Job Seekers Guide to Resumes

The word “resume” can instill fear in any student or job-seeker. The idea that a few sheets of paper can potentially sabotage your future career is a daunting one. But it doesn’t have to be that way! With a little knowledge about the true purpose of a resume, and some easily-learned technical skills on how to write it professionally, a resume can be your best ally when you venture out into the working world.

Even if you are years away from actually having to send one out, it’s a prudent idea to grasp and hone these skills early on so that when the time comes you will be fully knowledgeable and prepared, and have an accurate record of your education, accomplishments and work history.

The Purpose of a Resume

 Simply put, a resume is simply a concise synopsis of any experience you have that would make you attractive to a potential employer. This can include educational background, career goals, work history, special achievements, and pertinent skills. It tells an employer where you’ve been and where you want to go in the career world.

Besides these plain facts, a great resume should include a touch of creativity, a little something that sets it apart from all the rest in order for it to be truly enticing to an employer. While impeccable grammar, succinct wording and an easy-to-read layout are all must-haves of a good resume, don’t be afraid to add a touch of your personality to it.

Common Resume Styles

 Although the possibilities are endless when it comes to choosing a style or layout for your resume, there are several tried-and-true versions that are the most common. A Chronological Resume highlights past work experience that pertains to the desired career in reverse chronological order. The duties or positions held at each job should be briefly summarized.

This type of resume is a good choice if you have ample experience in the field to which you are applying. A Functional Resume is best used in a scenario where the applicant has little or no working experience that pertains to the job he or she is trying to acquire. So, rather than focusing on a work history that bears no significance to this new field, the Functional Resume instead highlights any impressive skills, talents, or accomplishments.

A brief work history is included at the bottom. A Combination Resume is a hybrid of the previous two types of resume styles, blending both a summarized work history, and a list of personal skills or accomplishments that would be impressive to the employer. Combination Resumes leave the most room for creativity and tweaking, as there are many ways to structure this type of resume.

What to Include in a Resume

 Although prior work experience may be the most important part of your resume, there are many other valid accomplishments or experiences you can include that will make you a more attractive candidate for the job. Educational history, volunteer work, special skills, fluency in foreign languages, extracurricular activities and hobbies, and time spent abroad traveling can all become an important and enticing part of a good resume.

The trick is to research the company or employer you are applying to, and to understand what slices of your life or personality are going to be most attractive to that particular employer.

Technical Standards for a Great Resume

 As with any writing, there are certain protocols and formats to follow when constructing your resume. Failing to adhere to these rules could cause your resume to be dismissed before it’s even been read. The most important ones are:

  • Always include a cover letter, and spend some time learning how to write one correctly
  • Type in a font that is legible. Ariel and Times New Roman are two that are easy to read and clean-looking. A 12 point size is ideal, but 10 or 14 points are acceptable as well.
  • Keep your resume at a length of one page, or two pages maximum, and leave a one-inch margin all around the type.
  • Be sure to check spelling and grammar after you are finished! Then check again. And again.
  • Print on a hardy stock paper that is either white or off-white in color, using a laser printer.
  • Don’t lie or exaggerate about your work history or accomplishments!
  • Sending resumes via email is quickly becoming a standard practice. However, there is a proper procedure and etiquette involved, so be sure to read up on the do’s and don’ts before using the email method.

Below are further resources on learning how to write an effective, professional resume:

  • OWL Resume Workshop: Tips, tricks, and step-by-step guides to help create the perfect resume.
  • Learn Free Resume Writing: Packed with interactive tutorials, this site will help you write a resume that caters to your chosen line of work.
  • Colorado University: Resume Writing: Comprehensive and easy to navigate, this site pays special attention to the various types of resume formats, including combination, creative, and electronic.
  • Work Source: The handy listing of quick guides featured on this site will teach the basics of resume writing, while the FAQ section quickly answers specific problems and concerns.
  • How to Write a Resume: This site goes beyond writing basics to include interviewing tips, cover letter how-twos, and tips on finding a new job.
  • Youth Canada: Writing a Resume: Geared towards young adults, the information found here is perfect for resume newbies.
  • Resume Writing: Head here for easy-to-understand career planning and sample resumes.
  • The Dual Career Network: Catering towards working couples, the University of Iowa surveyed various employers on what they would like to see in a resume, and presents the results of that survey on this page. Coupled or not, this site offers some unique and valuable insight on the resume writing process.
  • Resume Writing: A Basic Guide: Perfect for high school or college students, this site examines the fundamentals of resume writing for the novice.
  • Resume Help: 109 free resume templates and samples are available here, and are sure to get the creative juices flowing.
  • Resume Writing: A basic guide to the fundamentals of a great resume that is sure to impress potential employers.
  • How To Write a Resume: This page explains the three main types of the resume, and offers tips to make a resume stand out, increasing the probability of landing a desired job.
  • Sample Resume: This site offers hundreds of sample resumes that are each geared towards a specific profession or career. From Banking Executive to English Teacher, an example of a resume for your chosen career is here.
  • Free Resume Templates: Over 250 resume templates spanning many different careers.
  • Orglean: Use this site’s free resume form as a simple template to create a beginner’s resume, or browse their resources and articles on resume writing techniques to create your own.
  • Writing a First Resume: Although this page was designed by a teacher as a potential classroom activity for high school students, there are many invaluable tips to be learned by the novice resume writer at home as well.
  • How to follow Up a Resume Submission: Learn the dos and don’ts of making follow-up calls and inquiries after you’ve submitted a resume to a company…without annoying potential employers.
  • First Send a Resume, And then Follow Up: This collection of short, dynamic articles about many facets of resume writing and the job hunt offers many tips and tricks from the employer’s standpoint.
  • Email Guidelines and Etiquette: Thinking about sending a resume via Email? This site is ripe with information on the necessary electronic protocol, from how to address the subject line to adding attachments.
  • The Email Resume: Short and sweet, this page concisely presents all the important information about sending a resume electronically.
  • Resume and Cover Letter Tips: Students looking to apply for a position need to know resume and cover letter tips.
  • How to Write a Resume