Guidelines for Writing a Resume

Use these guidelines for writing a resume to help you get the job you want. Before you start, remember that you must stay focused on the employer and their needs throughout this process.

The Header

For your header section, include your name, address, appropriate number to reach you, and email address. Your email address should be professional, ideally using some form of your name.

You may want to consider using a separate, free email account (Yahoo, GMAIL, etc.) to track all of your job search correspondence.

Create a Summary Objective and Profile Statement

One of the critical, but often overlooked guidelines to writing a resume lies in your summary objective statement. There's really no hard and fast rule to having separate or combined objective and profile statements, but one thing does hold true - you must be specific and targeted!

Imagine you're a hiring manager and you read something like:

Objective: A professional position with a great company

This shows you the person is not focused or specific, and is not addressing the needs you placed in the job posting.

A more specific example:

Objective: A management position in marketing utilizing my leadership and creative skills to develop and grow a dynamic marketing team.

Using the example above, a combined objective and profile statement could be:

Highly talented marketing manager with over 15 years experience seeks challenging leadership position. Expert in motivating and growing marketing teams.

Using the guidelines for writing a resume objective and summary statement will help you target and focus that critical "first-impression" element on your resume.

Customize Your Resume to a Specific Job Posting

In order to capture the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager, your resume must show that you possess the skills and qualifications for the position AND that you can perform and get results.

If it helps, take the job posting and highlight or circle the requirements, qualifications, desired skills, soft skills - anything specific the employer has indicated they would like an employee to possess.

Match your skills and accomplishments to the requirements of the position. This requires some brainstorming and creativity. Take out your current resume, awards, past performance reviews, and anything else that will help you remember what you've done in the past. Using these guidelines for writing a resume will help your accomplishments stand out.

Brainstorm and write down specific accomplishments, skills, and qualifications you possess. You want to show the employer that not only do you possess the qualifications, but you have PROOF that you can perform and achieve results.

For example, say a job posting states "requires management and marketing skills."

A typical resume would say:

  • Responsible for marketing department

A "WOW" resume would say:

  • Managed 25 personnel supporting marketing initiatives.
  • Created and implemented "ExtraCool" marketing campaign, generating $17M in revenue.

The first statement above tells the employer nothing about the specifics of the position or what was achieved. The second statement shows an employer a specific scope, as well as a specific achievement.

Keep it Relevant

You should remember "relevancy" as one of the guidelines for writing a resume. Don't include tasks or responsibilities that have nothing to do with the position you're seeking. For example, one mistake I've seen people make is including technical or software skills that have nothing to do with the targeted position. Don't include your skills for a proprietary accounting system on a resume for a customer service manager position.

On the flip side, you may have to be creative if you lack certain qualifications. This doesn't mean you need to lie on your resume, but think about ALL the roles you play in your life and how they might pertain to a position you're seeking. If you seek a leadership position and have experience as a leader in your neighborhood association, include it!

Education and Training

Generally, guidelines for writing a resume education and training section are to include all secondary education information, including degrees and honors. If you're new to the workforce, or don't have any education beyond high school, be sure to include your high school information, including any honors or special recognition.

Only include professional training and certifications when they are relevant to the job you're seeking.

Format

Traditionally, guidelines for writing a resume format fall in one of three categories: chronological, functional or combined. Chronological resumes focus on work experience, starting with your most current position and working backwards. Functional resumes tend to focus on job skills and achievements rather than highlighting work experience. People who have gaps in their employment may consider using a functional format. A combined resume combines the elements of a functional and chronological resume.

However, there's no hard and fast rule for guidelines to writing a resume format. As long as your resume looks neat, presents you in a positive light, and the format remains consistent, you should be okay. Of course, not all recruiters or hiring managers are consistent, either, and some will prefer certain formats over others. This is why a cover letter should be included whenever possible.

There are plenty of free guidelines for writing a resume at your local library or career center. Just remember to focus on the position you're seeking, and create powerful phrases to WOW any hiring manager or recruiter.

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