Writing Effective Resumes

Writing a resume can intimidate anyone. How should I start? What should I write? What points should I include? What format should I use? These are just a few of the questions that can bother anyone. But if you keep a few things in mind, you’ll see that it’s not really that daunting a task.

Employers receive hundreds of resumes, so the main thing to keep in mind is to try and make your resume stand out and grab the employer’s attention at first glance. To be able to do this, it should be visually pleasing as well as well written. There are no set rules to writing a good resume, nor are two resumes ever alike. They cannot be, because each resume is structured around a particular job. The only thing all resumes should be is that they should all be as effective as possible, because remember – a resume is supposed to be a selling tool. The more effectively it is written the better your chances of being selected. For a resume to be really effective, tailor it around the particular job that you are applying for, and address the employer’s requirements. So the more you know about the job and the employer, the better you can tailor your resume for that position.

A good resume should include all of the following:

  • Heading – includes your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address.
  • Objective – tells the employer the sort of work you’re hoping to do. The rest should be structured around this objective.
  • Education – tells employers what you’ve learned.
  • Experience – this should be built around the employer’s requirements.
  • Skills and accomplishments – this includes special skills and accomplishments like fluency in a foreign language, proficiency in specific computer programs, leadership experience, a listing of honors and awards, activities that relate to the job, etc.

The contents given above should be written clearly keeping the following points in mind:

  • Keep it free of grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Use bullets and short sentences.
  • Use action words to make the resume stand out.
  • Highlight your strengths, especially those that the employer is looking for
  • Be positive and leave off negative and irrelevant information.
  • Be professional in tone, otherwise you won’t be taken seriously.

There are two basic types of resumes – chronological and functional.

The chronological format highlights your job titles, places of employment, and dates of tenure by presenting them as headings under which your achievements are listed. This format is used when you are staying in the same field, your work history shows growth, your current position is one you are proud of, and there are no gaps in your work history.

The functional format presents your experience under skill headings, so you can list your accomplishments by impact rather than by chronology. In this format, your work history is listed very concisely in a section separate from your achievements. This format is used when you change careers, you need to emphasize skills or experiences, your most recent position is not impressive, or your job titles don’t accurately reflect the level of responsibility you had.

Sometimes the two formats are combined to give what is called a ‘combination’ format.

Which format to use depends on your particular situation.

To get a better idea of what good and effective resumes look like, you may refer to these Sample Resumes.

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Resume versus Curriculum Vitae

There is often confusion between the words resume and curriculum vitae or CV in short. What exactly is the difference, or similarity, between a resume and a curriculum vitae?

The main difference is in the use of the English language. In American English, used mainly in the U.S., Canada, and the Latin countries, a resume (from French meaning “summary”) is a document containing a summary of your job experience and education, usually for the purpose of obtaining an interview for a job. A resume is usually short – no more than one or two pages; and since it is directed to a particular position, it is precise and only relevant information is given. (There are different views regarding the length of a resume.)

Curriculum Vitae (from Latin meaning “course of life”) or CV, on the other hand, is used in two different forms:

1. In British English, a Curriculum Vitae (or CV) is the exact same thing as a resume is in American English. This form is used mainly in the U.K., the Commonwealth countries, and Europe.

2. In American English, a Curriculum Vitae (or CV) has a different connotation. It is a longer document than a resume, and includes a comprehensive listing of professional history including every term of employment, academic credential, publication, contribution or significant achievement. It is used for applying to graduate or professional programs, or when promoting oneself within professional and academic fields. These may be several pages in length, sometimes up to 20 or more.

Have you, or any one you know, been confused by these terms?

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