Creating a Resume: The Fundamentals

A resume has a very distinct purpose. It should make it as easy as possible for a hiring manager to decide that you are the right person for the job. Reaching that goal requires attention to some resume fundamentals that can make all the difference.

General Format: The format needs to be clean and clear. Simple wins out over fancy and standard formatting has the virtue of familiarity in the eyes of the hiring manager. Sections can be somewhat flexible.

While most resumes put experience before education, this is not a universal rule and it may not work well for recent graduates or for applicants who wish to highlight specific educational accomplishments, especially if they are job requirements.

Spelling and grammar: A resume with mistakes in spelling or grammar is fatally flowed from the beginning. This is not the place for careless errors.

Be sure to have important points jump out at a glance. A glance is often all you can hope for.

File Format: Jobs that allow or require electronic resume submission will generally specify a desired format. Departing from this instruction is not good policy, nor is selecting anything but the most common formats if the employer leaves the choice open.

Chronology: Reverse chronology is typical, but not required. A “functional” resume avoids this question and may make sense for those without an extensive employment history.

Automation and Keywords: Hiring managers have increasingly turned to automation to filter resumes worth of further consideration. Keywords can be an applicant’s best friend if used correctly.

Objectives: Adding a section that describes your career objectives is completely optional. As a general rule, the cover letter is a better place to describe your objectives. In that context, it can be a powerful statement. For recent graduates or for those changing fields, a concise, carefully tailored statement can be useful.

Personal: Hobbies, interests, memberships and other personal information can flesh out a resume that needs more substance, but the best personal information relates to the job and, above all else, does not provide material for controversy. Often no personal information is the best policy.

References: Like personal information, employers do not expect resumes to include references. It goes without saying that you will provide references at the appropriate time.

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