How to Write a Resume

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A photo with a cup of coffee, a resume, and the newspaper open to the classified section.
We explain how to write a resume and offer some helpful
resume writing tips.

Your formal resume is a summary of your education and job experience. It is the all-important document that will be your first impression on a prospective employer. Usually created for the purpose of seeking a job interview, your resume format should briefly highlight the relevant points of your professional and academic profile, as well as emphasize your accomplishments, to show how your qualifications fit the job description. Think of your resume as a marketing tool—it's your personal advertisement to potential employers.

Remember: every job is different

It is important to tailor your resume to the specific job or career of your choice. This increases your chances for gaining employment, but it also serves to indicate that you are interested in a particular job and not simply looking for work in general (even if this is the case). Regardless of how menial the prospective job may seem, we recommend highlighting any personal experiences that relate directly to the position. There is always some characteristic of your previous work experience that will relate to the job in question; for example, if you were formerly a DJ, but you are applying for a customer service or a sales position, you can emphasize your talent for relating to people as a transferrable skill. The idea is to be granted an interview. Once you have achieved this step, you have the opportunity to expand on all of your skills as they relate to the advertised position. Check out our example resume as a guideline to follow when writing your resume.

Keep your resume short and concise

Keep your resume length to no more than two full pages. This will allow employers, whose time is at a premium, to learn the most important aspects of your professional history as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The requirements for the length and content of a resume are slightly different for a curriculum vitae (CV). In some countries, including those in North America, the terms "resume" and "CV" are used interchangeably, but there are notable differences. A resume is usually more elaborate in terms of your goals and attributes, using descriptive and "action" words to profile your character and professional history. A resume is also used mostly within the private sector, having a more casual style and targeting a specific purpose and audience in addition to listing accomplishments in order of significance. By comparison, a curriculum vitae is most often used in medical fields, academia, and the art world. A CV chronologically lists a complete and straightforward record of all important information concerning professional and academic achievements. These would include educational institutions attended, degrees received, a list of works published, etc. For this reason, it is generally accepted that the CV format will vary and the length will likely extend beyond two pages in length. Take a look at our example CV to see the difference between a resume and a CV.

Select the right style for your resume or CV

Technical information aside, how do you now go about composing your resume? You will want to use an eye-catching, reader-friendly format that will still allow you to fit in all of your relevant information.

The most common styles are the chronological resume, the functional resume, the combination resume, and the targeted resume. The online resume is also becoming more common. Several formats exist; we recommend choosing the one best suited to your personal circumstances.

Chronological resume

A chronological resume lists your work history in reverse date order, starting with your most recent or present employer. Most companies prefer this style, since it clearly shows where you have worked and when. This is a solid choice for people with a steady work history. As can be seen in our chronological resume example, we recommend listing no more than ten years' experience on this type of resume.

Functional resume

This format focuses primarily on your skills and experience. A functional resume is used by people who have limited work history or gaps of time within that history (a length of time exceeding two weeks and not related to employment) or by those who are considering changing careers. This type of resume is best for applications for jobs requiring specific skills or character traits rather than specific work experience. The first listing in this type of resume is an Objective heading, under which you will summarize your goals and intentions as they relate to the advertised position. To see an completed resume, refer to our example of a functional resume.

Combination resume

The combination resume format first demonstrates your skills and attributes, followed by your chronological work history, in reverse date order. We recommend this style as it serves two purposes at once. First, your most noteworthy qualifications, as they pertain to the job for which you are applying, are clearly listed. Second, the employer gets an overview of your work experience. This style also includes the Objective heading, as mentioned above. To get a better understanding of this type of resume, check out our combination resume example.

Targeted resume

The targeted format is similar to the combination resume in style. It lists your summary of qualifications first, followed by any professional affiliations (such as societies or associations), and then your work and educational history. However, this format requires that you be more specific with respect to the particular job posting. More care and attention are given to the skills, attributes, and work-related experiences that will make you stand out from the crowd. This is the format to use for a posting that you feel is a perfect match for you. It is definitely worth the extra time and effort you put into it.

For all of these formats, your educational history is listed last. Furthermore, it is always a wise idea to list the phrase References available upon request as the final text on a resume. This is beneficial since a) employers who are considering you for the position will request names of references from you, and b) it demonstrates to the employer that you are open to having them discuss your work history and/or character traits with people who know you or have worked with you. We recommend that you wait to give out these names until you are specifically asked for them, since this protects the privacy of your contacts until such time that their input is requested. Therefore, it is best not to add these names to the resume document itself. Instead, prepare a separate sheet to hand to the employer if these names are requested from you.

Be sure your resume is error free

If you want your resume to stand out from the pack, now's the time to submit it to one of our resume editing services. Our professional editing staff can help you revamp your resume in less than 24 hours, bringing you one step closer to your dream job.

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