Resume: Basic Guidelines

Some basic guidelines to keep in mind while creating/writing a resume are:

Shorter is better

If you feel that the people are going to be impressed by a lengthy resume, you are sadly mistaken. The people shortlisting the resumes have to go through scores of resumes. Hence they will be impressed by a resume where the information is easily accessible to them at a glance.

  • Keep sentences as short and direct as possible.
  • Eliminate repetitions.
  • Writing should be concise and to the point.
  • Explain in the most direct way possible, rather than trying to impress with bigger words or complex sentences.
  • Resume should not be too long or too wordy (remember, it is a summary).

Improve readability

The person reading your resume will not make efforts to try to find information that get lost in the paragraph even if they are specific to the skill-set or other important issues. Hence avoid large paragraphs, which boast about the projects or work that you have done. You have to present the information to the readers. Use lists and bullets to make them stand separate. Also avoid using all capitals.

Give thought to the placement of information in overall structure of the resume, its location on the page itself or within a section, ordering of information, more impressive ways of phrasing the information, use of design elements (such as boldface to highlight skills, italics to highlight a phrase, etc).

Remove Clutter

It reminds you of Feng Shui does it not? Well, it is similar to the Feng Shui concept of removing clutter from home. Do not clutter your resume with unwanted information that does not add value for the job you are applying for (remember audience analysis?). Consider a resume crammed with information in a page. The prospective employer will have to take efforts to find information in this type of resume. It is pleasing to the eye to have some space spread around in the resume if it is organized properly using headings, paragraphs, and lists. It is the same as saying “use some white space”.

Be consistent

There should be uniformity, consistency, and parallelism in design decisions. Also, be consistent in style, format, and use of phrases. Remain consistent in writing decisions such as use of abbreviations and capitalizations.

  • Use the styles and formats consistently through out the resume.
  • Use uniform and consist use of italics, capital letters, bullets, boldface, and underlining.
  • Use the same font for a level of heading.
  • Make sure the alignment of the text is also consistent.
  • Use the same style of phrasing for similar information in a resume.

For example, if you have written a degree in boldface, all degrees should be in boldface.

Highlight your skills

Emphasize your technical skills and other plus points. List your technical knowledge first in an itemized manner. If you know a software package or computer platform or if you have a scientific background, make sure you give the details. The resume should reflect all the qualities you have all (or most of the qualities). Play up all the qualities that qualify you foe the job you are applying for.

Watch your verb tense

  • The trend is to use the first person (I), though some people still use the third person (he, she) point of view. Whatever you choose, use it consistently.
  • If the accomplishment is completed, use past tense.
    Example: I have conducted more than 15 training sessions.
  • If the task is still underway, it should be present tense.
    Example: I am conducting training sessions on communication.
  • If the skill has been used in the past and will continue to be used, use present tense.
    Example: I conduct training sessions on…. .

Give telephone number that will be answered

Be sure to add a phone number on the resume that will be be answered by a person or an answering machine. Do not lose the prize interview merely because there was no answer to your phone. Make it a practice to include the area code of the telephone number.

Stretching the Truth

Make sure that you can back up what you say. Keep the claims you make within the range of your own integrity. There is nothing wrong in adding things in your resume so you communicate who you are and what you can do at your very best. Convey a careful and a balanced portrayal of yourself!

Error free

Make sure that your resume is free of errors. Proofread, proofread, and proofread your resume. Spelling or typographical errors, grammatical weaknesses, unusual punctuation, and inconsistent syntax or capitalization stand out like a sore thumb. Proofread it to catch any hidden mistakes and take a final look before you press the send button!

When you have checked for grammar and style, all you need is to fine-tune it. If you feel that your skills need more emphasis using bold or italic, go ahead and do it, but don’t over do anything.

Let me conclude that a well-written resume should reflect your personality as an organized writer. You may have all the skills required for the job, but if you don’t present it properly in the resume, the chances are that you will not be short-listed at all.

Do what works

Do not blindly follow the rules or guidelines. Pick and choose what is best for you. Everyone freely gives advice on resume length and the most common advice is to restrict it to 1-2 pages.

In some situations you can divert from this rule. for example, you are a fresher. Since you don’t have a portfolio of your work to show off, you can write an essay on why you have applied for the job and how well you will fit in. You can add this to the end of the resume.

There is no harm if your resume runs into pages if you are sure of your writing capabilities. Such a resume should hold the undivided attention of the person reading your resume and should create an interest and excitement that leads them to call you for an interview.

The list does not end here…. you can add more to this.


Resume: What it Should Contain

As a manager, I have gone through numerous resumes. When I don’t have enough time in hand, I reject resumes based on many factors and select a few based on a few other factors! Hence I could not resist my temptation to add my personal opinion about this subject. In the process of interviewing and recruiting technical writers for about five years, I am now in the position of assessing the qualities of applicants for technical writing positions. Through many interviews over these years, I have come to recognize quickly what impresses me and what does not; what makes me to ask someone back, and what immediately closes the door on the candidate.

In reality, most of the times the resumes are shoddy and are personal job history essays running into three to four pages, containing unnecessary information. An impressive resume can secure you an interview, irrespective of the experience or the skill sets you have. Then, it is up to you to perform and convince the interviews that you are the person for the job.

What is it?

You can define resume as a one or two page summary of background, qualification, certifications, skills, and experience of an individual designed to capture the interest of a prospective employer with the purpose of securing an interview.

With a little extra effort, you can create a resume that can stir the interest of prospective employers and make you stand out as a superior candidate for a job you are seeking. Even if you face fierce competition with people more qualified, and/or experienced, and/or skillfull than you, a well written resume is a magic tool that will give you an opportunity to be invited for the interview.

Every resume is a one-of-a-kind marketing communication. It should be appropriate to the requirement of the job, stating your skills and experience.

The purpose and design can upto an extent depend on the personal choice of the person. But the content has to be given some thought and attention. If you are responding to a specific job description, directly to the employer, analyze the job description and write accordingly.

Resume is a stepping-stone to getting a job and hence is a very important document. Developing a good resume based on what you are, is a challenging job.

Main Components

The three main components of the resume are the purpose, the design and the content (that the summary contains). I, being a technical writer give a lot of importance to the content, and the audience. So when I am in the process of recruiting a writer or writers, I look out for resumes that has been created with the audience in mind. The focus should be on the content, readability, effective design, and adaptation to the expectations of the readers (i.e. human resources, managers, etc.).

For example, if you are simultaneously applying for the job of an editor and an online content writer, the resumes should have emphasis on different skill set. You cannot use the same resume for both the position you are applying for. The contents of the two can roughly be the same, but the highlight and emphasis of the skill set should be different for both the positions.

  1.  Objective

A well-defined objective adds a great deal of value to the resume as it demonstrates your clarity of career direction. An objective for name sake adds “no value” and a wrong objective can be a disaster. Assume that you are short listing resumes for the post of a web designer and you come across the following objectives:

    1. To work with a reputed organization and be able to apply CAD software and mechanical design skills for delivering challenging projects.
    2. To be associated with a firm that provides me an opportunity to grow by acquiring new skills and thus contributing toward the development of the firm and myself.
    3. Seeking a responsible and challenging position in a competitive environment involving analysis, design and development of mechanical hardware/software systems.
    4. To attain proficiency in the mechanical field and manage large industrial projects.
    5. To work as web developer and improve myself in this chosen field.

I would think of considering No. 5 (for having an objective that connects well to the job requirement) and may be No. 2 (because that is general). The other objects don’t match with the job requirement. I might loose out on a good candidate, and the other way round, a good candidate looses out on an opportunity because of the mismatch in the “objective”.

So, unless and until you have a clear and well-defined objective, it is better not to have one at all.

2. Personal Information

Most of the resumes have a section on Personal information. This section should ideally contain your name, correspondence address, phone number, email address, and the URL to your homepage (if any). Many candidates add age, birth date, Father’s name, height, weight, sex, marital status, passport number etc. to the personal information section. This makes it look like a matrimonial form or an entry-form for a beauty pageant.

This information may still be applicable for the government jobs, but not otherwise. You can mention your age, but birth date is irrelevant information to the person who is reading the resume. In any case, you may add these information if it is specifically asked for. For example, you can mention your passport number if you applying for a job abroad because the recruiters may want to verify the detail, but otherwise avoid adding such information unless and until it is specifically asked for.

3. Educational Qualification

If you have a string of degrees and diplomas to boast of, you can add it under a separate section. If you have a lone engineering degree, then you need not have a separate section to mention it. You can add it in the “Personal Information” section. In that case, you can list it after your name. In general, list education in reverse chronological order, degrees first, followed by certificates and advanced training.

Highlight your strengths and focus on the strongest and most impressive skill sets. Make careful and strategic choices to organize, order, and convey your skills and background. If you have working experience, you do not have to mention your grades (or percent of marks) and the name of the college(s) where you have studied.

4. Skill sets

In this section, list the packages, tools, and operating systems you have used and worked on. If you know any programming language, mention them here. If there is a large set of tools, you can have them under separate headings.

5. Other skills

Here you can list any optional skills that feel you have and want to highlight. Do not club them in a paragraph or scatter them under various sections, where they get buried and lost. List them out so that the person reading your resume can read the other skill sets you have while glancing through the resume. Accumulate all of your miscellaneous skills in this section.

6. Professional experience

If you have some experience, then list them here in the reverse chronological order. If you have worked with a number of organizations, do not go into detail on the jobs early in your career, focus on the most recent and/or relevant jobs. Summarize the earliest jobs in one line or very short paragraph with a brief of your job summary and achievements of any.

If the list of experience is limited, you can write a little more elaborately, about your job profile and responsibilities. The jobs listed should include the designation, the name of the firm, the years of experience you have.

Writing a great resume does not necessarily mean that you should follow a set of rules. It is just not possible because there is no right way of writing a resume!

Instead of following a bunch of rules/tips blindly, use them to your advantage by choosing what is right for you. This is the only mantra of writing a highly effective resume. Developing a good resume based on what you are, is a challenging job. Every person’s background, employment needs and the career objectives are different.

The resume should be tailor made for the job, for you, and for the employer.

No One

(Written in the year 1990)

No one can follow me into the night,
into the depth and silence of sleep.
No one can understand the emotions,
that usually erupts in me.

No one can feel the pain in my eyes,
because it’s a smile that they see.
No one can understand what ails me,
and see me when I silently weep.

No one senses the agony in me,
because I wear a smile.
No one can understand the heartache,
that is hidden all the while.

My Shattered Dreams

(Written in the year 1990)

Utterly wrecked, I lament —
My cry so soft, it reaches no heart
So deep is the wound, my soul bears
that it tears me apart.

I sit in solitude and sob.
I wish to escape and hide from this pain,
for my dreams have turned into nightmares
But all in vain.

I sit alone, quiet and calm.
Brooding over my shattered dreams.
Still I go after it, with high hopes.
I am indeed foolish to dream like this.

I dreamt with happiness, with all the zest
but they have been shattered…
Even before they have been woven.
I sit brooding over my dreams that were scattered.


(Written in the year 1992)

I want someone who will
understand and love me.
Someone close to the heart,
to feel for me and comfort me.

I want someone to share my thoughts and emotions,
and tell me whats wrong and whats right.
Someone to ease my tensions,
touch me, feel me, and hold me tight.

I want someone who can stir
the feelings and emotions in me.
Someone who can bring alive
the woman in me.

I want someone who will make
me forget my worries.
As days go by, to bring in all
the happy memories.

I want someone to wipe away
my tears when I cry.
Someone to be really concerned
when I am sad or worry.

I want someone to share
my happiness when I laugh or smile.
Someone to be with me and
share things with me even if not all the while.

I want someone who will love me
as the days go by.
Someone who will love my wrinkles
and grey hair as time passes by.

I want someone who will then
love the person, the soul in me.
Someone who will love me as I am,
the old aging woman in me.

Death: Dealing With It

Many people would say that they are not afraid of death. They feel that death would take them away from the miseries of the world. Some feel that after death they would go to the heaven and that would be the end of miseries of the living world. This leads them to the conclusion that people who are afraid of death are cowards. If that is the case, I am a coward.

To know what is death, one should know what it is be at the threshold of death or has to experience the feeling of loosing a loved one. I have lost not one, but two people who were very close to me, very precious to me, who were the reason of my very existence, my parents!

Death of a loved one is a huge loss. Grief, they say is the natural response to loss. Along with the loss and grief comes an overwhelming wash of negative emotions which makes you feel depressed, despondent, empty, alone, despairing!  You feel the crushing weight that seems to bring your life to a grinding halt. You know your life will never be the same again without the existence of the person whom you love so much, may it be you mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife, son or daughter to name a few. You might understand these emotions if you have ever faced a major loss in your life. You sway in the waves of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. You become angry with God for having done this to you.

Once past the initial phase, grief works to help you process the loss, hopefully moving you toward acceptance. The grief phase is agonizing, often resurrecting painful emotions like fear, denial, regret, anger, sadness, rejection, abandonment and withdrawal. Yet in the midst of this terrible time, grief has the power to change you. It can help you transition into life without your loved one. During this phase you wonder how you can break this mental block, accept the loss, and allow the grieving process to heal. Do you feel you will recover from this loss? Will you have mental peace ever? Do you see some mental respite anywhere on the horizon?

I have seen death very closely, when my mother passed away (at 10.15 pm, on 29th Aug 1998). I felt that death had snatched her through the mesh we had woven to keep her alive, keep her with us. The doctors could not detected whats wrong with my mom. She was ill for a week, hospitalized for a few days, and she just left us.  Even as I looked at the still body, I kept reassuring myself that she is alive, that she would get up and talk to me. It was a difficult time for me. I had to tell myself a hundred times that she is no more…that my mom is not alive any more. Shortly after she died my dad went right downhill. He wept the night she passed away and then he was composed, probably to be the pillar of strength for his daughters. In just a few months, he became very weak, lost weight, and looked much older than he did. He did not say anything nor did he show his emotions, but I could sense that he missed his wife more than I missed my mother.

But, death is one of the hardest parts of living. It is something you never get over, you just learn to deal with it the best that you can. Everyone deals with death and dying differently and there is no one right way to deal with it or I mean whatever way you deal with it is just fine for you. I am close to both my parents, but mom was always there for me (so was dad), but my sister was daddy’s girl. My equation with both of them was the same, but mom was also a dear friend in whom I had confided every minute of my life.

I was slowly coming to in the terms of loosing my mom when my dad passed away on July 18th 2005. They were not old enough to die. My mom was 52 and my dad was 69 at the time of their death. Their deaths were very different.  My dad was a shattered man after my mom passed away. He felt that fate played a cruel game with him and cheated him. He had three heart attacks and was still alive where as mom who had no medical history just went away.

He felt that he had nothing to live for and he stopped taking care of himself. He stopped taking medicines and never went for yearly check up for 7 years. It is a miracle that he lived this long without many problems. My dad just died in a matter of few seconds! His death was unexpected and a total shock to me. I knew that his heart wasn’t in the greatest condition. But he was able to work, walk around and do physical work. I never really knew how much stress he was in. He held the weight of the world on his shoulders.

This was especially hard since both the deaths were so sudden and unexpected. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of them. I miss my mom and dad so much but knowing they are now together once again helps makes thing easier. It does really hurt knowing I no longer have parents but I do believe they are now angels taking care of me and my family. I’m still coping up with the situation taking one day at a time. It is difficult to forget the wonderful years I had spent with them, but I think we should learn to manage our overwhelming feelings of grief, confusion and anger. Else it becomes difficult to move on.

 I did not want to hear from friends and relatives on how sorry they are! I know that explanations on the ways of life seldom console. I don’t do it myself. But there was a time when I just wanted to talk. I wanted someone to listen to me and understand what I was going through and importantly why! I wanted to come out of the depression, the feeling of anger, sadness, grief and more emotions I had no control on. I was extremely angry because I had lost both my parents. I was sad because I loved them. I was depressed because I felt lonely in this world that’s full of people! I regretted what happened because I could not spend much time with either of them.

 I though I could deal with my sorrow by talking about my feeling. I wanted to vent out my thoughts, my sorrow, my anger, my grief—but with whom? My husband did all the duties a son would do and I appreciate and value that a lot. But I was all alone with my pain, my emotions, and my agony! I did not want to talk about my feeling with people who dis not understand. NEVER! I think I can discuss it with a stranger who understands what I feel, but not with a known person who did not even turn back to ask how I felt after the death of my parents.

After the funeral, we returned home (from Trivandrum to Pune), I got into the loop of helping my daughter Soumya in completing her schoolwork, studies, and homework that she missed for the week. Later the rains and the flood related adventures in Pune kept my mind preoccupied over for about a week! I realized that as long as I am busy with work or some task, my mind is under control as it has something else to think about when all that is done, at the end of the day I have time–that is when I get the scenes of time spent with dad running in front of my eyes like a movie and I go into the depression mode. I feel a total emotional loss, which I know can’t be covered.

I decided to take care of my life by burning out, by not allowing thoughts to enter my mind. It was stressful, but better than being depressed! I involved myself in all possible activities that would keep me on my toes—teaching my daughter, cleaning up the house, washing, rearranging, taking work home from office, exercising, reading an interesting book, etc. I did all possible task to keep my mind occupied and went to sleep only when I was tired and felt too sleepy to keep my eyes open. I took care of my emotions and did my mourning all alone. It did help me to keep my balance, but it did not help me to heal. It just made me feel much more lonelier and realize that I am on my own to handle my feeling and my grief.

Ironical as it sounds, I was glad about the floods in Pune because it kept my mind occupied and concerned about it for a week. Infact it kept me worried so much that I could not think of anything else. Then I got busy with Soumya’s exams and her studies for exams. Thus I was busy with not much time left for my mind to wander around and reach my parents. Now, thinking back, I feel that my parents did it for me because they know how I am, how emotional I am, and how touchy I am. For me, all these have been a blessing in disguise. But whatever I feel, I feel lost, yes even at this age, I feel lost!

I was not really able to talk to anyone about what I was dealing with.  I don’t think any one will understand what I felt, how I felt and why I felt the emotions, that built up in me and how I felt about the whole situation. People might have found it strange to see me composed. I did not want anyone else to know what I felt as my emotions were my own. I cried and wept only when I was all alone with just my thoughts for company.

This incident has made me realize the importance of reliable relationships. It is either there or not there—nothing in the middle. You have a company in life just or you have none even if you are always surrounded by people. I feel the despair and loneliness over the loss, but I also know that withdrawing and wallowing in that despair can affect the physical well-being, relationships, spiritual life, and overall ability to deal with living.

Being stuck in despair is like water collecting and stagnating in a pool. It’s a breeding ground for negative, unhealthy reactions to loss—like depression and negative thoughts. I wanted to come out of it…. But it was a part of my life. The more I tried to throw the depression out of my system, the more it became a part of my existence taking a toll on my physical and mental strength.

This incident also has made me realize how important life is and how lightly we take it. Celebrate your existence. Celebrate, for there are people who loved you and still love you very much. Ever since, I have made a decision to enjoy life to it’s fullest. I realized what it is like to be alive, to have the feeling that you are alive when hundreds of people are dying. I could have been the one chosen by death. The actual event of dying is something I would rather not have to endure.

How you deal with a situation and heal, entirely depends on you. Like waves of the ocean that vary in size, strength and consistency, grief keeps your emotions flowing and moving toward healing. Within that wash of grief, you may at times feel a sense of despair. This is not abnormal or unhealthy in itself, but when despair and despondency overpower you, taking control of your emotions, the natural process of grief can be stunted. Probably that’s what happened with me.

I decided to channalize my grief, my negative thoughts, and my negative energies. I began to write the book that dreamt of writing. Within 2 years, I wrote 7 books and had them published too. This was the positive outcome of channelizing my negative energies in a positive manner.

When people are trapped in despair, they may feel like life is no longer worth living. No… If there is life, there is death. We have no control over this. But we definitely have control over our thoughts, how we handle situations and our lives. If you find yourself mired in despondency, and you think you are constantly moving in the waves of grief and are engulfed in stagnant pool of despair, try to come off it. If it is not possible, it may be time to seek outside help.

My broken Heart (Poem)

(Written in 1990. These were the emotions of a close friend which I translated to a poem. Thankfully, it made her laugh!)

I sat with a needle and thread,
to mend my broken heart.
I tried to stitch them,
but it still lay apart.

I bought some nuts and bolts
to fix my broken heart
I tired my level best,
but it still lay apart.

I then tried balms, cellotape
and even plaster of paris.
But alas! It still lay apart
after every possible repair.

It was then I asked for your love,
to soothen my damaged heart.
But you refused politely,
and said, let them lay apart.

I had etched you name on my heart.
It was a painful process.
But I was blindly in love,
to think of the consequences.                    

Now, you can’t see the cuts.
But that does not mean it’s healed.
The pain is buried deep within
and the wound is very much concealed.