Guide: Building A Strong Resume

by Rob Tutolo

Whether you’ve recently graduated from college, or have been in the working world for years, it’s always important to have an updated copy of your resume. Staying up to date however, is not the greatest challenge that most people will face when it comes to building their resume. We have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to resumes. In our opinion, prospective employees of every age group are encountering the same resume issues over and over again. These issues consist primarily of overcrowding the resume, as well as formatting and grammatical blunders. Whether you intend on seeking employment with us or not, we feel that it is only fair that everyone has a level playing ground when it comes to applying for a job. This guide will direct you through the process of developing a competitive and professional resume that you will be able to submit to any employer.

What To Include

  • Contact Information
  • Education
  • Professional Experience
  • Related Experience
  • Additional Experience
  • Skills

When your resume lands on an employer's desk you want the most important information to stand out. Your contact information should always be at the top of the first page, because it lets the employer know who you are and how they can reach you. Here's what you should include:

  • Your Name
  • Your Address
  • Your Primary Telephone Number
  • Your Primary E-mail Address

There is no need to include additional phone numbers or e-mail addresses, because you don’t want to confuse the employer or add clutter to your resume. If they’re interested in setting up an interview with you, then they will contact you by either your primary phone or e-mail address. With that being said, you will want to make sure to change your voicemail message to something professional. An employer won’t think highly of a voicemail message littered with music, jokes, crude language, etc. You will also want to create a professional e-mail address, if you don’t have one already.

You have the option to include a brief section regarding your (objectives) for applying to a certain job. Just know that this field is more important for people who are changing careers rather than those applying for their first job. College graduates; employers know that you want a position where you enjoy the work, and can let your skills flourish. Don’t waste precious space on stating the obvious.

You also have the option of including a section on (special projects) you may have worked on, or are currently involved in. These projects are unique, and add strength to your resume. For this reason, you will want to make them stand out towards the top of your resume, rather than mentioned briefly under another heading. You can refer to the examples at the end of the guide to gain a better understanding of what a special project might include.

The next bit of information to include is your education. You will want to list your most relevant education first. If you’re in college, list your college education before your high school education. Upon graduation, you can probably eliminate your high school information from your resume to make more room for important items. You will want to include the name of your school, your degree, and date of graduation. Only include your GPA if it’s over a 3.0.

You can also include any honors you may have received throughout the course of your education (honors, dean’s list, etc.), as well as traveling abroad or transfer experiences that have strengthened your educational experience.

After you mention your education you will want to add a section highlighting your professional experience. In this section, you should only mention experience (job, internship, volunteer work, etc.) that relates to the job that you’re applying for. When you get called in for an interview, the employer may ask you what skills you picked up or enhanced while at your previous position(s), and how those skills can be applied at their company. Here’s what you should include when you list your professional experiences:

  • The Company/Organization Name
  • The Position Held
  • The duration that you were employed
  • Duties and Responsibilities

At this point, if you feel like something has been left out, or just need to fill some space on your page, you can add yet another work related section titled additional experience. Here you can include previous jobs that you have held over the years, that aren’t necessarily related to the job that you are applying for right now. If you do include this section, you should use the exact criteria used in your professional experience section.

The final section of your resume should be your skills section. You will want to list your skills in order of importance to the company that you are sending your resume to. Your list should contain no more than seven or eight items, so you will have to use your discretion when selecting what you want to include in this section.

You can refer to the real life examples at the end of the guide to gain a better understanding of how to format all of this information properly in your resume. Remember, while it is important that you don’t leave anything out, it is equally important that your resume is concise and formatted correctly.

The Importance of Formatting Correctly

The layout of your resume is incredibly important. Here are some things to keep in mind when formatting your resume:

  • Length - Your resume should be between one and two pages long, depending on how many years of work experience you have under your belt. If you're in college or are a recent college graduate, do whatever you can to limit your resume to one page.
  • Font - As boring as it may sound, anything other than Times New Roman, or a similar font will make your resume come off as unprofessional. If you submit a resume written in Comic Sans or any other flashy font, you run the risk of the employer not taking you seriously from the get-go.
  • Font Size - For the most part you want your font to be size 12. You will however want to use bold and/or italics to set the most important items apart from the rest on your resume. Make sure you don't overdo it.

Please refer to the examples at the end of the guide for a better understanding of how to properly format your resume.

Do's and Don'ts of Resume Building

Here are some general, yet very important tips, for polishing up your resume. You've made it this far, we'd hate to see you trip up on minor errors that, in an employer's opinion, aren't so minor.

  • Always be consistent with your formatting. Remember to refer to our examples on how to properly format your resume.
  • Always have examples of your work available to show employers. It might be helpful to organize your best work into a folder or file that you can easily send to an employer.
  • Always use appropriate language. Language alone can make or break your resume. Slang terms or using “etc.” do not come off as professional. Be specific, and use action verbs to begin each of your points. A list of acceptable action verbs can be found here.
  • Always draw attention to your results, achievements, and transferable skills.
  • Always, always, proofread your resume before submitting it to an employer. Have other people proofread your resume for grammatical errors as well.
  • You should not include activities and interests sections on your resume. These are qualities that your employer will learn about you during the interview or after you are hired.
  • Never use first person language (I, me, we, etc.).
  • Never include personal information such as age or marital status. This information can be saved for your cover letter or the interview.
  • Never include that you have references available upon request on your actual resume. This takes up space, and an employer will almost always ask for references before they actually hire you.
  • Never lie. If you find yourself saying “Oh, who cares? They’re never going to check this anyway”, you’re asking for trouble. They are going to check, and if they don’t check, it’s because they weren’t impressed by the information anyway. In the long run, being upfront and honest from the start is far more important to you and your future than it is to the employer. If you don’t believe us, read this article.

So there you have it; the basic formula for building a competitive and professional resume. There are obviously variations to this formula depending on who you are and what type of job you're applying for. There are also other guides that suggest alternate methods for formatting your resume. In the end, it really comes down to what works best for you.

This post was written by Rob Tutolo

Rob Tutolo is an author for the Total Mortgage Blog. Total Mortgage is an online lender based in Milford, CT.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

piazza April 9, 2013 at 6:38 pm

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