An art and a science

young woman working on her resume

The basic purpose of a resume is to provide a prospective employer with an at-a-glance look at your qualifications. Sounds straightforward enough. So why does writing a resume cause so many people so much stress? The answer is straightforward too: There’s a lot riding on your resume when it comes to meeting your career goals. The good news is CareerForce has many tips and tools to help you write a resume that gets you an interview and puts you on a path to success, including a resume builder tool.

One of the first things you need to do is determine what type of resume is right for you. The two most common types are the chronological resume and the functional (or skills-based) resume.

  • A chronological resume highlights your employment history. This format works well if you have a consistent employment history in the same occupation and you aren't looking to make a career change.
  • A functional resume highlights your skills. Use this format to show what you know how to do, even if it’s not directly related to your employment history. It’s the best choice if you’re changing careers or if you have a lengthy career and want to highlight skills gained further back than ten or 15 years.

Steps for Success

Regardless of what type of resume you choose to create, there are a few steps you can take to make your work on your resume more successful.

Prepare yourself:

  • Identify what kind of position you want to pursue and write your summary about why you would be a great fit
  • Gather all of your work, military and volunteer experience and education information, including timeframes you were at each location, going back three or four positions or ten to 15 years (depending how much experience is needed for the position)
  • Download and complete this Personal Data Record form so can easily keep track of work and education history, as well as other information needed for resumes and job applications
  • Pull together your skills and accomplishments, then draft strong accomplishment statements to use on your resume

Start writing:

  • Find a quiet place with a computer to begin your work
  • Download an editable resume template if you are starting from scratch and see resume samples to inspire you
  • Use a font that is readable by application tracking systems, including Arial, Calibri or Tahoma
  • Use 10 to 12 point font and keep your resume to one or two pages in length (if you don’t fill more than half the second page then pare it down to one page)

Finalize and target:

  • Ask a friend or family member to review it and let you know if it is clear and easy to understand
  • Proofread your resume, use spellcheck and review for grammar errors
  • Make sure font style and formatting are consistent throughout your resume
  • Run through the resume checklist to make sure you haven’t missed anything
  • Finalize your core resume and then create versions targeted to specific openings in your area of interest
  • Optimize each targeted resume for applicant tracking system (ATS) review.

Use it:

  • Even if you are also completing an application, send the prospective employer your resume to help you stand out from other applicants
  • Share your resume with people you’ve identified as your references, so they know what qualifications you want them to emphasize
  • Bring it with you to networking opportunities and share it with those you meet
  • When you get an interview, bring enough copies of your resume for yourself and whoever is interviewing you (if it’s a panel, bring a copy for every interviewer)

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