Job Search Tools: Resume Writing
Resumes and Resume Tips by Experience Level
Job Search Tools: Resume Writing
A resume is a marketing document that introduces you to prospective employers. It highlights your accomplishments and points of impact in your work.
Resumes present your best qualifications for the position you're seeking. Your resume is about you, and it's about your reader, too. Include information that is important to your reader's needs.
There is more than one right way to write a resume or cover letter. The following tips can help you deliver your essential professional message clearly and effectively.
Remember to write your own resume and cover letter – you know your story best.
Focus your message: What is the professional snapshot you're giving to your readers? Even with a wealth of experience, you still need to target your message for your next position or role.
A. Resume Formats
Reverse chronological: most common and preferred by employers; best illustrates what you did, for whom and when.
Functional: most often used by career changers or those making a shift to a new set of responsibilities. A Highlights of Qualifications (career summary/profile) section introduces bulleted, broad-themed statements in functional categories; your Experience section follows, in reverse chronology. An employer's concern is that he or she may not be able to clearly see recent accomplishments; accomplishment-based bullet points within each company's experience will clarify your qualifications.
Combination: most often used by those who have worked for a single organization for a long duration, with progressive responsibility and numerous job titles. Typically emphasizes your last five to 10 years of experience, with an overview of responsibilities and a bulleted list of key accomplishments.
- Click the Resume Samples (PDF) topic for resume excerpts that illustrate the formats above.
B. Your Experience
The person reading your resume is meeting you for the first time. He or she is most interested in how you can help the company. A resume targeted to the job posting will help point out your best qualifications. This does not mean rewriting your complete resume for each position you apply for, but it does involve presenting the points of your story that are most relevant to your prospective employer.
- All resumes are based on accomplishment. Deliver your message in bullet points that highlight results of your work and indicate the impact of the action you took.
- Be selective. Include content that corresponds to your current career goals, as well as what is most relevant to your reader. Exclude bullet points that are not relevant or that summarize work unrelated to the job you're applying for.
- Consider what skills and experiences are crucial. What will get you asked in for the interview?
- Quantify results whenever possible. For example, dollar amounts or percentages of revenue, costs saved, increased productivity or new products/programs/ideas that were recommended or implemented.
- Whenever possible, use words or phrases that are in the job posting (these are possible keywords).
- Your professional network can help you evaluate general trends in professions and industries throughout your career, giving you experienced-laden information to use in selecting the best points for your resume updates. Use The Seminary Club Directory for contacts, searching by major, occupation or keyword.
Resume Tips by Experience Level
- Highlight major coursework, GPA (if it's above 3.0), class projects, capstone projects (if any) and leadership and project accomplishments in student organizations and clubs.
- Document past employment, even if it's not a match for your job targets. At this early stage, employers often look at your work as demonstrating discipline and experience outside of the classroom and campus.
Recent Graduates (up to three years post-graduation or when changing employers for the first time since landing your first post-graduation job):
- Emphasize post-graduation work. Results and impact in your current and recent work, including leadership, should take precedence.
- In-school work experience and extracurricular activities may be summarized, keeping leadership and result-oriented statements.
- Emphasize what will potentially get you called in for an interview.
Between Three and Eight Years of Experience:
- What accomplishments can you add to your list?
- As you target job titles and functions, what experience can you summarize or even eliminate (probably those from school), and what is best to emphasize (most likely current and recent experience that highlights occupation-specific skills, knowledge of your industry and involvement in special projects)?
- What are your examples to illustrate functional, transferable skills such as communication, interpersonal and organizational talents?
Moving Along – Mid-level Experience:
- What are the specific examples that will best present what is important to both you and your reader?
- What will get you called in for an interview? What early experience can you eliminate in this resume update?
- Are you advancing into or targeting a management role? Are you remaining in the profession-specific competence track, without a management goal? Have you pursued or are you pursuing further education?
- Can you write about up-to-date areas of personal competence and expertise?
Conventional wisdom holds that displaying the last 10 years of work experience is adequate for your resume. The assumption is that this body of work contains the best content and impact for the positions you're now targeting. You can also summarize earlier work experience or even highlight points still relevant to your currently targeted positions. For example, if you're returning to a previously worked-at industry from earlier in your career, your Highlights of Qualifications, and key bullet points from your earlier experience, can more prominently emphasize these qualifications. Reflect and use common sense and your best judgment.
- What track are you on? Are you a content expert? A specialist within a segment of your occupation? In general management?
- What are the prominent organizational or divisional impacts you want to promote?
- Select from broad or in-depth experiences and emphasize the qualifications that most closely match your targeted job/career/responsibility objective. Match these qualifications in job postings and descriptions you come across.
- In what specific ways are you the best candidate in this narrower, more competitive level of the market?
- What are the key organizational or divisional impacts that you want to promote?
- The expectation is that you are a leader; talk about the experience you possess that best confirms that.
- What innovations do you want to highlight?
- If you haven't updated your resume in a while, reflect carefully, identify your accomplishments, stories and life chapters, and then write with confidence.
If you're beginning a different career path, you may be returning to the status of a new graduate. Think about including an Objective and Highlights of Qualifications in the visual center of your resume page to emphasize the content from the suggestions below:
- What practical experience in your new field can you list?
- Can you enumerate new projects, a new degree or a thesis or dissertation?
- What relevant points from your previous career (transferable skills and experience) are you bringing with you?
- In the body of your resume, select and include qualifications from your previous professional history that are important to your new path; exclude (or briefly summarize) the rest.
C. Additional Content That Can be Useful
- A targeted objective indicating how you can add value to the company or position.
- Highlights of qualifications (or a career summary or professional profile).
- Professional development such as courses, certificates, seminars and degrees.
- Awards and honors.
- Licenses or certifications.
- Computer skills (grouped by hardware, software or platforms).
- Professional affiliations, especially officer positions, specific projects or presentations.
- Other unique, relevant skills such as fluent languages.
- Include personal interests if they display goal-setting and disciplined objectives.
D. The Document
- Make the page easy to read. Omit fancy fonts and use a font size of at least 10 points. Two-page resumes are acceptable for those with extensive work experience.
- New graduates may keep their education credentials at the top of their resumes, but after your first post-college job, educational information follows your work history. Include additional training in a Professional Development section.
- The top-third of the page is the visual center for the reader; review the content of that area carefully to be certain that it includes important content for prospective employers' needs (e.g., your objective, career summary, areas of expertise and key bullet points of your experience).
- Proofread your resume carefully. Ask at least one other person to review and proofread it.
Have a plain text file of your resume, with formatting removed, for pasting into employers' online job forms.
- Utilize the Converting Your Resume to Plain Text (PDF) tips to help you convert your resume.
- To begin drafting accomplishment-based bullet points for your resume, complete the worksheet Telling Your Story Effectively (PDF).
E. Polishing and Customizing: Your Resume and the Job Posting
- “Try on the job.” How do your interests, skills and experience match the daily work so that you can achieve the short- and long-term expectations of the position? Where does your resume best present that to the reader?
- What are the specifics? What impact, results and accomplishments are on your resume?
- Refine your content critically. Once again, what will get you called in for the interview?
- Can the reader find your best points easily? If not, refine the document.
- Identify the occupation- and industry-related keywords in job postings; check to see where these words appear in your resume. Make any needed adjustments, particularly when a job posting has special qualifications that you meet.
- To begin your list of occupation- and industry-specific keywords, refer to the Identifying Keywords for Your Job Search (PDF) tip sheet.
- See the Sample Resume Outline (PDF), which includes tips on preparing content.
Posting A Confidential Resume To A Website
Job seekers who are employed are sometimes concerned about their current employer seeing a posted resume, or having an HR rep at their current company find it when searching a resume database.
Here are suggestions for posting a resume confidentially to a website:
1. Your resume heading can include a professional title instead of your name:
Confidential Resume for
And your phone number and email address
2. Include your phone number if your voicemail introduction does not include your name; if you want to keep your name in your voicemail introduction include only your email address as your contact information.
3. Establish an email address that has no identifiers, such as your name. The email address should still be professional:
MaryASmith@gmail.com can become... email@example.com
but don't use a vanity personal email address like firstname.lastname@example.org (unless you are applying for positions in the animal care field).
4. List your current company affiliation as clearly but confidentially as possible. For example:
Ernst & Young 2007 - Present
Team Lead, Government Consulting Practice
Global Financial Consulting Firm 2007 - Present
Team Lead, Specialty Practice
5. Edit any resume content for your current work (information in a summary statement; bullet points) that may identify company-specific projects or jargon, but keep your content and professional message strong with respect to your accomplishments.
- “Best Keywords for Resumes, Cover Letters and Interview” by Wendy S. Enelow
- “Best Resumes for $100,000+ Jobs” by Wendy S. Enelow
- “Packaging Yourself: The Targeted Resume” by Kate Wendleton
- “Resumes for Dummies” by Joyce Lain Kennedy
- “Resume Magic” by Susan Whitcomb