Write a Resume That Will Get Noticed

You don't need a degree in English to compose a great resume — actually, you can forget most of the grammar rules you had to follow when writing your college term papers. Resumes are business documents that follow their own conventions, even if most English teachers would consider them incorrect. Consider a few of the following resume-writing tips:

Avoid the first person pronoun. The pronoun I has no place in a resume. (Because really, who else would you be talking about?) Instead of writing, "I served as student body president two consecutive years," write "Served two consecutive years as student body president." Notice that the second version begins with an action verb. This is recommended in resumes.

Keep your sentences short and don't worry about fragments. Resumes call for short, crisp statements. These statements don't have to be complete sentences; you can frequently leave out the articles a, an, and the.

Use plain English. Go easy on the adjectives. Keep things simple. Instead of saying "offered assistance in the facilitation of . . . ," say "helped facilitate . . . ."

Use bullet statements when appropriate. You have a choice when writing a resume: You can either combine related statements into a single paragraph or create a list where each sentence is a separate statement. Information in a bulleted list tends to stand out more than the same information would within a paragraph. But bulleted information takes up more room. To save room, you can combine the two techniques.

If you use bulleted lists, keep the list items brief and parallel (that is, make all the items in a sequence follow the same grammatical pattern).

A bulleted list with nonparallel statements might look like this:

  • Write monthly employee newsletters

  • Outside ads are approved

  • Have experience in performing training of graphic artists

A list with parallel statements looks like this:

  • Write monthly employee newsletters

  • Approve outside ads

  • Train graphic artists

Going from general to specific

Sequence the information in a section by beginning with a general statement and follow it with more specific information.

Instead of this:

Supervised training of seven graphic artists. Responsible for all graphic art and corporate communication in Indianapolis office. Approved press releases prior to release to news media. (Note that the second of these two sentences is more general than the first.)

Write this:

Responsible for all graphic art and corporate communication in Indianapolis office. Supervised training of seven graphic artists. Approved press releases prior to release to news media.

Organizing your resume

Divide your resume into specific sections that cover different aspects of your background and qualifications. The names of the sections don't have to always be the same, but the sequence should stay pretty much the same, regardless. Here's a look at the typical sections of a resume, presented in the most common sequence.

  • Heading: Your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address.

  • Objective (optional): A statement that briefly highlights the kind employment you're looking for.

  • Summary (optional): Two or three sentences that summarize key elements of your background, skills, and attributes.

  • Experience: A summary of the jobs you've had and general responsibilities at each - you can also call this section Professional Experience or Work Experience.

  • Education: Your educational credentials: colleges or universities, degrees, and so on. Most recent college graduates put the education section above the work experience section.

  • Other (optional): This is where you'd list special skills, memberships, computer skills, or foreign language proficiency - anything that might appeal to a prospective employer.

Making your resume computer-friendly

There's a chance that your resume will never be read by human eyes. A lot of companies are letting computers do the work, having your resume scanned and searched for keywords. In short, the more keywords your resume contains, the more likely you are to get the interview.

These tracking systems are looking for nouns (job titles, departments, organizations) that relate to specifics related to professional experience. If your field is nursing, for example, the tracking system designed to locate the "most qualified" candidates might look for phrases like RN, staff nurse, nurse specialist, American Nurses Association, and NCLEX-PN. A tracking system looking for a journalist to fill a newspaper job might search for keywords such as reporter, Gannett, Society of Professional Journalists, editor, sports reporter, Pulitzer, and so on.

You need to be honest, of course. Don't just randomly include keywords that don't reflect your background and accomplishments. But you do want to make sure that you use words that the tracking system will find. You can do this by

  • Analyzing the wording in the classified ads (especially longer ads) that relate to your occupation. Remember the words or terms that appear most frequently. If they apply to you, make sure that those words appear in your resume.

  • Asking for documentation that lists the credentials a recruiter is looking for.

  • Asking for copies of the resumes of anyone you know who has recently been hired in your occupation.