Creating a Winning Resume

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Preparing your resume can often seem like a daunting task. You've done your research, but there is so much information, and how do you pick from the countless formats?!

Writing your resume doesn't have to be so scary, in fact, if you keep a few simple tips in mind, you'll keep yourself ahead of the competition.

1. Objective

If the objective statement doesn't match the job you're applying for, your resume is likely to end up in the circular file. It is important to customize the objective so it expresses your goals and keeps the HR manager interested in learning more about you. Don't be vague! Remember, your resume is a marketing tool-and that begins with a clear, concise objective.

2. Appearance

Your resume should have a professional, contemporary appearance that is both visually appealing and easy on the eyes. This includes using an easy to read font, such as Times New Roman, in a font no smaller than 10 pt., and printing your resume on high-quality bond paper in a conservative color. White, light grey and cream are acceptable.

Remember not to clutter your resume. It should include all of your relevant accomplishments, but you don't want it to look daunting to prospective employers. If it looks overwhelming, it may not get a second glance. An ideal resume uses white space efficiently and stills gets the point across-that you are the perfect candidate for the position. If your work history is extensive, consider cutting back. It is acceptable to go back 15 years on a resume unless a job held prior was of particular significance.

If you are sending your resume electronically, plain is the way to go. Eliminate all embellishments, such as italics, bold and centering. Text should be plain and aligned on the left side of the page. Remember, the more embellishments, the harder it may be on the reader. If you need emphasis, use ALL CAPS.

3. Format

The format you use should be determined based on your unique credentials and background. The key is to present the information so it highlights your most important accomplishments immediately. For example, a recent college graduate would present his education before his work history because it is his biggest selling point.

I'll say it again?your resume is a marketing tool which should be designed to sell, sell, sell! List your most important achievements first, and be specific! Don't say that you were responsible for increasing profitability, say that you spearheaded a national marketing campaign that increased profits by 35%. Don't be afraid to include numbers and percentages. What if you don't have the exact numbers? Estimates are fine, as long as they're reasonable.

Lastly, remember to keep it clean and organized. Utilize white space by keeping sentences short and informative. Use bullets to highlight information and avoid long paragraphs which appear overwhelming. You don't want your most important accomplishments lost in the middle of a paragraph.

4. Too Much Information!

Yes, there is such a thing as including too much information. If you want to include a website where potential employers can view work samples, fine. Just make sure that there are no photos of your latest vacation to Mexico or your newborn baby. As proud as you may be to show off your new bundle of joy, it may make an employer uncomfortable. Also, no silly email addresses and no list of irrelevant hobbies. The employer won't care if you're NASCAR fan, and if they associate a negative connotation with your hobby, then you're out of luck.

Keep these tips in mind before you send your resume off to prospective employers to help ensure that your resume gets a fair read. Oftentimes there will be anywhere from 40 to 100 other applicants interested in the same position. By presenting your information in a professional, easy to read format that clearly highlights your strengths and achievements, you'll keep an edge on the competition.

Lindsey Hadwin is a professional resume writer and president of Pro Resume, a resume writing and career consulting business based in Springfield, MA.

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