It often takes no more than a moment for a recruiter to make a “yes” or “no” decision about your resume. With a quick glance, it either captures a recruiter’s attention or goes on a reject pile. A well-written, professional resume is part art and part science. How well you combine the two plays a major role in how it will be received.
Types and Best Practice Tips
Most resumes follow a chronological or a functional format. Although the chronological style is more widely used, new graduates, career changers and people reentering the job market may benefit more from using a functional format. The difference is that a chronological resume highlights work history and past career accomplishments, while a functional resume highlights your abilities and education.
A number of best practice guidelines apply no matter which format you decide on. These include:
- Keep your resume to no more than one page.
- Concise wording is essential, so provide information using the fewest words possible. For example, use bulleted lists with descriptive statements instead of complete sentences. However, do not sacrifice meaning to achieve conciseness. Do not use abbreviations or acronyms. Spell out street addresses, titles and names of schools and businesses.
- Use action verbs in the correct tense to describe your skills, abilities and previous or current job duties. For example, describe a current job duty using a statement such as “Manage accounts receivable and accounts payable.” Describe a past job duty using a statement such as “Organized thousands of patient records and managed a database containing confidential patient information.”
- Do not use first-person pronouns such as I, me and my. For example, instead of starting a sentence with, “I have,” start it with a statement such as “Four years of experience in…”
- Do not exaggerate,and do not include any information on your resume that a recruiter can’t verify.
- Make your resume visually appealing. Margins should be consistent and between one-half to one-inch. The font size should be 11 or 12, with headings no more than 16. Choose a professional font style such Times New Roman or Helvetica.
- Review and edit your resume until it is perfect.
There are no exact rules for formatting the header section of a resume. However, it should be visually appealing and easy to read. The header should include:
- Your full legal name
- E-mail address
- Mailing address
- Telephone number or numbers
Divide your resume into sections, starting with a professional summary. Kimberly Myers, a training and coaching professional, recommends that you use this instead of an objective because it keeps the focus on the employer’s needs, not your needs.
Summarize your background and qualifications in terms of how they can benefit the employer and the job in no more than about three sentences or bullet points. Refer to and use words included in the job description.
Work Experience, or Skills and Abilities
With a chronological resume, list work experience in reverse order to make recent experience the most relevant.
With a functional resume, organize skills and abilities by type. For example, include subsections such as “Accounting,” “Organization and Planning” and “Customer Service and Support.”
List the school, your degree, the month and year you graduated, and coursework that relates to the job.
List the position title, the company and employment dates in years.
Maintain a list of at least three current references, but do not incorporate the list into your resume. Instead, list references on a separate sheet of paper that includes the same heading as your resume.
Unless a job description specially mentions references, it’s not necessary to include a statement such as “references available upon request” on your resume.