Article: Resume Basics, Include These Elements

Resume Basics, Include These Elements

Did you know the average employer spends less than 30 seconds looking at a resume before deciding whether it’s worthy of his consideration? That means you need to make every word count. Your reader is making quick assumptions about you and often reading with the intent of weeding out any candidates who don’t fit the bill.  

Before you start writing, consider which of your assets is the most impressive, the most recent, or the most relevant to the job you’re seeking. You want to arrange the parts of your resume to highlight your best assets. The heading and job objective usually are placed at the top of the page and a mention of references at the bottom. Other than those standard practices, the locations of the other sections of your resume are flexible.  

The Heading - Your name, e-mail address and phone number comprise your heading. You can decide whether it’s to your benefit to include your mailing address. As most employers will contact you either by e-mail or phone, you may not need it. However, if you happen to live in close proximity to the employer’s location, then it could be to your advantage to include your address. By the way, be sure your e-mail address is something appropriate. E-mails like or are not what an employer wants to see.  

The Objective - Usually located right beneath your heading, the objective should be as specific as possible, perhaps including a job title, skills you’d like to use, and the type of company for which you’d like to work. You can change your objective to fit the job description of the position you’re applying for. Avoid making vague, self-centered statements like, “I want a job where I can use my experience to advance my career,” which really don’t help the employer get to know you.  

Experience - The section titled “Experience” should list your previous employers and positions, usually in reverse chronological order, meaning your most recent job would go first. This section can also be called “Work Experience,” “Employment Experience” or “Experience and Skills.” If your paid experience is limited, you should include volunteer work, internships or practical experience. With each job held, include the company name, job title, years of employment, and description of responsibilities.  

Education - In the section titled “Education” you’ll want to include the names and addresses of colleges you attended and any degrees you received. No need to mention any education before high school if you’re applying for a professional position. In this section, you can also list any special training or certifications you’ve received.  

Summary of Skills - Some people choose to include a “Summary of Skills” section. It can be a brief paragraph or bulleted list that notes special skills you wish to emphasize or that might not be apparent in your job descriptions.  

Activities and Interests - Another optional section is “Activities and Interests.” Here you can describe your interests outside work. This section should give an employer insight into your personality, showing you to be well-rounded. You probably should avoid mentioning any controversial activities or religious and political affiliations, just to avoid any potential conflicts.  

References - The final line on most resumes is “References.” It’s sufficient to write, “Available upon request.” If you are limited for space, you can leave this line off, as most employers will assume you can provide references if asked.  

Try to limit your resume to one page. That means you’ll have to use words sparingly and be selective about what items you include. Go to two pages only if you have many years of diverse work experience. Incorporate spacing, bold and italics where appropriate to make your text more readable.  

After you’ve completed your first draft, be sure to run spell-check. You don’t want a typo or misspelling to create a poor impression. Then, ask a few friends or advisors to proofread your resume. Use their feedback to refine your wording. The end result should be a professional resume that presents you in the best light and helps you get interviews.  

Want to learn more about resume writing and formatting? Check out the book, Job Hunting in a Tough Economy. It’s chock full of great tips and strategies to help you find the job you want and get the salary you deserve.  

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