Résumé Writing Tips
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
What exactly is a résumé?
Your résumé is simply your written snapshot—a word picture of the unique combination of skills and qualities you offer an employer. Employers screen résumés in between 2.5 and 10 seconds, so your résumé should quickly capture the reader’s interest. There is an art to résumé writing. When learned, it can open doors to unlimited career opportunities. Since your résumé is your representative, make certain it is a good one by learning and applying the principles of first-class résumé writing.
What is its purpose?
Since résumés are screened in such a brief amount of time, it is imperative that it capture the reader’s interest and spark a desire to speak with you personally. It is as simple as that. Your résumé’s job is to land an interview! However, it must allow a prospective employer to quickly and accurately perceive who you are, what you do best, what you want to do in the future, and how you can benefit the company’s interests! The challenge is how this can be effectively accomplished in a concise manner. Remember that the most difficult résumé to write is your own, so take advantage of these guidelines and the many resources provided by your Tulane Career Center.
Remember to come in and visit for a résumé review with a career coach.
We offer FREE Résumé paper, in packs of ten (ivory & white), when you come visit our office.
The hireTulane Team has joined forces with OptimalRésumé.com!
Bringing you the best tools available for building an online Résumé!
With the sophisticated OptimalRésumé Builder™ you can build and manage 5 separate Résumés which can all be accessed by links, as in a personal résumé website, or in the standard Microsoft Word® Document. The Flash version of the résumé can be embedded with "infobytes" or small pop-ups of background information that might be useful to the reader.
Since the résumés are online, changes made to them take place immediately so this is an advantage over the typical emailed attachment or hard copy.
OptimalRésumé.com is fast, easy and FREE to all Tulane Students!
Extraordinary vs. Ordinary
What is the difference between an ordinary résumé and an extraordinary one?
- You know who you are and effectively communicate it on paper.
Ask yourself this question before ever beginning to write your résumé. What three characteristics which I offer an employer best describe who I am? In other words, ten people with the same degree in hand are all individuals with unique skill sets. Each has a multitude of life experiences and background which will benefit a prospective employer. Determine yours. Write them down. After a reader skims your résumé in 10 seconds, you want the first impression of you to be exactly those qualities, even without naming them. Look for ways to illustrate those qualities on your résumé.
For example, if you have a strong work ethic, don’t waste space saying it. Instead, highlight the fact that you worked 50-60 hours per week during a summer internship and how you were an asset to the company. That word picture will speak loudly!
- You write brief, vivid summaries of roles (jobs, projects, leadership, or personal accomplishments) in order to allow the reader to see you in action.
Paint a brief word picture of the mission statement of the role you played. Let it be your first bullet point. This will allow the reader to see the broad purpose of your job or role. For example, your global summary statement might read something like:
Oversaw all customer service operations of fast-paced, high-volume restaurant with 10 wait staff to significantly increase customer satisfaction.
- Your bullets are accomplishments-based.
You create from 2-3 bullets which are not necessarily job responsibilities, but accomplishments you made while on the job. It may be an award you received or money you saved the company. You may want to highlight a skill you developed, one which would benefit your prospective employer. Ask yourself--what stories of this particular job or experience would you like to share? Write an accomplishment tied to the story, and you will be prepared for the interview even before it begins.
- Your résumé is strategically written with the job in mind.
Tailor your résumé to the target position. Computers make it possible to alter the Objective statement with each application. You may use the exact job title, in fact, and be sure to include what you offer the employer. And if you have the skills needed for the target job, mention them in the Objective statement. For example: “Seeking the position of ____________ with XYZ Company, offering ________, _________, and ________. (fill the blanks with your skills) The rest of the résumé justifies that you have the skills mentioned in the objective statement.
The visual center of the page is the middle third; therefore, your best qualifications should be found in that area. Given that your best experience is the most recent job, this is easy; however, should your best experience be embedded further in the résumé, there is an easy answer. Create a heading called “Relevant Experience” and bring that position to the top. Or if you seek a research position, begin with a heading called “Research Experience.” This will draw the reader’s eye to the area most pertinent to the employer’s needs, you can be sure.
Even though you may have credentials for 10 bullets, your best qualifications may be overlooked simply because an employer will not take the time to read each minute detail. It is more effective to remove the bullets which do not address the specific needs of the employer as related to the job you seek. Your aim is to show the reader within 10 seconds that a call to you would be in the company’s best interest.
Don’t worry. You may always provide additional information at the time of the interview, but your résumé will float to the top of the “interview” pile if it is strategically written with the employer’s specific needs in mind.
- Your résumé is well organized and professional.
Determine the headings which best describe you. See below for further discussion on possibilities. Make certain that your letterhead is clear and pleasing to the eye and contains all pertinent contact information, especially an email address and phone number. Decide on a format and be consistent. Keep clean margins. Place dates in the same location on the paper. Limit your use of bullets, no more than five at a time. Since the purpose of a bullet is to draw attention, it defeats the purpose if there are too many. In that regard, it becomes blurry and confusing. Do not use complete sentences. Do not use pronouns (I, my, you) or articles (a, an, the).
For most students and recent graduates, a one-page résumé is preferred, especially if used for a career fair. Visit with a Career Coach at the Tulane Career Center for direction.
What are common pitfalls in résumé writing?
- Job-description focused
Job descriptions are typically boring and impersonal. They tell little about the candidate as a person. Remember that your document is not a résumé of your jobs, it is a word picture of what you do best and the skills you gleaned in those jobs which are of value to the prospective employer. A detailed job description only tells what you were supposed to do and not what you actually accomplished or want to do in the future.
- Wasted space
If, in the upcoming interview, you actually want to talk about every item on your résumé, then you have used your space wisely. If not, your space is wasted and cannot work for you. Many interview questions will be gleaned from your résumé, so make certain that you indeed want to discuss every item and bullet included. If not, remove it immediately. Your résumé should only contain those things which bring out the best of who you are and where you excel. Obviously, these are the things you want to address in an interview. Let your résumé guide the upcoming interview.
- Lack of strategic understanding of employer needs
Imagine going to a doctor with a knee injury. Instead of explaining the injury and how to repair it, the doctor spends your entire appointment explaining his/her credentials and ability to solve a variety of your health needs. That may be fine and well, but you made the appointment because of a specific health need which needs immediate attention. You would likely seek another opinion or ask that the doctor address the issue at hand. The more the doctor can reassure you that your injury is in good and capable hands, the more confident you will be to choose that surgeon.
The employer is very much like your patient with specific needs and a variety of constraints, namely time and money. The reader is looking for someone who can meet the perceived needs of the company as quickly as possible. The more your résumé shows that you understand the need and can meet the need, the quicker you will receive a phone call for an interview.
This may mean that you have several versions of your résumé which highlight different dimensions of your talents and skills, depending on the needs of a specific employer. It will behoove you to take the time to target your résumé with that specific employer’s needs in mind.