How to Prepare a Winning Résumé?
A winning résumé stands out from others that land on your future employer’s desk. The result? You get an interview! Achieving this goal means presenting your education, experiences, and abilities in a positive, professional, and readable manner. It’s your job to convey what you know and what you can do, as well as who you are as a person. Work, school, and extra-curricular activities each play a role in your résumé. Convey responsibilities, tasks, and achievements by using action words and quantitative measures (e.g., # of accounts serviced, # of people trained, # sales completed). Within just a very few minutes the person reading your resume needs to make a decision: Do they now want to meet you?
Proofread and use Spell Check to eliminate spelling and grammatical errors; have trusted friends, professors, and/or family members read and critique it for typos and word use.
- Spelling – do not rely solely on Spell Check as it will not identify words used incorrectly (e.g. their, there, or they’re.)
- Grammar – does it sound grammatically correct when you read it out loud?
- Tense – is the verb tense correct and are you consistent (i.e., current job present tense and all others past tense)?
- Spacing – is it consistent throughout and visually appealing?
- Format – is it clear and easy to follow?
- Length – is it concise, highlighting your strongest skills? For undergraduate students that means one page.
- Overall – is it the professional you? Does your resume promote who you are?
Use power words (before / after examples):
Before: “I gave work assignments to staff of entry-level accounting clerks”
After: “Directed workflow, supervised and trained staff to post to general ledger, accounts receivable, and payable accounts”
Before: “Maintained records for accounts receivable and payable”
After: “Managed 1,000 accounts receivable and payable accounts working directly with the Chief Financial Officer”
Include links to any projects/ websites that you worked on, your LinkedIn profile, articles about you, etc.
Résumé “Don’t Checklist”
The “Don’t Checklist” when writing your résumé:
- Do not put your contact information in the header section; place it cleanly and clearly at the top of the page.
- Do not use all capitals, use standard capitalization, except for your name. Some prefer standard capitalization of the name; either way, do bold your name.
- Do not use text shortcuts, graphics, or jargon.
- Do not use abbreviations such as “Mgr” instead of “Manager.” Résumé scanners may not recognize abbreviations.
- Do not include a link to your Facebook or Twitter account unless strictly designed for professional use (e.g., LinkedIn).
- Do not use random keywords. Use words that demonstrate experience that connect with the position.
The “Don’t Checklist” when submitting your résumé:
- Do not use an e-mail address that sounds unprofessional (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Do not apply to a company multiple times unless the positions closely matches your experience and skills.
- Do not use exclamation marks in your subject line or body of your e-mail message.
- Do not leave blanks in an online application because the information is included in your resume. The application may filter out candidates before resumes are reviewed.
- Do not skip the cover letter when submitting by e-mail. Include it as an attachment or in the text of the e-mail.
- Do not recycle an old cover letter. Always write a cover letter specific to the job for which you are applying. If using portions of a previous cover letter, be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN to update all dates, references to the company and the position.
- Do not ignore specific submission instructions such as including a job # in an e-mail subject line or completing a requested application form. The company’s résumé scanner may reject incomplete submissions.
Caveat: It is not possible to anticipate all the different situations you might encounter when trying to apply for a job. When in doubt, contact the Human Resources department or the contact name given and ask for clarification. Better to ask and then to submit a resume correctly then not ask and submit one that will be excluded because it failed to meet a criteria of the process.
View examples of poorly written résumés here: