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.


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