Work Smarter

How To Build a Dynamite Resume

by Ben Welch

Resumes are to getting jobs what good looks are to getting dates. Admittedly, this analogy is bit reductive, but the fact is that hiring decisions are often made on first impressions. As such, you want to make sure your resume not only explains who you are and what you have to offer, but also does so in a way that is attractive to potential employers. The purpose of this article is outline how you can create, beautify, and even airbrush your resume in order to make a lasting impression.

Getting Started

Begin your resume by constructing a framework that includes your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. Make sure the information is current and accurate. Most good resumes locate this information at the top (so that it's easy for employers to read) but keep it relatively small and low-key. You don't want to distract from the real meat of your resume.

Objectives & Statement of Purpose

Once you've completed the heading, you may want to write a simple "objective statement" or "statement of purpose" that clearly indicates the work you want to do. This is the thesis of your resume - the single statement that every other part of the resume is will attempt to support. Try to tailor it to each employer and to each job. Avoid the grandiose "philosophy-of-life" objectives. Just be direct and keep it simple.

Education

Typically, the section that immediate follows the objective statement deals with education. At the very least, education should include any degrees or certificates earned as well as when and where it was received. Many job seekers also include their GPA (if it's worth mentioning) and any academic honors they may have received. In some instances, you may also want to include a list of courses that would apply to a specific job. For instance, if you're applying for a computer programming job that specializes in JavaScript and you took three classes in Java, put it down.

Work Experience

Relevant work experience is perhaps the most important section of the resume and one that employers study closely. Most resumes list jobs chronologically, with the most recent - or current - job listed first. In addition to the job title, name of company or employer, and the length of time you've held this job, you should also indicate your work responsibilities and any awards or recognition you've received. Don't be modest. A resume is one of the few places where people expect you toot your own horn. That being said, it's important to quantify and qualify your work experience. Exaggerating or misrepresenting your work experience or skills is professional suicide.

Other Categories

Once you have the basic components of a good resume, you may want to include other categories as well. Recruiters and career counselors agree that not every resume needs to look exactly the same, so feel free to take some liberties. For instance, your resume might include a section on special skills, such as fluency in a foreign language or proficiency in specific computer programs. You could also include sections on leadership experience, service, or even hobbies. The important thing is to customize your resume so that it emphasizes your individual strengths and shows what makes you interesting and unique.

Layout & Typography

Finally, a word on the look and feel of your resume. As mentioned earlier, a resume is like your professional headshot. As such, make sure that its overall appearance compliments and strengthens its content. Use a simple, legible font and standard margins, and be selective about using excessive bolding or underlining. Avoid graphics or photographs. Proofread carefully for errors, as mistakes communicate to employers that either you are uneducated or careless - neither of which is good. Finally, print your resume on white or off-white paper and make sure it looks clean and crisp.

Resumes are now an indispensable part of recruitment and hiring. The question is not whether you need a resume but whether your resume will be an advantage or a liability. Remember that a well-conceived and well-executed resume can secure an interview, influence discussions of salary and benefits, and even secure your dream job. Follow these basic guidelines and you're well on your way to more striking and more memorable resume.

Benjamin Welch has been a college instructor in writing and composition for nearly six years. When he's not teaching or playing golf, he offers career and online education advice to students and professionals. Find useful career and education tools at Classesandcareers.com.

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