Since résumés are generally skimmed, it is important that at a glance they appear well organized and easy to read. The following guidelines will help you create a visually attractive résumé.
Use present tense when describing your current functions. (Example: Produce and edit videos. Prepare scripts and storyboards.)
Use past tense when describing previous functions. (Example: Produced and edited videos, wrote scripts and storyboards.)
There is a subtle but important difference between active and passive use of words. Good use of active words makes a résumé "come alive." Consider the following examples.
Passive: Responsible for the development of marketing strategies.
Active: Develop marketing strategies.
Whenever you state a series of events or accomplishments, you must use the same grammatical construction for each element of the series. Consider the following examples.
Nonparallel Construction: Developed new inventory system expediting orders and cut costs by $500 per month.
Parallel Construction: Developed new inventory system that expedited orders and cut costs by $500 per month.
Other Language Tips
Know the language of the field in which you are applying. Speak their language, but don't use slang or jargon.
Presents education, experience, and achievements in reverse chronological order under each category (see samples #1 and #2). This format works best for applicants who have recent work and/or educational experience that are directly related to their job objective.
Organizes skills and accomplishments into functional groupings that support a job objective (see sample #3). This format works best for applicants who have acquired skills through self-learning or non-paid positions, as well as those who are looking for a job not directly related to their major or past employment. The typical number of skill headings is three, with four generally being the maximum. Click here for examples of Skill Headings for this type of résumé.
Combines elements of the Chronological and Functional formats (see sample #4).
There is no set format for a creative résumé. Applicants can demonstrate their creativity by adding artistic elements to a chronological or functional format (see sample #5), or by disregarding these formats and developing a unique way to present résumé text. This type of résumé is a good choice when applying for jobs in which written or visual creativity are strong requirements.
Many employers have started using computerized scanning systems to review résumés. In order to ensure that their résumés will be readable after they are scanned, applicants can follow the guidelines provided below. Scannable résumés can follow either a chronological or functional format, and often include a keyword summary at the top of the résumé (see sample #6). The key word summary is recommended because it allows the applicant to maximize their number of keyword "hits." A keyword hit occurs when a word in a résumé matches a word on the employer's list of search terms (i.e., required characteristics for the candidate pool).
Keys to Writing a Scannable Résumé:
This first section of your résumé should tell who you are and help prospective employees reach you quickly.
This section summarizes the type of work you want to do, and the career field in which you are interested. Because most college graduates have limited work experience in their career field, it is usually better to specify a target field or industry rather than a specific job title. For example, seeking an entry-level position with an accounting firm is better than seeking a position as an auditor
For most graduates, the most important qualification they have to offer employers is their education. Therefore this section should be listed on your résumé directly below your objective statement. As working experience is accumulated, the experience section should become a more prominent part of your résumé, going before your education section.
How you describe your experience will vary depending on whether you use a chronological or functional format. When using a chronological format, list your position title, the name of the organization you worked for, and the dates you worked in the heading for each experience. Follow the heading with a description of the work performed (see sample #1). When using a functional format, group your experience descriptions under like categories (see sample #3).
Experience descriptions may include your paid employment as well as any significant academic, community service, or internship activities that are job-related. One of the biggest mistakes novice résumé writers make is limiting descriptions to listings of duties performed in their various jobs and volunteer roles. Remember, effective résumés convey achievement orientation and emphasize factors that relate to qualifications sought by the employer (e.g., compassion, attention to detail, etc.). The following guidelines and "formulas" apply for both chronological and functional formats.
ACTION - OBJECT
ACTION = a verb
OBJECT = the "what" that the action was applied to
Example: Designed and produced over 20 promotional brochures annually
ACTION = Designed and produced
OBJECT = 20 promotional brochures annually
ACTION - OBJECT - OUTCOME
ACTION = a past tense verb
OBJECT = the "what" that the action was applied to
OUTCOME = the achievement resulting from the action
Example: Developed filing system that resulted in 40% reduction of patient billing errors ACTION = Developed
OBJECT = filing system
OUTCOME = resulted in 40% reduction of patient billing errors
Having trouble thinking of the right verb to use? Click here for a list of common résumé verbs.