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Organizing Your Resume

Identification

Organizing your resume into a clear, interesting format is the next step. Regardless of the layout you choose, you will likely begin by listing your name, address, phone number and email near the top. If you can be reached at more than one location during your job search campaign, you may want to list both sets of contact information. You may also want to include a fax number if you have one. Finally, if you’ve created a web page that you would want a potential employer to see, include the URL.

Objective (Optional)

Some people choose to state their job objective on the resume, as opposed to including it in the body of their cover letter. Stating an objective helps convince employers that you know what you want and are familiar with the field. Stating your objective on your resume is optional, having an objective for your resume is not—you need to be clear on your goal. 

In reality, even after careful assessment, your interests may span a number of diverse fields. You may decide to draft more than one resume, each with a different focus. This option allows the separate resumes to highlight the types of skills or qualities most sought after in each unique field. You may choose to include objectives or let the resumes speak for themselves. 

If you have interests in a variety of career fields, but the basic skills and qualifications required for those areas are similar, you may be able to use one resume without an objective on it. The objective should be clarified on each cover letter as it will vary with the particular position, field, and/or employer which you target (see samples at the end of the Guide). 

On a resume, an objective may be as brief as a job title. Depending on the position, the objective may need supporting information in order to make the target clear. The most effective objective is the one that is most specific about the position and type of employer desired. Conduct informational interviews to find the appropriate title for the type of work you seek. 

Examples:

  • Elementary Education Teacher 
  • Account executive trainee in small advertising agency. 
  • Position as clinical practice assistant for health maintenance organization, utilizing writing, research, and leadership skills. 

Another option is to include a Summary Statement at the top of the resume (rather than an objective). This would include a brief list of the highlights of your candidacy and works especially well for people with a significant amount of experience. For example: 

  • production assistant/intern for nationally broadcast television series 
  • assistant to producer/intern for regional film festival 
  • experience in radio production at college-based radio station 
  • degree in English and Art, graduated with honors 
  • member, American Broadcast Association 

A very common resume format is the chronological resume. This format divides paid and non-paid experiences, and presents them in reverse-chronological order. This format is very effective for highlighting a work history, especially if upward movement is evident. 

Many students and recent graduates do not have a long work history to describe. Often, the most effective tool for them is the skills-based resume. In it, experiences of all types are grouped under major headings, which highlight the skills or qualities required to function in a particular field. The benefit of this format is that major headings may be supported by paid and non-paid jobs, internships, hobbies, and class work. Any experience is valid, as long as it supports the heading to which it is linked. If you are unsure of which skills are most needed in the work you seek, speak with a career counselor who will be able to direct you to appropriate resources for your answer.

Education

For students and recent graduates, the Education section will be the first major category to follow the Identification and Objective or Summary Statement sections. This is because your most recent, long-term, full-time role has been that of student. You may choose to include as much or as little of the autobiographical data from your worksheet as you see fit. If you wonder about whether you should include certain information or not, ask yourself whether it will help you in getting an interview. If you believe it will, it probably has a place on your resume. 

Identifying Skills

To determine which headings to group your experiences under, try to find the three skills or qualities most important to the job you seek. Typically an employer lists the required skill set as “qualifications” in a job lead (see samples at the end of the Guide). Or, think of your three strongest skills or qualities. 

T
he Skills Chart on the next page may help. The Skills column represents those skills, which may be useful in many different types of jobs. These are considered transferable. Below these transferable skills are spaces for you to fill in the more career-specific skills you might have, for example, public relations, economics, and teaching. Along the top of the chart are areas for you to list experiences identified earlier on your worksheets. Under each experience, you should check the skill you feel you learned/used/mastered. 

W
hen you have completed your chart, look for the patterns of skills checked most often. Decide if you would like to use those skills in the job you seek. If you would, use these skills as headings (i.e., communications skills; leadership skills; organizational skills). The chart then acts as an outline of experiences to include in support of your headings.

Descriptions

Select information from your worksheets to support your chosen headings. Try to be concise and specific when writing your descriptions. Past experiences should be written in past tense; present experiences in present tense. Remember to begin 
statements with verbs (refer to the Skills Lists on the previous pages), use descriptive nouns and list your information in priority order. Include references to accomplishments or recognition whenever possible.

Fine Tuning Your Resume

The following tips may be used to polish your resume and be sure it is a professional looking document. 

  • Leave off irrelevant information such as age, sex, marital status, religious or political affiliation, and health. This information is not likely to attest to your potential as an employee and may be illegal for U.S. employers to consider in the hiring process. 
  • Check spelling. Like any writing we do, it is often difficult to catch our own mistakes. Take advantage of the opportunity to have others review your resume. Maintain consistency in layout. For example, if you begin one entry with a job title, begin all entries with a job title. This makes the resume easier to skim. Make ample use of "blank space." Do not clutter your resume. Design a layout that is easy to skim; one that facilitates quick comprehension of the message you are trying to present.
  • Aim for a one-page resume since it is more appealing to many employers, but do not sacrifice neatness. If your information warrants it, it’s better to use two-full pages rather than one page that is difficult to skim. Use various graphics techniques (capital letters, boldface, underlining) to emphasize headings and important facts on your print resume. Avoid several styles of type set, though. And for your scannable resume, minimize use of graphics. 
  • Use laser bond paper for your resume and cover letters (something that will hold up to a good deal of handling). You may choose to use matching #10 envelopes or the larger 9” X 12” envelopes to allow your documents to be mailed without folding (the latter is preferable for scannable resumes). 

Use the most professional method of reproduction you can. Strong options include using a word processing system which is linked to a letter quality or laser printer; having a printing service typeset your resume; and bringing a camera ready resume to a printing service to be offset copied.

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