By The Writing Guy
Welcome back to Part II of "So You Want a Stinking Job?" Last time,
we talked about writing a compelling cover letter for a job application. (If
you missed that segment and are an active member of Phi Kappa Phi, you can go
and log in to the secure members site to read it.) In this second part, we
will discuss how to create an effective, readable résumé.
If the cover letter is an essay about you, the résumé is a fact sheet, a
quick list of your basic qualifications and experiences. Here I will cover
the main parts of the résumé, with a little advice on each. If you have
questions that are not covered here, feel free to write me at
First Things First
- Never "pad" (that
is, lie on) your résumé in any way. Eventually it will come back to
- Some say that coming out of
college, your résumé should be no longer than one page. I say, humbug.
If you have enough solid material for more than one page, include it. If
the résumé only goes over one page by a few lines, try reformatting to
fit it on one page, or add some white space so that the material fills
up a larger part of the second page.
- Use about a 12-point serif
type face for body text (Times New Roman is an example). It is okay to
use a san serif type face (Arial, Helvetica) for headings, but not for
body text (harder to read).
- Format the résumé so that it
is a fast and easy read. Here and here are two typical résumé formats
Include your full name (centered and in a larger font), current address, and
all phone numbers. If you are near graduation and might be living with your
parents for a time, list both your current address and their address. Include
an e-mail at which you can be reliably reached for several months.
A career objective should be detailed and should be modified for the specific
job for which you are applying. If all you can come up with is a fairly
generic objective, leave it off so you won't sound unfocused.
For recent or soon-to-be graduates, your college degree is often your
strongest selling point. Under this heading, include your degree and major,
university and its location, and actual or expected date of graduation.
Optionally, consider the following:
- If your GPA is high enough to
be a positive selling point, list it. If not, don't.
- Possibly include a brief list
of courses most relevant to the position, especially if you had a good
concentration in the area for which they are hiring.
- Include pertinent awards and
scholarships, if you choose not to do a separate Awards section later
- If you are listing more than
one school in this section, always list your degree-granting institution
first, followed in reverse chronology (most recent to least recent) by
any others. Unless you went to some extraordinary institution that an
employer would instantly recognize and appreciate, do not list your high
As you accumulate job experience, this section will become the first one on
your résumé. At this point, you may have some experience in your field (co-op
or internship), but probably not enough to have this replace education as
your strongest selling point.
- First, any work experience is
good, even if it is not in your field (and is legal, of course). Holding
down a job for an extended period shows a lot about you as an
- This section also should be in
reverse chronology (most recent job first, followed by next most recent,
and so on). But, you say, right now I am a working at Burger Hell to
make some spending money, while this past summer I had a wonderful
internship with a well-known company! Why should the Burger Hell
experience come first?? The answer is, it does
not have to. Instead, create two sections, one being "Relevant
Experience," under which you will list your wonderful internship.
Then include another called "Other Experience" and begin it
with your current Burger Hell gig.
- List the company for which you
worked, position, and duration of job, and provide bullets listing
actual duties that you performed. Use action verbs in these bullets (for
example, "Supervised second shift of seven people,"
"Closed out registers and balanced cash receipts," and so on).
Do not be "creative": If you bused tables, say you bused
tables. Do not say you "Performed table maintenance
- If the job is ongoing, use
present tense verbs; if it is over, use past tense.
The sections above are absolute necessities. The ones below are more often
than not included, but still are optional.
- If you have excelled
academically, for example, you might include an "Honors and
Awards" section and brag your fool head off.
- A "Skills" section
gives you the opportunity to list job-related skills such as software
that you work with and any additional skills that might catch an
- An "Interests"
section lists such things as hobbies, sports that you play, volunteer
activities, and so on. Such a section can help show that you are a
If you have a list of references, put them on a
separate sheet. Really Big and Important Point!: Never, ever list
someone as a reference until you ask that person if it is okay to do so. It
is a good idea to give your references a copy of your résumé and talk with
them about what you hope they can address about you if they are contacted. In
particular if you had that professor a couple of years ago, you will want to
refresh his or her memory about you.
That's it from me. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a note at
WritingGuy@phikappaphi.org, and I will try to provide coherent and helpful
The Writing Guy has taught business and technical writing for more than
Do you have other questions about writing? Grammar? Punctuation? Word usage?
Send an e-mail to WritingGuy@phikappaphi.org. All queries
will be answered, possibly even correctly, with minimal personal abuse. The
best questions/answers we will post in future issues of the e-zine.