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Before You Write Your Resume - First Gather this Important Information
 
 

Gathering Information in Your Resume Writing


Writing a resume can be a bit of an overwhelming task, and part of the reason for this is because many job seekers do not prepare themselves in advance. You can avoid a lot of the anxiety that comes along with resume writing if you gather the appropriate information in advance. Once you have it all in one place, you can simply refer to it as you compose your resume or CV. In fact, it may be helpful to break the process into two separate sessions. In the first session, you will take the time necessary to find all of the relevant information. In the second session, you will actually use this information to put together your resume.
Objectives

In this article, you will discover what information to gather in advance so that your resume will be complete and accurate.

  • What types of information should you gather?
  • Where can you find the information that you will need?
  • Which information is the most relevant?


What Information Will You Need?


Another important reason to gather the needed information in advance is that it gives you the opportunity to reflect upon your experiences. By spending time thinking about your previous employment, for example, you may be able to draw some themes or parallels that will look great when you summarize for your resume. In addition, this exercise can help you recall experiences that you may have otherwise forgotten over time.

The information you need depends to some degree on the type of resume you choose to write. For example, if you are writing a chronological or combination resume, you are going to need the dates you worked for your previous employers. In addition, there are other pieces of information that will be necessary no matter what type of resume you are creating. Use the section headings of your resume to make sure that you have all of the information you need before sitting down to write it.

Education

One of the most logical places to start is with your education. If you intend to include your educational experience on your resume, then you will want to know exactly when you graduated (or attended) the institution. It is also common for recent graduates to include a grade point average (GPA) in the education section if it is a 3.5 or higher. You can get all of this information by requesting a copy of your transcripts from your school. You may also find that you want to include skills and experiences gained during various courses in your schoolwork, and a transcript can be great for helping you recall those experiences.

You can usually get a transcript by contacting the office of the registrar at a college or university. If you are looking for a high school transcript, try the academic office or contact the school's guidance counselor. It may take several days for your school to send your transcripts to you, so make sure you follow through on this step in advance. For some jobs, a "confidential" copy of your transcript may be required. This is different from the one that you have sent for your own purposes and may be mailed directly to the employer or sent in a sealed envelope to be included with your application packet.

Job History

Of course, you are going to need to refer to your job history on your resume, so it is necessary to spend some time reviewing it. On a notepad or computer, list the most relevant information for each job, starting with the most recent one and working backwards.

  •  Company name.
  • Company address and phone number.
  • Dates of employment.
  • Supervisor's name.
  • Job title.
  • Description of duties.

Usually, the description of duties is the easiest part, as you typically remember how you spent your days. On the other hand, it can be difficult to recall the address and phone number of a company where you worked years ago. One great resource for this type of information is the yellow pages. If you cannot remember your former supervisor's name, you may need to give them a call and ask. Now, however, most businesses have web sites; and doing a quick online search might get you both their contact information and a company directory that jogs your memory about who oversaw your department.

 

You will most likely not include the contact or supervisor information on your resume, but you should go ahead and gather it for two reasons. First, it helps you to more vividly remember your time at the organization. Secondly, you will often be asked for this when filling out a job application, so if you are asked to do so when dropping off a resume, you can easily refer to your notes. This makes you look well prepared and can give you a little bit of an edge over someone who leaves sections blank or admits that he or she does not remember certain information.

 

Achievements

Your resume is an opportunity to highlight the best that you have to offer, so you certainly want to mention any relevant achievements. If you were named employee of the year by a previous employer, for example, you would want to make a note of when that happened. Likewise, civic awards and achievements are important, too, as is special recognition for volunteer work in your field. Make sure that you have information regarding who bestowed the award, in addition to the dates and a brief synopsis of why you were chosen.

 

This is not the time to be modest. You are simply making a list for yourself, so feel free to be thorough. You may not end up using every achievement on your final resume, but doing this exercise will help put you in the mindset for why you deserve to get the job, as well as to offer ideas for skills sections if you are creating a functional or combination resume. Not only that, but it will give you great material to use when you reach the interview stage of the hiring process. Of course, these should be achievements that are relevant to the job for which you are applying, rather than those that are simply personal goals that you have met.
Narrowing It Down

Once you have gone to the trouble to gather all of this information, it will be time to pick out those pieces that are the most relevant to your current job search. If you are creating a combination resume, for example, you may choose to omit certain jobs that are unrelated to your field while deciding which ones to highlight. You may determine that it is not necessary to list your GPA from your transcript, but you may remember some excellent skills learned during a for-credit internship during college.
In most cases, your resume should only be a page long, so it can be difficult to choose which information to include and which to omit. It can be helpful to speak with someone already in your field to find out what types of experience and skills employers are most likely to value so that you know you are hitting on the items that are the most likely to get you hired. Again, consider what type of resume is the most appropriate for you, and that will help you determine some of the content that needs to stay or go for the final draft.

Presentation


There is a ton of contradictory advice floating around when it comes to writing the most professional resume that will get the best results. While the overall type and style of resume will depend in large part upon the norms of the industry to which you are applying, there are certain rules that should typically be observed when it comes to the presentation of your resume.

 

Objectives
Want to learn more? Take an online course in Resume Writing.

In this section, you will learn the guidelines for the overall formatting and presentation of a professional resume.

  • What kind of paper should you use?
  • How do you give your resume a "clean" look?
  • How long should your resume be?
  • Can you use templates to help construct your resume?

 

The Rules of the Game

There are different approaches to resume writing. There are, however, some guidelines that should be followed to ensure that your resume is well received by a potential employer. Those who do not follow these suggestions will usually not make it to the interview portion of the job seeking process. While some of these guidelines do not allow for a lot of creativity or character, the fact of the matter is that the employer will generally not be looking for those aspects at this point. Instead, he or she wants an easy way to see what qualifications and experience you have compared to other applicants. Your goal is to make this as easy as possible so that the employer will want to get to know you better.

 

Length

A resume should not be more than a page long. This can be extremely challenging to people for different reasons. For example, someone who has been in the field for years may feel like he or she cannot possibly fit all of the relevant information on one page. On the other hand, a new college graduate without much experience may feel like there is no way he or she can fill up an entire page.

For those with extensive experience, it may be permissible to extend the resume to two pages, but you should never use more than that. If your resume requires more than two pages, then you are not being selective enough with the information that you include. For those with less work experience, it may be time to get a little more creative with transferrable skills learned in school or through other life experiences.

 

Font
 
In most fields, the employer will prefer to see a "conventional" font face. This might include Times, Times New Roman, or other bookprint fonts. You will find that any of these are serif fonts, which means that the letters have tails at the terminal points. This is usually considered easier to read on paper. If your resume is electronic, however, you can consider using a sans-serif font (one without the "tails"), as those are sometimes easier to read on the screen.

It is best to utilize only one font in your entire resume, although you can draw attention to various pieces of information by emphasizing the text with bolding, underlining, or italics. In addition, you may choose to make your section headings a bit bigger than the other text or to type them in all caps. No matter what font you choose, never go smaller than ten points or larger than twelve points.

Spacing
 
Font size is not the only factor affecting the overall spacing of your resume. You also need to consider margin size, for example. While a one-inch margin is common, some job seekers will use smaller margins to get more content onto the page. If using this option, be sure not to go any smaller than one-half inch, as the result will simply look too crowded and will come across as cluttered and unprofessional.

You also want to utilize "white space" between sections and headings. Adding extra line breaks and spacing out your text makes it look much cleaner and sharper, and these types of things appeal to the human eye. Remember, you only have a short time to make a first impression, and the strategic use of white space will help you do just that. 

Layout

Many of your layout decisions will depend upon the type of resume you chosen to create. For example, a functional resume will include different section headings than a chronological resume. In either case, however, you can help keep the clean look described above by using bullet-point lists rather than entire paragraphs. Now you should be realizing the importance of being brief with your text, and bullet points are an excellent way to do this. That is not to say that you cannot use a paragraph format. If you do, however, remember to be concise and to make sure that you use consistent phrasing.

 

Another way to keep the resume looking neat and clean is to be consistent with styles from section to section. If you used bold text for one section heading, use it for all of them. If one section is left justified, then continue that approach throughout the resume. When you look from one section to the next, it should be obvious that they are from the same resume. Your layout is your biggest opportunity to add a little personal touch to an otherwise very regimented document, so try to choose a style that fits your industry, as well as your own sense of what looks good.

 

Sections

Depending on the type of resume you choose to prepare, you may have to consider all or some of the following sections. By choosing only the most relevant, you can avoid overcrowding your resume or repeatedly mentioning the same information in more than one place. Some of your options include the following.

 

  • Contact Information.
  • Objective.
  • Job History.
  • Skills.
  • Activities.
  • Volunteer Experience.
  • Leadership Experience.
  • Education.
  • Honors and Awards.
  • Certifications and Licenses.
  • Work Authorization.
  • Interests.
  • Affiliations.

 


Most likely, you will not be able to fit all of these categories onto your one page resume. In fact, you should not. So, take some time to determine which are going to be best to describe your background and qualifications, as well as what are most commonly included in your industry.

 

Paper

While the paper you use for a resume might seem like the least of your concerns, it actually is important. After all, the potential employer is physically holding the paper in hand and is therefore using several of his or her senses. Plain white printer paper is generally not going to cut it. It will make you look unprofessional.

You can make a much better impression by using paper that has a "weight" of between 16 and 25 pounds. It is acceptable to use white paper, especially if it has at least 25-percent cotton fiber content. Ivory or off-white is another common choice. Some job seekers choose a gray or blue paper, but the farther you stray from white or off-white, the more of a risk you are taking. Never use bright colored papers, pastels, or papers with pictures. It is almost never appropriate to include a photograph of yourself on your resume, except in very specialized fields such as acting.

 

Resume Assistance

It is very common for a job seeker to turn to the use of either a professional resume writer or a template to create his or her document. Both of these options are helpful and should be considered. A quick Internet search for "resume template," for example, will bring up hundreds or thousands of options. Keep in mind, however, that not all templates are created equal. Make sure to choose one that is appropriate for your industry, that includes the sections you need, and that will scan well. (We will talk more about scannablity later.)
 
Finally, while you want your resume to be easy to read and compare, you do not want it to look exactly like everyone else's. This is one small opportunity to exercise a little creativity with the document, so take a look at what is out there and then tweak it to fit your own needs. Remember that a whole lot of people will be relying on Microsoft Word templates, so it might be a good idea to stay away from those or to really personalize them.
 
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