of the résumé, without any job detail beyond position title and dates.
You want to present your most relevant experience first. If your most relevant experience is not your most recent experience, you will need to create a category — called "Related Experience." This allows you to highlight on your résumé a past job that you feel will help you qualify for an opportunity in the future.
Drop down unrelated experience to a second category, called "Other Experience." Make your descriptions of related experience detailed, and minimize your descriptions of other unrelated experience. In many cases, the employer, job title, and dates are sufficient.
Clustering Temporary Positions
Students often have a half-dozen or more part-time and temporary jobs to accommodate class schedules. In this and related situations, it can make sense to pull together several years of work experience under one heading, such as "Part-time and Temporary Student Employment (2008-2010)." Then, list the employers and your job titles. It is not necessary to detail job duties for these positions, unless you can connect the experience to your career objective.
Use "Action Verbs" to Showcase Your Experience
Think of your work experience as a series of achievements rather than duties or responsibilities. You can do this by providing concrete detail, expressing actions in terms of outcomes, providing quantities, and giving a sense of the work pace. Avoid run on lists of "-ing" words.
Avoid using passive statements, such as...
- "Duties included: typing, filing, entering data and answering phones."
Instead, use action verbs and concrete details to showcase your achievements.
- "Prepared business correspondence and managed file archives"
- "Entered new records on database; researched and updated old records"
- "Answered three-line phone; provided efficient transfers and caller information"
To convert a duty to an achievement, ask yourself, "so what?" What was the result of my various duties, responsibilities, and activities on the job? No one wants to read a list of things you did to stay busy on the job — it is outcomes and replicable achievements that make your résumé compelling.
Résumé writers often find it helpful to consult a list of "Action Verbs". This list can help you find different ways of expressing similar activity so that your résumé reads with more energy and interest.
Employers are looking for leadership and community service, so look for ways to satisfy this category. Consider the following.
- Volunteer and Service Learning
- Professional and Student Memberships
- Honors, Awards, and Certificates
- Team Games and Competitive Sports
Activities and Interests
Do you play an instrument? Sing in a group? Traveled to interest- ing places? Do volunteer or charity work? These add a relevant dimension to your resume. This section is not mandatory, but rather optional if space permits, and most importantly if you have already highlighted all of your related skills and experience.
"Personal and professional references provided upon request" this traditional closing is often no longer utilized and in many cases takes up additional space.
Consider preparing a separate reference sheet and attaching it to your résumé.