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Resumes and Cover Letters

Resume Tips from the USA Today Career Center

  1. Focus On Content!
    Employers glance over resumés and decide in less than 30 seconds. Specifics that demonstrate your abilities, your accomplishments, and your past experiences are crucial to making your resumé get their attention.
  2. Make It Visually Appealing
    The appearance of a non-electronic resumé cannot be overemphasized! It should catch the eye. Watch for spacing and margins. Allow for a lot of white space and borders. Make use of italicizing, capitals, underlining, bolding, indentations, and bullets to emphasize your important points. Use a laser printed copy of your resumé to give it a sharp, professional look.
  3. Be Brief And Concise
    One page, short and to the point works best. Be a skillful editor, deleting the portions which are not relevant or least helpful to your securing that particular position. Emphasize your more recent experience, the last 5 - 7 years.
  4. Be Targeted
    Focus every resume to the job title being applied for. It's actually better to create a different resumé for each job title (i.e., one resumé for Trainer, another for Program Director) and incorporate only the information pertinent to doing that job. This will eliminate the tendency to crowd your resumé with too much non-related information.
  5. Show Accomplishments
    Employers like proof that you can do the job. Be sure to demonstrate results of your work and how your former employers benefited. Use numbers and percentages that show money or time saved. List anything you did that helped the bottom line.
  6. Be Clear
    No vague generalities. Say exactly what you mean, using the smallest number of words to make the point.
  7. Be Accurate
    State your skills, qualifications, and experience as positively as possible without exaggerating or misstating the truth. If your job responsibilities are not adequately described by your job title, indicate your abilities with appropriate terms (i.e. Events Coordinator, instead of Staff Coordinator).
  8. Use High Quality Paper
    White or cream, high quality linen or woven paper have all tested well.
  9. Use Appropriate Type Size
    Use type size of at least 12, but up to 14, for easier reading.
  10. Avoid Graphic Designs
    Designs are often distracting to the reader. Lines, boxes, shadings or fancy borders should be avoided.
  11. Be Complete
    Spell out names of schools, cities, abbreviations, and titles completely, since employers may not recognize abbreviations or acronyms.
  12. Use Action Verbs
    Start each sentence with a descriptive action verb -- such as established, managed, organized. They add power to your sentences.
  13. Make Points Quickly
    Complete sentences are not necessary in resumé writing; it is better to use simple descriptive statements to make a point. Be sure any technical terms are understandable to non-technical personnel. Correct spelling and past tense are essential.
  14. Proofread
    Don't trust computer spell checkers. Read every word out loud to be sure it is correct.
  15. Be Perfect
    The resume you send out must be flawless. No mistakes or typos, no white-out, no crossing out information to update. Sloppy resumés don't get interviews.
  16. Make It Readable
    A crammed, cramped resumé often gets left unread. Make deletions wherever necessary to achieve a readable product.
  17. Don't Include Personal Statistics
    It is no longer considered professional or wise to include information about marital status, gender, height, weight, health, or a picture on your resume.
  18. Don't Waste Space
    Employers know you'll provide references if they request them, therefore it is not necessary to put "References upon request" at the end of your resumé.
  19. Don't Advertise Negative Information
    The resume is the wrong place to advertise that you were laid off, fired, or had an extended illness. Never state why you left a position; simply list the dates of employment.
  20. Be Current
    Update information every six months, allowing you to quickly submit your resumé for promotions or new opportunities whenever you hear about them.
  21. Edit It
    Clearly sell your most marketable abilities. Does your resumé clearly and quickly communicate to employers that you can do the job? Do your strengths come across? Does everything support the job you are targeting? Should anything be removed? Final test: are employers calling?