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.


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