A Resume is essentially your personal brochure (all shine and spit polish) and everyone knows this.
Still, your ability to communicate tells potential employers a lot about your potential in their company. Your resume and cover letter are part of your PR package and should be about one thing: to assist your efforts to get job interviews as you directly approach hiring managers directly through cold calls, direct letters or use your networking contacts and referrals.
I won’t put too much emphasis on any exact format for what a resume should look like, because it is essentially a brochure for your work history. You need a resume to navigate the job marketplace and will use it at different times during the job search and hiring process. Basically, you want to create a clearly written, presentable document that does not give an HR recruiter an excuse to throw out your application if you are responding to a want ad. For the positions where you have done the leg work to get directly in front of a hiring manager or decisionmaker, the resume will directly influence the content of your interview. Those two points are what you should keep in mind as you create your resume.
Basic tips for resume formatting:
• Use Chronological or Chronological-Functional resume formats only (don’t use a functional resume!. Functional resumes are the ones that are organized by descriptive skill areas followed by a summary list of employment at the bottom. It signals to an employer that you are covering up some flaw or inconsistency in your work history. They will also try to guess which job gave you what skills. You don’t want anyone speculating about your resume, so don’t do functional resumes!)
• Use section headings on your resume and keep them consistent-looking (same font, bold, underline, etc.)
• Have lots of “white space” in your resume—easier on the eyes
• Use white or ivory resume paper only (I have to mention an exception: a friend of mine did use flower patterned paper for her resume at a job fair, which one employer found strange and “cute”—so much so they granted her an interview. I don’t know if you want to be perceived as “cute” when negotiating for salary, but her personality did get her hired (along with the fact it was an entry-level gig).
• 8/5 x 11” sized paper
• Stationery paper if sending in hard copies
• Avoid long sentences in your resume.
• Show dates and locations for employment and education
• Print out your resume on laser printer or inkjet printer with a minimum of 600 dpi (dots per inch). Never use a dot matrix or a typewriter (I know some of you don’t even know what I am talking about when I say “typewriter” or “dot matrix”! As for the rest of you–you know who you are) for materials you will send to employers
• Use margins, boldface, heading, indentations and bullets for emphasis and to guide the reader’s eye directly where you want on the resume.
• Put dates (years only) in the right hand margin.
• No abbreviations on the resume.
• No personal pronouns (I, we, my, me, they…)
• No physical characteristics or personal information.
• Include hobbies on your resume only when related to objectives.
• Omit “references available upon request”. Of course they are!
• Leave out anything else not in the sections listed above.
• Proofread for grammar, spelling and typos!
Advanced resume tips:
• Use action verbs and accomplishment statements.
• Use up to date industry terminology.
• Use your own words. This is very important. Although there are lots of resume books that will show you how to add highly powered, skill-based phrases to your resume, if those phrases seem canned or out of place (in comparison with other parts of the resume or your cover letter), you will lose credibility. That is why your resume should build upon your own strength statements. (The Rainy Day Guide to Finding a Job shows you how to do this). These build upon your actual accomplishments, the ones you feel good about and can talk about easily. They are a combination of your skills and interests.
One final note: Cover letters and resumes should always be sent to a specific name, verified by you before you send it. After you send your resume, always follow up with a phone call—this will help employers to remember you and take action on your behalf.