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Resume Basics
By Sue Campbell, 1st-Writer.com

Contact Information

What is the most important information on your resume? Is it the great contribution you made to the production efforts of ABC Company last year? Is it the shiny new MBA you recently achieved, with honors? Is it your exceptional communication skills and winning presentational presence?

No. It is your contact information. Who you are and how your reader can reach you is, when all is said and done, the most important information in your entire document.

See, this is getting easier. You know who you are, you know where you live, you know your phone number and e-mail address. You already know the most important information in your entire resume document!

Objective Statement

That done, the next piece of information to include (or not include) is your "objective statement."

Do you need one? Well, let us take a look at your career history. Is your background consistently (and clearly) in line with the positions you are targeting? Without an objective statement, will the reader know your career direction and will he or she recognize the position for which you are applying?

If your background, for example, is in operations management, and the three most recent positions you have listed are "Operations Manager," and the position for which you are applying is "Operations Manager,"  is there any real need to say you want to be an operations manager?

Objective statements are most useful when:

  1. The resume is being submitted for a specific position at a specific company ("To obtain the position of Operations Manager for ABC Company where my extensive skills and background in ______________________, ____________________, and _____________________ may be best applied to achieve ABC's operational goals").

  2. The candidate is changing career paths ("To use my extensive background in sales, marketing, and personnel management for the benefit of ABC Company's operational efforts").

  3. The candidate is a recent graduate with little hands-on experience.

  4. Any time the career history alone does not present an easily identifiable "fit" for the position being targeted.

At all times when writing your resume, keep your audience, the reader, in mind. You want to make this easy on your reader. Do not write an objective statement that is vague, or one that tells your reader what you are hoping to secure ("a challenging position that offers room for advancement"), but rather what you have to offer.

Professional Summary, Profile, Qualifications or Synopsis

A summary is not simply a brief listing of what you have done, but what you know you can do.

It is a package of skills and characteristics you offer a company. Example:

  • Senior Operations Manager offering an impressive #-year background in ___________

  • Outstanding ______________, ______________, and _______________ skills. Able to...

  • Proven record of (improving, increasing, strengthening)______________, through...

  • Computer proficient in...

Remember that criteria you already know? That, and the unique skills and abilities you possess - relevant to the position(s) being targeted - are what go into this section.

For example, if an ad states that "communication skills" are an important criteria for the position, you had better make certain "communication skills" are incorporated into your summary section as one of the skills you possess. You could (and should) take this one step further and let your reader know how these communication skills are used for the benefit of the employer: "build motivated and productive teams, generate long-term client commitments, facilitate communications..."

You can find the criteria for a job through: a job ad, via networking, company research, and research of similar ads (and requirements) for other positions.

Employment History / Career Background

The biggest error candidates make when writing a resume is to tell a "story." I do not mean writing fiction, although that would be a bad idea, too, but writing their history as if it were a conversation; using lots of "I" statements and "Responsible for" statements. The resume then ends up reading like a dialogue or a laundry list, rather than a professional presentation.

If you had to bring your history down to its most basic form it would be: Problem, Solution, Results.

Every job is held in order to solve a problem, from the receptionist to the company president. Work is generated because there is a problem that needs addressing, the actual work is the solution, and the outcome of that work is the result (positive or negative).

Eliminate the “I” statements and begin each responsibility statement with a strong action word that best denotes your role and level of responsibilities. See some examples of strong action words at the end of this article.

For example:

Instead of: "I manage the daily operations of..." or "I'm responsible for daily operations of..."

Write: "Manage daily operations of..."

Let’s look at this "Problem, Solution, Result" using the receptionist as our example:

The receptionist is hired to solve the problems of: ringing phones, client questions, schedules of meetings and appointments, paperwork management, etc. Those are otherwise known as his or her "responsibilities."

His or her solution is to: answer the phones in a responsive and timely manner, provide accurate information to clients, organize a logical and workable schedule of appointments and meetings, and coordinate paperwork so that it is easily retrieved on demand.

The results of his or her work (if positive) are: the phones are answered in a timely and efficient manner (clients feel that they are important to the company and that his or her needs are being addressed by someone who cares), information provided to clients is accurate and helpful (this company not only understands my questions, but they have the answers), schedules and meetings are workable and productive (beneficial to cost, time and operational issues), paperwork is reliably managed and maintained (important information is easily accessed - no frustration in trying to locate an important but missing file - and the information it contains can be counted on to be accurate and up-to-date - I'm not going to look like an idiot when I talk to the client).

How might this information be listed on his or her resume?

Office Manager
ABC Company, City, State
January 2009 – Present

  • Direct and oversee busy office operations for leading advertising firm.

  • Schedule and coordinate client meetings and corporate appointments for Senior Advertising Director and Marketing Manager.

  • Manage multiple-line telephone system, providing fast and efficient service to
    client and potential client inquiries. Position requires detailed understanding of
    current industry standards.

  • Coordinate and maintain database and paperwork management. Ensure records and schedules are accurate and consistently maintained.

  • Improved inquiry response time and accuracy of information by 70% through the creation and implementation of an improved...

