Writing The Perfect Resume

When you’re ready to search for the perfect job, your first step is to create or update your resumé.  Washington Online Learning Institute has gathered some helpful tips for you as you take steps to begin your new career. 

General Resumé Information

Although we’ll go into the details of what you should include in your resumé later on, here’s some general advice about resumé writing.  First, create a master resumé.  This copy will the basis of all future resumés that you create, and you will tailor all other resumés as you begin your job search to the specific role you are applying for.  To do this, you will highlight all transferrable skills within the master resumé by listing them higher on your resumé and using key words from the job posting within it.   You will also want to create a profile and make an online resumé with LinkedIn.  By creating a professional profile on this site, recruiters will be able to find you based on the key words you’ve included in your resumé, and you’ll have the opportunity to search for a job that suits you best, too.

The appropriate length for a resumé has been debated for years.   For a long time, job searchers were advised that a one-page resumé was best.  However, according to research done by ResuméGo, “out of the 7,712 resumés that participants chose in the simulated hiring process, a whopping 5,375 of these resumés were two pages in length. This means that recruiters were 2.3 times as likely to prefer two-page resumés over one-page resumés.”  So, although a one-page resumé is perfectly appropriate, don’t feel badly if you end up with a resumé that is a big longer, and if you can legitimately fill a two-page resumé, go for it!  Of course, if you have a lot of experience and documentation to share, or even some sample work from schooling or previous roles, create an online portfolio and include the link on your resumé and in your online job application.

When you’re following the instructions below to create your resumé, be sure to follow the format you’ve chosen and be consistent in that format.  Programs like Google Docs and Word have plenty of templates to follow.  Within those templates, be sure to stick to the appropriate headers and use bullet pointed lists as you get into the details of your experiences and skills.

Finally, use a program like Grammarly to be sure you’re writing is concise and that you have no errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics.  Many recruiters and hiring teams will set aside a qualified candidate when they see errors such as these on the applicant’s resumé.  The extra time you take editing your work will be worth the effort.

How to Organize Your Resumé

According to Indeed, the top job search site in the world, there are five main categories for organizing your resumé:

  • • Contact information,
  • • Summary,
  • • Work experience,
  • • Education, and
  • • Skills.

Contact Information

This category is relatively self-explanatory.  However, be sure that you include your full name with no nicknames.  This should be your professional name.  In addition to this, be sure that your address and phone number are up to date before you submit your resumé for a new job.  Even if you have to create a new email account, before you share an email address as a point of contact, make sure it is simple and professional.  Sticking to an email that is as close to your actual name as possible is essential.  Although an email address that explains you are “worldsbestmom” or a “CallOfDutyFan” might be fine for personal use, it can be off-putting as a contact for your professional career.

Summary

The summary section of your resumé should be about 3-5 sentences long.  In this part of your resumé, highlight how you will provide value to the company and emphasize your most relevant qualifications.  Remember to keep this short and simple.  The rest of your resumé will list the details of your experiences.  This part is to focus the hiring team on your most important qualifications.

Work Experience

You will list your work experience in reverse chronological order.  This means that you will start with your most current role and move backwards in time.  Although you don’t want your resumé to include large gaps in employment that you cannot explain, you only want to include relevant information here. You don’t have to go all the way back to the job you had at the local movie theater as a high school student.  Stick to the roles you’ve held as an adult.  

Under each job listed in the resumé writing template you are using, you will include concise, bullet-points explaining the responsibilities you held while in that position.  These bullet points do not have to be complete sentences, but they should be clear and to-the-point.  This is the place to validate your qualifications with short details and examples of the experiences you’ve had.

Education

The educational experiences you’ve had will be important to include in your resumé.  Include any special certifications or degrees you hold and the year you completed each program.  If you are licensed for a specific role, include the details of that licensing, and if you attended any special trainings, this is the place to list that as well.

Skills

Your skills will be divided into hard skills and soft skills, and both are important to include on your resumé.  Hard skills are measurable and specific to the job you want; soft skills are harder to measure, difficult to define, and universal to all positions you apply for.

Hard Skills should be specific to the education you’ve gotten and the job you are applying for.  These are the skills specific to your training or past job experiences.  For example, if you’ve trained for Medical Billing and Coding, this is where you will list what qualifies you for that role.  If your training is in Business Management, you will include the skills specific to that training.  Individuals who speak multiple languages will list that skill here as well.  Regardless of the position you’re applying for, you will also want to list proficiency in any specific technologies or tools in the skills section.

Soft Skills are harder to define but are useful in any position you’re applying for.  Among many others, these include proficiency in oral or written communication, creativity, collaboration, and emotional intelligence. You will want to word this carefully, avoiding run-of-the-mill word choice or generic statements that most people will say like “energetic” or “good communicator.”  Be specific and highlight the soft skills that you excel at and that will help your resumé stand out.

Miscellaneous Categories:

Not everyone will have something to add within these miscellaneous categories.  However, if you have any awards and accomplishments, volunteer experiences, or memberships to professional clubs or organizations that you feel highlight special qualities or skills that will help you stand out, then include those at the end of your resumé.  Don’t feel pressured to add every additional experience you’ve had, and if they have no relevance to the position you’re applying for, feel free to leave them out completely.

Writing a resumé can be an exciting experience.  You get to see all you’ve accomplished, all you’ve learned, and all you have to offer as a team member in one central location.  As an added bonus, once your resumé is done, it’s a great resource to take with you into your interview so that you can use it as a reference or simply glance down at it once in a while to remind yourself of the hard work you’ve done to get this far.

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