Resume Content Writing Tips

Below are the three major elements of a resume that we like to call "The Big 3."  We suggest that you include at the very least, these three major elements to create a solid resume.  They are, objective, education, and employment history.

How to Write Job Objectives On A Resume

After identifying information, add a statement of objectives, in the form of a brief phrase, or sentence - for example, "Objective: Entry-level position as a hospital dietitian," or "A summer intership in manufacturgin processes that could lead toa full-time position focusing on quality control."  According to one studey, 88.5% of managers making personnel decisions connsider a statement of objectives important, because it gives the impression that the writer has a clear sense of direction and solid goals (Harcourt, Krizan, & Merrier, 1991).  When writing your objectives follow these two suggestions.

  • State only the goals or duties explicitly mentioned, or clearly implied, in the job advertisement.  If you unintentionally suggest that your goals are substantually different from the job responsibilities, the reader might infer that you would not be happy working there and not consider you for an interview.
  • Avoid meaningless generalities.  You accomplish little by writing. "Position opportunities for advancement in the field of health science, where I can use my communication and analytical skills."  What kind of position in health science: a nurse or physician, a hospital administrator, a pharmaceutical researcher?  Be more specific.

How to Write Education On A Resume

If you are a student or a recent graduate, place the education section next.  If you have substantial proffesional experience, place the employment section before the education section.  Include at least the following information in your education section:

  • The degree.  After the degree abbreviation (such as B.S., B.A., A.A., or M.S.), list your academic major (and, if you have one, your minor) - for example, "B.S. in Materials Engineering, minor in General Business."
  • The institution.  Identify the institution by its full name: "The University of Kansas," not "KU"
  • The Location of the institution.  Include the city and state.
  • The date of graduation.  If your degree has not yet been granted, add "anticipated date of graduation" or a similar phrase.
  • Information about other schools you attended.  List other institutions you attended beyond high school, even those at which you did not earn a degree.  The description for other institutions should include the same informationas in the main listing.  Arrangeentries in reverse chronological order: that is, list the school you attended most recently first.

Describe a special achievement.  For a special senior design or research project, for example, include the title and objective of the project, any special or advanced techniques or equipment you used, and - if you know them - the major results: "A study of Shape Memory Alloys in Fabrication Actuators for Underwater Applications - a senior design project to simulate the swimming styles and anatomy of fish."  A project discussion makes you seem more like a proffesional - someone who designs and carries out projects.

List honors and awards you've recieved.  Scholarships, internships, and academic awards suggest exceptional ability.  If you have recieved a number of such honors, or some that were not exclusively academic, you might list them separately (in a section called Awards)  Rather than in the education section.  Decide where this information will make the best impression.

The education section is the easiest part of a resume to adapt in applying for different positions.  For example, a student majoring in electrical engineering who is applying for a position requiring strong communication skills can list communications courses in one version of the resume and advanced electrical engineering courses in another version.  As you compose the education section, emphasize those aspects of your background that might meet the requirements for the particular job.

How to Write Employment History On A Resume

Like the education section, the employment section should convey at least the basic information about each job you have held: the dates of employment, the organizations name and location, and your position or title with the organization.  Then, add carefully selected details to your resume.  Readers want to know what you actually did to benefit the company you worked for.  Provide a two or three line description for each position listed.  For particularly important or relevant jobs, give a more extensive description, focusing on one ore more of the following factors.

  • Documents.  What kinds of documents did you write or assist in writing?  List, especially, various governmental forms and any long reports, manuals, proposals, or web sites.
  • Clients.  What kinds of, and how many, clients did you do business with in representing your organization?
  • Skills.  What technical skills did you use on the job?
  • Equipment.  What equipment did you operate or oversee?  Mention, in particular, computer skills.
  • Money.  How much money were you responsible for?  Even if you considered your bookkeeping position fairly easy, the fact that the organization grossed $2 million a year shows that the position involved real responsibility.
  • Personnel.  How many people did you supervise?

Whenever possible, emphasize results.  If you reorganized the shifts of the weekend employees you supervised, state the results:

  • Example:  Reorganized the weekend shift, resulting in a cost savings of more than $3,000 per year.
  • Example:  Wrote and produced (with Adobe InDesign software) a 43 page parts catalog that is still used by the company.  The document increased our phone inquiries by more than 25%.