Isn't this an improvement over: "I am responsible for phones, appointment scheduling, and paperwork?" or, worse yet, "I'm just a secretary?"

Each position is important, and each individual who holds that position provides value.

Recognizing, fully, what services you provide, and the appreciable results you produce, should help you in presenting this information to your, so that he or she may appreciate it, as well.

Education

If your education is the most recent accomplishment in your career, or if it holds the greatest proof of your qualifications for the position, list it first. If you've held positions in your field of choice, and have relevant applied experience, list your relevant work history, first.

Although educational achievements are very important (and sometimes the deciding factor between two otherwise equally qualified candidates), your reader is going to be most interested in experience that shows your skills applied and how employers have benefited from your contributions in the past.

If you feel that your education is a trump card, list it twice; once in your summary, and once again in its own section.

Educational achievements should be formatted so that they complement the rest of your document’s layout – so make sure to present these in a similar format to that of your employment history.

Include your GPA, if high, and include a coursework list if this will add strength to your document. If you have completed a portion of a degree or education, note this for your reader. Examples:

University of USA, City, State . . . 2007

Bachelor of Arts degree; Business Administration  /  GPA 4.0

University of USA, City, State . . . 2007

Completed two years of Bachelor of Arts Degree Program; Business Administration

Other Information of Interest

List any associations or professional organizations (relevant) for which you are a member. If you do not belong to an organization related to your field or industry, it may worth joining – this is a great way to network with other professionals and leaders in your industry.

List hobbies and outside activities only if they are directly relevant to the position and company being targeted.

List all volunteer work, that is directly relevant to the position or company being targeted, the same as you list any other work on your document (doesn’t have to be listed separately).

DO NOT list personal information, such as: marital status, physical health, height, weight, number of dependents, gender, marital status, age, race or religion if you’re targeting an American company or any company within the United States.

DO NOT include a picture of yourself with your resume, unless you are in the modeling, speaking or entertainment industries.

Should I Hire a Professional Resume Writer?  /  1st-Writer.com Services

Power Words List

Accelerated, Accomplished, Achieved, Acted, Adapted, Addressed, Administered, Advanced, Advised, Allocated, Analyzed, Appraised, Approved, Arbitrated, Assembled, Assessed, Assisted, Attained, Audited, Authored, Automated, Balanced, Budgeted, Built, Calculated, Catalogued, Chaired, Clarified, Classified, Coached, Collaborated, Collected, Communicated, Compiled, Completed, Composed, Computed, Conceived, Conceptualized, Conducted, Confirmed, Consolidated, Contained, Contracted, Contributed, Controlled, Convinced, Coordinated, Corresponded, Counseled, Created, Critiqued, Cultivated, Customized, Cut, Decreased, Delegated, Demonstrated, Demystified, Designed, Developed, Devised, Diagnosed, Directed, Dispatched, Disseminated, Distinguished, Diversified, Drafted, Drove, Edited, Educated, Effected, Eliminated, Enabled, Encouraged, Engineered, Enlisted, Ensured, Established, Evaluated, Examined, Executed, Expanded, Expedited, Explained, Extracted, Fabricated, Facilitated, Familiarized, Fashioned, Focused, Forecasted, Formulated, Found, Founded, Generated, Guided, Headed, Identified, Illustrated, Implemented, Improved, Incorporated, Increased, Indoctrinated, Influenced, Informed, Initiated, Innovated, Inspected, Installed, Instigated, Instituted, Instructed, Integrated, Interpreted, Interviewed, Introduced, Invented, Investigated, Launched, Lectured, Led, Maintained, Managed, Marketed, Mastered, Mediated, Moderated, Monitored, Motivated, Negotiated, Operated, Organized, Originated, Overhauled, Oversaw, Participated, Performed, Persuaded, Pinpointed, Pioneered, Planned, Prepared, Presented, Prioritized, Processed, Produced, Proficient in, Programmed, Projected, Promoted, Proposed, Proved, Provided, Publicized, Published, Purchased, Recommended, Reconciled, Recorded, Recruited, Reduced, Referred, Regulated, Rehabilitated, Reinforced, Reintroduced, Remodeled, Reorganized, Repaired, Reported, Represented, Researched, Resolved, Restored, Restructured, Retrieved, Revamped, Reviewed, Revised, Revitalized, Saved, Scheduled, Screened, Set, Set up, Shaped, Simplified, Solidified, Solved, Spearheaded, Specified, Spoke, Stimulated, Streamlined, Strengthened, Structured, Summarized, Supervised, Supported, Surveyed, Systemized, Tabulated, Targeted, Taught, Teamed, Tracked, Trained, Transformed, Translated, Traveled, Trimmed, Troubleshot, Upgraded, Utilized, Validated, Won, Worked, Wrote

Should I Hire a Professional Resume Writer?  /  1st-Writer.com Services

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Good luck in your job search! Sue Campbell, 1st-Writer.com - over 15 years experience helping clients achieve their career and business goals. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions you may have. I'll be glad to help!

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This page last updated: 04/23/2012