As graduation day approaches, you may be thinking about what to do after school ends and perhaps setting goals for the next stage of life. Starting a new chapter can be both exciting and challenging, but it’s perfectly normal to ask yourself, “What do I do now?” Some people will be starting out for the first time in a career, and others may be pursuing second or even third careers. Whatever your age, profession, salary level, or experience, your resume is a key factor in gaining employment. It must be prepared using the correct format and set of standards for resumes. Applicants are also expected to use specific keywords related to their profession.
This information is very important, so you might consider going to a resume expert for help. Before anything though, you will need some information to build your resume and cover letter. Here is a helpful guide to creating a chronological resume meeting specific standards. These tips will guide you through the steps in writing a good first draft. To gain further expertise, consider taking a course in resume and cover letter writing.
Preparing a Resume
A resume is the first step in getting a job interview at your targeted company. It must show who you are in a way that will catch people’s attention and make you stand out. Employers often spend only a few seconds looking at a resume before moving on, so make them really want to keep reading. Focus on how you would fit the position and the company rather than just describing your related experience. A cover letter also plays a big role in that process.
In most of North America, there are specific sections you must include in a resume and they have to be in a specific order:
- Contact information
- Career summary
- Employment experience
- Education or professional development
- Volunteer work, community service, or technical skills (optional and where suitable)
Keep the length limited to one to two pages (the majority of professionals have a two-page document). It’s also standard to format both your cover letter and resume into the same document and convert it to a PDF file before submitting. Develop a standard resume and then tailor it based on the position for which you’re applying. The same is true of cover letters.
Sections of the Resume
- Contact Information
Your contact information has to be printed clearly at the top of the resume in the header, and it should contain your full name, address and phone number (in Canada), email address, and a link to your Linkedin profile. What you are not required to include is your date of birth, gender, parents’ names, and marital status. (In Canada, it’s not part of the standard format to include this information, and it’s illegal to ask about some of these aspects in an interview.) Your email address should sound professional; you may even want to set up a separate account for job hunting.
This section is crucial because it’s the employer’s first look at who you are professionally. Write a paragraph or two summarizing your main skills and why you’re right for the position. It should begin with a stated objective and how it pertains to the potential job position or role. This is the place to summarize your past and current experience and your career goals.
- Employment Experience
List each of your past job positions from most to least current. Include the time period you were in the role and your general responsibilities. List (as bullet points) two or three of your main accomplishments within the position. This gives employers a much better idea of your performance and strengths. Notice the difference between “Management skills in the publishing industry” and “Successfully managed a large-scale international publishing project, securing a future two-million-dollar contract with the client.” The second statement tells the company much more about what you could accomplish if hired.
Below each position, highlight any major projects you completed while you were there. Similar to when you list your overall accomplishments, give one or two brief sentences about what the project entailed and what you personally accomplished.
- Education or Professional Development
Educational degrees or professional development courses should be listed in order with the most recent first, along with the year of completion and the institution you attended. Provide information about awards or distinctions you received and any theses or dissertations you completed.
- Additional Information
Some people like to add a section to their resume outlining volunteer work or community involvement. If it pertains to the position you want, feel free to do this. However, if it’s irrelevant, be careful not to overdo it. Briefly list no more than three or four experiences. If the job you’re applying for is a technical position, you could add a section called “Technical Skills.”
One fairly new development in the world of employment and job searching is the requirement to use keywords specific to your profession in your cover letter and resume. Keywords are search words or terms that employers type into employment websites to look for potential applicants. When your resume includes these keywords, there’s a greater chance that potential employers will see it and contact you. In an interview, those keywords will show them that you have all of the specified job qualifications.
Keywords should be spread throughout every section of your resume. If you want to determine what the keywords should be, think about key skills and terms in your profession and look at the specific job advertisement. Pick keywords out of the ad and use them in the resume and cover letter. Those are the words the employer will want to see.
Keywords include: school names, names of employers, profession-specific awards, soft skills, foreign languages, job-specific skills and knowledge, job titles, affiliations and union memberships, industry credentials, licenses, degrees, tools, equipment, and technical applications.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you put together a solid draft of your resume. If you’re new to a field, consider writing a functional resume that highlights skills rather than experience in a specific area. The next step is to write the perfect cover letter so you can start looking and applying for job opportunities—and get hired!
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