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Anatomy of a resume

Posted by PointA_PointB on June 21, 2010

A great resume makes a big difference in your job search. When you have a resume that you feel good about, you are more confident in presenting it to potential employers and may actually enjoy sending it out! Having a well-written and visually compelling resume can get you past initial screenings and enable you to have more interviews, which increases your chances of getting a job offer. My assumption is that a reader/reviewer (if you are lucky enough to have an actual human look at it) will spend just 30-60 seconds scanning your resume. It is imperative that a resume be easily scanable. Then the reader/reviewer will decide if they want to read more or take a pass on you. Here is what a winning resume should include:

Contact Information – Obviously. You want people to be able to get in touch with you to schedule an interview.

Professional Summary – About 3-4 sentences that state what you are looking for, what you have done, what industry you want to be in, your best skills, and maybe preferred work environment. If someone only reads your professional summary, they should have a good understanding of who you are and what you are looking to do.

Professional Experience – Detail about your previous positions in reverse chronological order. I recommend including title, company name, brief description about the company and your position, and bullets about specific accomplishments or responsibilities. Prioritize and only list three to five of the most relevant accomplishments. Also include the dates you were with that company.

Software Skills – This is optional but I do recommend that more junior professionals include this, especially technology professionals.

Awards – This is optional but good to include if you have any, especially for sales professionals.

Education – Include your degree, the institution, and dates you were there.

Regarding formatting, I don’t like italics in resumes. I think they are hard to read and have heard that electronic scanners can have problems reading italics. I prefer two complementary fonts to break up the above headings and the body text. There should be a lot of white space so the reader does not get overwhelmed by the amount of words on the page (and then not want to read your resume). What you want the reader to focus on should be on the left-hand side. If your title progression is most impressive, put your title first. If the marquis companies you have worked for are most impressive, put the company name first. And make sure that the font size is big enough so someone can read it easily.

Regarding key words, I generally don’t include a separate section for these, although I know many others think it is a necessary component of a resume. More junior professionals, professionals who are looking for something very specific, or professionals whose experience may not directly map to their desired position may want to include a separate Key Words section.

My best advice: Do not scrimp on your resume. And don’t try to write it all by yourself. Get help from a professional because you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Nobody can write their own resume. I have spent more than 15 years developing winning resumes for clients – but I pay someone to do mine. It is impossible for you to strike the right balance of showcasing your accomplishments and being clear and concise. Trust me. Work with me or work with someone else – but don’t go it alone. Too much is at stake.

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