We’ve been seeing a lot of resumes in the Writing Center lately. Writing a resume usually starts out as an assignment that simply needs to be completed, but often unravels into a frenzy of post-college anxiety. We get it. Trying to organize your accomplishments and life experiences into established categories, while considering what your potential employer might think, can be very overwhelming.
Here we’ll list some tips and steps to make the whole process easier.
First of all, there is a basic accepted format for a resume. Of course, there is some wiggle room and different kinds of templates that you can use, but here we’ll stick to the basics.
At the top of your resume, you should list your contact information as follows:
First Name, Last Name
City, State, Zip
After your contact information, your main headings should be Education, Experience, and Skills. I suggest sticking to that order; that way your potential employer will be able to see if you are qualified for the position first according to your education and second by your experience.
At George Mason, most students coming into the Writing Center include an Objective heading under their contact information. An Objective section should include a couple sentences stating what job you are applying for and explaining why you are the right person for this position. This section is a good option to include because it shows the employer that you have tailored your resume for this job and put thought into how you might function as a part of their company.
Now the question remains: What information should I include under my headings? I suggest first filling in the blanks with as much information as possible and then weeding out unnecessary information according to the job you are applying for.
For example, under Education, state the college(s) you went to, the degree you achieved at that school, and what year you graduated. If you first went to a community college and then transferred to George Mason, include that information as well. You don’t, however, need to put the high school you graduated from. If you’re a student in college, the employer will assume you earned a high school degree.
College, Degree Date of Graduation
Under Experience you’ll want to list the companies you’ve worked for, the internships you’ve held, dates of employment, and a bulleted list of responsibilities for each.
- Responsibilities / Achievements
- Responsibilities / Achievements
Do you need to include the nine months you worked at Target your junior year of high school? No. Not unless you can make a very good argument as to how your experience at Target will translate to the skills necessary for the job you are applying to.
That is how you want to go about deciding what information you should keep or nix. Ask yourself if the job, skill, or accomplishment you have listed informs the employer that you are qualified for the open position. For example, under Skills, you’ll want to list the specific skills you attained at the jobs you have listed above them. The information under your Experience heading should inform the skills you list. If you worked at a Best Buy store for two years, then you most certainly have customer service skills, knowledge of current competing technologies, inventory and data analysis skills, ect. Now what of those skills you mastered at Best Buy will show the employer that you are the most qualified applicant?
It’s a lot to consider, but at the end of the day, your resume should only be one page long. This page limit will help you tighten and specify the information listed. If you are a couple of lines over a page, you can always change the margins slightly or combine the appropriate skills together on one line so that you have some more space. Remember though, the way your resume looks is just as important as the content. Your headings should all line up, the dates should line up towards the right margin; everything should be mirrored accordingly.
Applying for jobs is a nerve-wracking endeavor, but once you have a first draft, it’ll be easier to use your own resume as a template and adjust it according to what content best represents you to the employer.
October 28, 2014