Your resume is a one to two page document that identifies your professional strengths, experiences, and skills. Throughout your search for employment, your resume can serve many purposes:
- If you are applying for an advertised vacancy, the purpose of your resume is to advance you past the screening stage to the interview stage of the hiring process.
- If you are pursuing an unadvertised employment opportunity, or trying to persuade an employer to hire you based on your talents even if a position is not currently "available," the purpose of your resume is to convince a hiring decision maker to meet with you for a formal or informal job interview.
- If you are networking, the purpose of your resume is to persuade one of your network contacts to connect you with or recommend you to a hiring decision maker.
Types of resumes
As demonstrated, a resume can serve many purposes in your search for employment. Therefore, it is important to choose a resume type that best meets your needs.
The two most common types of resumes are the Chronological Resume and the Functional Resume. A chronological resume lists the jobs you've held, starting with your current or most recent position and proceeding in reverse-chronological order to your first position. Your experiences and accomplishments are then listed under each position held. The chronological resume is the most common type of resume and is preferred by most employers. A functional resume emphasizes your skills by grouping specific skills under general skill categories. For example, if "technical expertise" is your general skill, you might list "Microsoft Office Suite" as a specific skill under that skill category. Functional resumes are often used by people who are changing careers, as they highlight transferable skills, or by people with gaps in employment history, as they deemphasize the chronology of one’s employment history.
When applying for positions with the federal government, it is wise to use a Federal Resume. This type of resume is more detailed and contains information not found in chronological or functional resumes.
Resume Writing Tips
The first step in creating your resume is to create a heading. The heading of your resume should include your name and contact information, including a mailing address, phone number, and email address. Your email address should sound professional. For example, if your name is "Brenda Moore," a professional email address might be Brenda.Moore@email.com. If such an email address is already owned by someone else at the time of email creation, Brenda.Moore87@email.com or firstname.lastname@example.org would also work. If you do not currently have a professional sounding email address, you can create one for free using Gmail.
Here is an example of an appropriate resume heading:
3482 Pleasant Lake Pathway
Glasgow, NJ 07010 · (551) 232-2004
482 Pleasant Lake Pathway
Glasgow, NJ 07010
(551) 232-2004 · email@example.com
Once you've created your resume heading, you should begin to create the "Skills Summary" section of your resume. Since many hiring decision makers will quickly scan resumes when making hiring decisions, it's wise to put your most compelling skills or accomplishments here where they'll be noticed.
Here is an example of a summary section for a mid-career warehouse supervisor’s resume:
- Fifteen years of front-line leadership experience in transportation and logistics organizations
- Strong focus on safety and preventative maintenance to ensure high reliability
- Adept at problem solving, improvising, and handling unexpected developments
The content of your resume should answer the following questions for a potential employer:
- What is your name, and how may I contact you?
- How will you contribute to my success?
- What is your work experience?
- What education and training have you obtained?
Experience and summary of qualifications
For a chronological resume, the next section you should create is your "Experience” section. In this section, you should list key accomplishments and responsibilities for each positi"n you’ve held (typically going back ten years). When preparing a functional resume, your next step will be to create a "Summary of Qualifications" section. In this section, you should highlight your three or four strongest skill sets and include two to four skill statements for each. After your "Summary of Qualifications," you should list your work experience in a "History of Employment" section, including the most important information regarding your current and previous places of employment.
As emphasized earlier, you should strive to frame your experience and skills in ways that enable hiring decision makers or members of your job search network to easily grasp how your experience and capabilities prepare you to contribute to an employer's success. To learn how to frame your "Experience" or "Summary of Qualifications" section in a way that will grab the attention of someone hiring for a specific position, visit Customize Your Resume.
Education and training
The last section of your resume should be the "Education and Training" section. In this section you should:
- list your most relevant, significant, or recent degrees or certifications first
- if you attended a school but did not graduate, indicate the number of credit hours you earned. Include an expected graduation date if it is within six months
- include relevant technical training
- include the locations of colleges and universities you attended, but it is not necessary to include the dates you attended
Here are a few examples of what to put in the "Education & Training" section:
Bachelor of Science, Business Administration, Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey
Hudson County Community College, Jersey City, New Jersey: 20 semester hours in Culinary Science
U.S. Marine Corps: Specialized training in leadership, diversity, and communication
Should you include an objective statement in your resume?
There's considerable debate whether it's necessary or useful to include an "objective statement" in your resume. In general terms, objective statements are useful if you are creating a resume targeted toward a specific occupation. If you are interested in learning about a variety of employment opportunities, it would be wise not to include an objective statement.
If you decide to include an objective statement, it should appear beneath the resume heading and above the skills summary.
Resume formatting tips
Properly formatting your resume improves readability and projects professionalism. Here are some popular formatting guidelines:
- Length: One to two pages in most circumstances; if you have a two-page resume, place name and page number in footer of document.
- Alignment: Left aligned, except the heading, which is typically centered.
- Margins: One inch – top, bottom, and sides.
- Font: Times New Roman, Cambria, or a similar font.
- Font size: 10 to 12 point; section titles may as large as 14 point.
- Font styles: Bold your name and section headings.
- Paper color and weight: white, light gray, or ivory 24 pound bond (office supply stores carry resume paper; it's a wise investment).
Other resume writing tips:
- Do not include personal information, including your age, marital status, etc.
- Use present tense verbs when describing your current position; use the past tense for your previous jobs.
- Do not use "I" or "my" when describing your capabilities, accomplishments, or experience
- Proofread it, and proofread it again. Then give it to a friend who is good at catching errors to proofread again!
Federal resume tips
According to USAJobs, the most effective resumes when applying for federal jobs are those that clearly articulate how an applicant's experiences and skills match the selection defined under the employment opportunity posted. Applicants should always tailor their resume to the job posting they are applying to. Make sure that the details and duties from the posting are reflecting in your past work experience. Please see USAJobs' resume tips for additional tips on how to create an effective federal resume.