Resume Writing 101

A resume is your personal marketing tool-- a critical document required to get you called in for a job interview. A professional resume should present your career history, accomplishments, and education in a concise, informative one to two page document.

Is A Resume Really Necessary?

A professional resume is mandatory in today’s job market because the contents can be scanned, visually or electronically, to meet each company’s specific requirements and quickly weed out unqualified applicants. A resume is not an autobiography, but a document that can open doors to your next career opportunity via headhunters, corporate H.R. departments, targeted mailings, answering ads or internet posting sites.

Key Component Parts of a Resume

A resume should start out with a Summary of Qualifications section which is a 3-8 sentence overview of your professional background. The Summary of Qualifications should include strong action words and highlight your various skills with phrases such as “results-oriented”, “strong analytical skills”, “excellent negotiation skills”, “ability to think out of the box”, etc.
The second category that is very important for resumes that are visually or electronically scanned is entitled Areas of Strength. This section can highlight the key words that prospective employers need to see on a resume. The use of key words presents your areas of knowledge, training, and experience in succinct bulleted captions. Examples of key words may include “Strategic Planning”, “Sales Presentation”, “Training & Development”, and “Financial Administration” under the Areas of Strength section.

The Heart of a Resume

The major portion of a resume presents your job responsibilities and accomplishments under the heading of Professional Experience. Typically, career experience is listed in reverse chronological order, starting with your present or most recent position. Company names, dates of employment, and titles held are listed for each position and a brief synopsis of your responsibilities should be included under each title.

The most effective resumes include accomplishments as well as responsibilities under each job description. Accomplishments or achievements can be presented through brief, bulleted statements which demonstrate how you increased sales, reduced expenses, expanded market share, or introduced new training programs, etc.

Brevity is Important

Human Resources professional do not want to read through pages of information on each applicant. Instead, focus on your most recent 10-15 years of work experience and then summarize or list previous companies/titles to keep your resume to a strong one or two pages in length.

Education and Training

The last section of a reverse chronological resume is Education. In addition to the name of the college or university attended, your major, and date of graduation should be included. Professional degrees and industry training are very important and should not be overlooked. All licenses and certifications should be included under this section.

Computer Skills

A separate section on Computer Skills can be appropriate if you have a lot of relevant hardware, software, and applications experience or if this is your career profession. The Computer Skills section can follow the Education section on your resume.

Addressing Special Needs

Often, a job applicant’s career information may not translate strongly on paper. For example, military personnel attempting to present their specialized training in a resume being sent out to civilian employers may not use the same terminology or job titles that Human Resources professionals are used to seeing in the typical job market. Another example may be an applicant with a physical disability who may need special equipment or an adaptive workspace and cannot convey this information within the confines of a resume. In these cases, the information may be addressed in the cover letter which should accompany each resume.

Cover Letters

While your resume is written to present and highlight your career experience and achievements, a cover letter’s job is to target the specific information that you would like prospective employers to focus on. The cover letter should include the name of the position you are applying for, list a few examples of how your experience fits in perfectly with the job description, briefly outline your related job experience, and refer to the specific sections on your resume where this can be shown.

A cover letter is the only place where you can address questions of relocation, pending licenses or certifications, any specific physical disabilities which you need the employer to be aware of , or other outstanding circumstances which are not reflected on your resume. Remember to keep the cover letter brief and professional. The cover letter can never take the place of a resume but is an important letter of introduction used in conjunction with your resume.

For a free critique/price quote, email Career Resumes® at

Peter Newfield is President of®, one of the premier resume writing services in the United States. He is The Resume Expert for,,, and the former Resume Expert for, Spencer Stuart Talent Network and the Career Center on AOL. View samples at: