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How to Write an Effective Resume


Employment & Learning

What is a Resume?

A resume is a written compilation of your work experience, education, credentials, and accomplishments. In many cases, your resume is the first document a hiring manager will look at when reviewing your application, and therefore is a true “first impression.” Accordingly, it’s important to put time and effort into developing and maintaining an updated, accurate resume.


Review the Purpose of a Resume

Think of a resume as “self-advertisement” that sums up your experience on one page. Your resume is one of the most important pieces of your job application. It gives the hiring manager an overview of the qualifications you have for the job for which you’re applying.

An effective resume lays out a summary of qualifications that will push the hiring manager or employer to move forward and invite you to interview for the position. As well as details on skills, education, and work history, resumes can also have optional sections, such as an objective, summary statement, skills or career highlights. Those sections can be added after you’ve compiled all the factual information you need to list on your resume.


Make a List of Your Work Experience

Your goal will be to produce a list of experience that is relevant to the jobs you’re applying to. Although this should focus on professional work experience, you can also include awards or accolades, volunteer of community experience, and skills, as well as your education, which can be moved to the bottom of your resume once you get your first job after college.

Make sure to include the name of the company, its location (city and province), dates of employment, and bullet points describing your role and responsibilities for each position you list.


Focus on Your Achievements

When writing the descriptions for the jobs you’ve held, focus on what you have accomplished in each position rather than what you did will help your resume stand out.


What to Leave Off Your Resume

Ideally, your resume should reflect experience that is relevant to the job you are applying to, and typically no more than ten to fifteen years in the past. Since your resume should, if possible, be no longer than one or two pages, you may need to nix certain items. For example, if you took a job and only stayed there for a month or so, you wouldn’t want to include that position.

You will want to use your common sense. If you went to college for marketing and had a marketing internship your senior year, then worked as a server for the next several years, you would want to include your marketing internship. Ultimately, you want to try to strike a balance between including experience that is both timely and relevant.


Choose a Resume Style

Before you spend time writing up all the details around each position you’ve had, you should decide what style of resume to use, as that can affect how you describe, organize, and list your experience, education, skills, qualifications, and other credentials for employment.


Your options include:

Chronological: The most common resume type, in which you list your work experience in reverse chronological order, from the most to the least recent.

Combination: This type of resume lists your skills and experience before your employment history.


Which Resume Type is Right for You?

Which resume type should you use for your job search? That depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. The goal of any resume is to show a hiring manager the applicant’s strengths, skills, and experience in as short a time as possible. According to one study, recruiters spend as little as six seconds reviewing a resume before moving on to the next, so it’s in your best interests to put your finest qualities and accomplishments in a prominent position on the page.


Start Compiling Your Resume

Regardless of the type of resume you choose, aim to tailor your resume to the job to which you are applying. Your goal should be to write your resume with both robots and humans in mind. Many organizations use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to sort and vet resumes, before hiring managers ever take a look at them. This means that you could have the best experience and qualifications in a whole field of candidates, and a pretty decent resume besides, but your information will fall through the cracks if your resume doesn’t contain the right keywords. Good keywords will refer not only to your experience but to the job description in the posting as well.


Format Your Resume

Once you have written and organized your information according to the type of resume you have chosen, be sure to format it according to typical professional standards. You should use consistent spacing throughout, and evenly sized margins on all sides if possible. It’s generally best to stick to your word processor’s default settings, but in some cases, if you shrink the margins on the left, right, top and bottom, this can help buy more space to fit your resume on one page.

It is always a safe bet to stick with traditional formatting: white page, black text, readable font. Choose a basis font such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri. Ideally, your font size should be no larger than 12 and no smaller than 10.5.


Proofread, Proofread, and Proofread Again

Not even professional proofreaders can easily proofread their own work. Once you’ve made a typo, it’s hard to catch it yourself. For that reason, it’s a good idea to have one or two trusted friends take a look at your resume before you send it in for consideration.


Think of Your Resume as a Living Document

In the short term, you should tweak your resume based on each job to which you apply. For example, if one position you’re applying to seems to weigh a certain responsibility or focus over another, you should be sure your resume conveys your expertise in this area. Keep yours current and ready to send if you get a call from a recruiter, or find a job that you’d love to be hired for and want to apply for it right away.

Information on our job search programs at the YWCA Employment and Learning Center can be found at:

You can view the full original article by Alison Doyle at The Balance Careers, at: