If you're in need of a new résumé (or maybe even a first résumé), the challenge can be overwhelming. For every ten articles you read online about how to write a résumé, you might run across ten different opinions on the best way to do it. However, there are a few basic concepts to keep in mind as you are working on your résumé, and that's what we want to cover here.
First, let's cover the type of résumé you need to focus on writing. The traditional, chronological résumé details the jobs you've had, from the most recent backward. Alternately, the skills-based résumé focuses on skills picked up from schooling, jobs, and other areas of life. Knowing which one to use is important when writing your first résumé. Since the traditional and skills-based résumés are the most common, we'll focus on these in this article.
Deciding which to use
A traditional résumé is best used when there has been consistent, long-term employment. What that means is that you've had no gaps in employment of more than a month and the jobs were held for more than six months or at least a year. Otherwise, it is better to use a skills-based résumé if your employment history is sporadic and you've had many different jobs lasting less than a year. When your skills are the focus of your résumé, you'll write it based on a certain line of work, such as customer service or production.
For both traditional and skills-based résumés, start making a list of your employment history. This should be kept as a separate document to make writing other résumés easier and it should be updated when a new job or skill is added to your experience. What should be included in the employment history is the name of the company, address (at least the city and state), employment dates (at least the month and year for start and end date), the position held, and a list of four to six tasks completed at the job. If you're unsure of how to word the tasks, O*Net is a great resource to look through tasks based on positions.
It's also good to have the supervisor's name, a phone number for the company, and even the supervisor's email address or the name and email address of the HR rep. It makes it easier when completing applications and employment verification.
Personal information section
Although some résumé templates put the personal information on other parts of the page, most résumé templates place it front and center, at the very top of the paper. For this section, you need to start with your full, legal first and last name. This should be the most prominent portion of your résumé. You can bold it and increase the font size, but don't make it over 16-point font. (A word on fonts: Keep the fonts neutral in most cases. Use easy to read fonts like Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial.)
Under your name should be your address, including the city and state, in a smaller font (10 to 12-point). If you're looking for a job in a new city or state, use that location. Employers are more likely to contact you if your résumé and application information is listed in the city where the job is located. Finally, list your email and phone number next. They can be on the same line and have a symbol included before them.
Example: ● firstname.lastname@example.org ● (555) 555-5555
Keep in mind that your email should be professional (Stoner6969@email.com doesn't meet that criteria). The best way to make a professional email is a combination of your first and last name. If it needs numbers, keep them in an odd set like one or three. Two or four makes the employer think that is the year you were born and dates you in their mind. A good email is email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your voicemail should be set up and professional, as well. Do not have a joke voicemail, swearing, or an automated voice stating the phone number. At the very least, state your first and last name.
In the older days of résumé writing, this was called the objective statement. It usually began something like this: "Seeking job with advancement opportunities," or "Looking for a job in customer service." Those are not used anymore and don't highlight what you offer the company.
Instead, you want to stand out and hook the employer with a summary, which should be about two to four sentences long. In this summary, you want to state your occupation and the years of experience you have in it. Next, you want to state what you offer the company to which you're applying regarding verifiable skills and knowledge of the industry. If you've won awards that highlight your professionalism or knowledge, put those here to bring them to the forefront of your potential employer's attention.
Customer Service Representative with 1+ years of high-volume call center experience. Skilled in navigating multiple windows, customer satisfaction, and relationship building with customers. Always met monthly sales goals and given an award for top customer service quality scores above 98%.
With education, it depends on what you want to emphasize. If you have a solid set of degrees and want them as the focus, then list them after your personal information. If you don't have higher education or your degrees are older and it would give away your age, then you can list them later in the résumé. If you don't have a diploma or GED, you can exclude this section. If you're listing a degree you are in the process of completing, only list it if you are within three months of completing the program.
For a traditional résumé, the jobs listed under your experience section should be targeted to the job for which you are applying. For example, if you are applying for a production job, you would list production-related jobs or jobs that prepared you for various soft skills like teamwork or customer service. If you are applying for IT jobs, you would list IT-related jobs. Otherwise, use a skills-based résumé.
The typical response with a résumé is to write long descriptions of your tasks from former/current jobs. That is not the best route. Employers spend about ten seconds skimming résumés. Make a bulleted list of about four to six tasks you performed in the job. With each related job, use new but related tasks to show that you know the field or job type. As I mentioned earlier, O*Net is helpful with this because they have lists of typical tasks related to your field.
It is also good to list numbers if you can. This can be like sales jobs where you mention specific sales goals you met or passed, or call centers where you'd list their quality scores. In production or other jobs, this might mean listing how long it takes you to pack a pallet, the number of pallets you pack in an hour, or your quality scores. In other jobs, you can list tasks like accounts managed, dollar amounts handled, employees managed, and so on. Adding in verifiable and specific numbers are something employers focus on and can see as potentially benefiting their company.
In a skills-based résumé, the focus is on the skills. A job history is listed, but in a different format and at the end of the section. The experience is split into targeted areas for the job for which you're applying. An example would be a customer service position at a call center. The first jobs you would list would be those related to Customer Service, along with a total of your years of experience. List specific skills/tasks that relate to your experience with customer service like a traditional résumé. You can then list other fields, but keep that section of your résumé targeted toward customer service.
However, let's say you worked construction but are now applying for the call center. There are aspects of construction that relate to customer service. List tasks/skills such as effective communication with co-workers, following policies and instructions from your supervisor, and meeting deadlines and goals. Doing so allows you to use a job not directly related to the job you are applying for, while pointing out the skills and tasks from that experience that do transfer into the job you want.
You will likely want to focus on several major skills to list your experience under, but in both traditional and skills-based résumés, you can also include a section listing your hard and soft skills in table format (without additional information). Most people use skills like leadership or customer service as their primary skills, but you should also consider skills related to finding solutions to problems and organizing your workflow. There should be a mixture of skills included in this section. Try to find a list of skills online of soft skills and other skills needed for the work you seek and pick out about 10 total.
Other sections to include
The other sections you choose to include should be based on your experience. These could be volunteering, internships, publications, and so on, based on your personal and career history.
Make it a living document
Résumés are a lot of trial and error. If you send out your résumé and no one calls, then change it. Résumés are living documents, and everyone has an opinion of what a résumé should be. It should also be a document that is targeted to your personal experience and the job to which you're applying. What works for one position might not work for another. However, once you have the basic information, you can build on it (or take away from it) however you need.