In simplest terms, a resume is an advertisement; tool with the singular purpose of winning an interview. Like all good advertisements, a well-constructed resume shows an employer the direct benefits to be received through the employment of the advertised job applicant. A resume is a persuasion piece used to convince an employer that a particular applicant has the ability, experience, and motivation to get the job done. A great resume entices, inspires confidence, and ultimately persuades a prospective employer into an interview.
What a resume is NOT is a personal history lesson or a medium for self-expression. While a resume is heavily focused on the work history and experience of an applicant, a resume is written to create interest and ultimately lead to an interview; not inform in the way of a history lesson. Presenting an organized, focused, informative (and brief!) resume is the first and best meaningful way of making a positive first impression.
Research has shown that the average resume receives a mere 10 to 20 seconds of read time. This is a strong indication that interviews are most frequently given to those candidates whose resumes express the most impressive qualifications in the fewest words, and presented in the most plain and logical way. With this in mind, it is important to understand that, like any other good, people most often choose the best advertised product than the “best” product. Focusing on what an employer wants to see can elicit a better response, even if the applicant lacks the best credentials.
Having the correct mindset when constructing a resume helps ensure it isn’t simply dismissed out of hand. One of the most important things to remember when beginning the document is to focus on what the employer needs. The applicant’s needs are secondary considerations to the hiring manger trying to choose the best candidate for his or her organization. This being the case, it is important to first understand precisely what an employer is looking for before describing what an applicant has to offer. Qualifications and abilities addressing these needs should be prioritized with the most relevant appearing first in the resume.
Sectionalizing a resume is an easy way to add organization, accessibility, and a logical flow to the document. The first section is the area to assert abilities, qualifications, and usually contains at least two or three subsections which work in tandem to create the picture of the perfect candidate for a specific position. The first subsection works well as an Objective section, which names the intended job and the clear goals of the applicant and how those goals directly address the needs of the employer.
Once an objective is clarified, the Summary subsection follows to focus attention on all of the specific benefits an applicant offers the employer through education and abilities. The summary is an opportunity to convey the professional characteristics and achievements that make a job candidate the most qualified for the position. Typically, the components of a Summary section include a descriptive phrase describing the applicant’s profession, a statement of expertise, a few statements addressing depth of skills, accomplishments, awards, and promotions, and a short list of relevant professional characteristics.
The final subsection of the assertions portion of the resume is for a more detailed look at skills and accomplishments. An effective way to structure this section is to select a few major skills and accomplishments, use these as headings and use bulleted lists under each heading to describe the accomplishments in more detail. This conclusion to the assertions section leads directly to the Evidence portion of the document.
The Evidence section is the area to directly list facts such as job experience, education, awards, affiliations, publications, and references. This information works to verify the assertions in the previous section of the resume. Subsections of the Evidence section are simply the names of the facts being presented. In the experience portion, list jobs in reverse chronological order, focusing on the most relevant (and recent) held positions. Include the dates related to each position and include other relevant work such as internships and volunteer work, if desired.
Education should also be listed in reverse chronological order with degrees listed separately for easy identification. Focus on college major and distinctions, and list any advanced training. Only information directly applicable to the desired position, and may impress the reader, should be included. The Awards, Affiliations, Publications, and Reference subsection are all self-explanatory and should remain relevant to the position. It is common practice to avoid listing names of references and including only the statement, “references available upon request,” and provide a detailed list only at the time of the interview.