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Getting Started: Write Your Résumé

The hardest part about writing a résumé is starting to write the résumé! First you need to think about what you want to do, what image you wish to project, and how your past experiences relate to your current aspirations. Once you have addressed these crucial issues, putting your thoughts on paper is much easier.

For more help getting started, try these links, or look for a résumé Workshop at your local WorkSource Office.

Follow these steps to get started!

Choose a Format

There are four basic types of résumés: chronological, functional, combination, and curricula vitae (CVs). Choose a format that best fits your experiences and industry or one that you are comfortable with. Ultimately, the choice of résumé format is up to you.

  • Chronological résumés present information in a timeline approach.
  • Functional résumés group work experience and skills by skill area or job function.
  • Combination résumés highlight your skills and experiences.
  • Curricula vitae (CVs) provide a detailed statement of your qualifications. They are only used in certain positions and industries.

Choose your focus

Decide what type of job you'll be applying for and the write it at the top of a piece of paper. If you need help in finding different industries and occupations, search America's Job Bank and America's Career InfoNet to identify hot industries and available opportunities. The job objective you list on your sheet of paper doesn't have to actually appear on your résumé. Sometimes, it's best to describe your job goals in the cover letter, where you can tailor your objective to each opening. Most employers do like to see an objective statement on your résumé. Make sure that it is precise. For example, "A marketing management position with an innovative corporation" is much better than "A position which utilizes my education and experience."

Take inventory

Start with several pieces of blank paper. Title each with the following headings and then brainstorm.

  • Education
  • Activities
  • Interests
  • Work Experience
  • Honors and awards
  • Skills and Abilities

If you think you don't have any experience--think again Remember, the question in the employer's mind is: "Why should I speak with this person? How is he/she different from all the other applicants?" Try to answer these questions under each heading. Talking out loud about your overall career and job skills and experiences can sometimes be helpful. Remember to be big-picture and summary oriented. Ask yourself for each job and experience, "What did I do?"

Education

  • Always look at your résumé from a potential employer's perspective. Don't waste space by citing training that's not directly related to your target job.
  • List the schools you have attended, major studies, exchange programs, off-campus study, and major areas of study.
  • List your educational qualifications.
  • List any of the relevant education or training you've received that relates to the job.

Work Experience

  • List all your job experiences-paid or unpaid-with a list of all the things you did while working at each one.
  • Think about details. Under each job, list your job responsibilities and skills that were needed. If available, incorporate sentences from the actual job description. Don't worry yet about writing descriptions or narrowing your list.
  • Make an inventory of your successes. Go back to each job you have held and think about what you accomplished for which you received special recognition, or that you felt proud of, or was above and beyond the call of duty. Did you save the organization? Write down any achievement that shows potential employers what you could do for them. Whenever possible, quantify your results. Numbers are always impressive.
  • Now describe each job and any of your accomplishments in a simple and powerful action statement that emphasizes beneficial results.

Activities

  • List your hobbies, clubs or groups you belong to, sports, church and school activities, organized groups, community involvement, and volunteer activities.
  • List things that interest you, including hobbies, travel experiences, and special talents.

Skills and Abilities

  • List everything you haven't covered under the other headings-even if it seems trivial. For each section, ask yourself the following questions:
  • Are there things on this list I feel a sense of pride or accomplishment about?
  • Can I make these things relate to what a prospective employer might be looking for?
  • Which things on my list show different aspects of my personality or strengths?
  • Which activities have been superseded by more recent experiences?

For help assessing your skills, you may wish to experiment with O*NET OnLine. This tool can be very helpful when you are trying to choose just the right wording to describe skills for a specific occupation. You'll find detailed information about the knowledge, skills and abilities required for virtually any occupation.

Start Writing

Now that you have everything down on paper, go back to each list and think about which items are relevant to your target job. Cross out anything that doesn't relate, even if this means entire jobs. Remember, if you have enough jobs listed, a particular job you held in high school may not be relevant. The purpose of a résumé is to get your foot in the door. It is not meant to be an all-inclusive recollection of your life. If you have a long history of work experience, you may want to list only recent jobs that are related to your present objective.

Create clear and concise sentences

Take all your lists and make full sentences out of the remaining items listed for each job and experience. Combine any items that are related to prevent your phrases from being short and choppy. Each sentence should be structured so it is interesting and compelling. Use action verbs at the beginning of each sentence to make each sentence powerful (refer to the list of action words). Make sure that each word in every sentence means something and contributes to the quality of the phrase. If you are having trouble writing clear and concise sentences, ask a friend who's good with words to help you. Also, most schools offer free services to help you with your résumé.

Insert targeted keywords

Your résumé must contain specific keywords to get noticed. These include descriptive nouns or short phrases that may be used to find your qualifications in a keyword search of a résumé database. These include talents, skills and relevant knowledge required to do your job. The job description will be one of the best sources for keywords. Refer to O*NET OnLine where job descriptions can be found on numerous industries.

NNearly every noun in a job postings and advertisements will be a keyword that employers use when searching through résumés. Make sure to use those words somewhere in your résumé, including synonyms wherever you can. For example, if you are seeking a public relations position, you should describe your "communication skills" and "writing experience." Never include a keyword on your résumé that is not true or doesn't represent your experience.

You're now finished with the hardest part of creating a résumé. The only thing left is to format your information in a style that reflects your personality. Your finished product should be finely tuned marketing instrument that reflects who you are and motivates the employer to contact you for an interview.

 

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