When you describe the positions, use the active voice - "Supervised three workers" - rather than the passive voice - "three workers were supervised by me."  The active voice emphasizes the action of the verb.  In thinking about your functions and resposibilities, choose strong action verbs (A list of "Power Words" can be found here) that clearly communicate your activities.  Also, note that resumes often omit the I at the start of sentences.  Rather than write, "I prepared bids..." many would write, "Prepared bids."  Whichever style you end up choosing, make sure you stick with it throughout the resume.

In just a few lines, you can show that you sought and accepted responsibilitiey and that you acted profesionally.  Do not write, "I accepted responsibility"; instead, present facts that lead the reader to that conclusion.

Naturally not all jobs entail professional skills and responsibilities.  Many students find summer work as laborers, sales clerks, short-order cooks, and so forth.  If you have not held a professional position, list the jobs you have held.  Even if they were unrelated to your career plans.  If the job title is self-explanitory - such as waitperson or service-station attendant - don't elaborate too much.  If you can write that you contributed to your tuition or expenses - such as by earning 50% of your annual expenses through the position - employers will be impressed by your self-reliance.

One further suggestion: if you have held a number of nonprofessional as well as several professional positions, group the nonprofessional ones:

 

Example: Other Employment: cashier (summer, 2009), salesperson (part-time, 2005), clerk (summer 1999)

This strategy prevents the nonprofessional positions from drawing the readers attention away from the more important positions.  List jobs in reverse chronological order on the resume to highlight the most recent employment.

Secondary Resume Content

Below we have listed other content that is most common in resumes.  We want you to create a great resume, but that doesn't mean you need to use all the content available.  The biggest suggestion we can make, is to not overdue it.  ONLY put the great material from your history on your resume and you will make a resume worth bragging about.

How to Write Interests and Activities On A Resume

Most resumes do not include such information as the writers height, weight, date of birth, and marital status; federal legislation prohibits organizations from requiring that information.  In Addition, most people feel that such personal information is irrelevant to a persons ability. 

However, the Interests, Hobbies, and Activities  sections of the resume is the appropriate place for several kinds of information about you:

  • Participation in community-service organizations such as Big Brothers / Big Sisters - or volunteer work in a hospital
  • Hobbies related to your career - for example, electronics for an engineer
  • Sports, especially the ones that might socially benefit you in your profession such as tennis, racquetball, and golf
  • University-sanctioned activities, such as membership on a team, participation in the college newspaper, or election to a responsible position in an academic organization or residence hall

Do not include activities that might create a negative impression even if you might consider them a positive personally, such as hunting, gambling, or performing in a rock band (unless of course they relate to the position you are applying for).  Always omit such activities as meeting people and reading - everyone meets people and reads.

How to Write Memberships On A Resume

The Memberships section should include the name of the membership or organization, when you joined, and the location of the organization.  We suggest adding a short description of what you accomplish with your membership.  Also, be sure to include your title, if you hold a position within your membership (e.g., Lions Club - Treasurer, 2003-present, Kansas City, MO).

How to Write Publications On A Resume

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How to Write Summary On A Resume

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How to Write Skills On A Resume

Skills sections are included to highlight particular abilities.  Frequently, technical skills and language abilities are found in this section.

How to Write Certifications On A Resume

The certifications section of your resume should be used to show what certifications you have achieved and currently hold.  Most resumes only contain active certifications unless it is directly associated to the position you are applying for.  Be sure to include who issued the certification as well as the dates in which it is active.

Example:  Class B trucking license - State of Washington - 1999-2029

How to Write Availability On A Resume

This content section should just be one or two sentences explaining when you will be available for work.  This is commonly used when you are applying for a position while still working for another organization.  It is also used by students explaining when they will be graduating or when they are available over a summer break.

How to Write Awards On A Resume

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How to Write Questions & Answers On A Resume

This resume content option is rarely used, but some people find it very effective.  Be sure to use a lot of "Power Words" in your answers.  Make sure you keep all questions and answers relatively short.

Other Elements On A Resume

The sections discussed so far appear on almost everyone's resume.  Other sections are either discretionary or appropriate for only some job seekers.

  • Computer Skills.  Classify your skills in categories such as hardware, software, and operating systems.  List any professional certifications you have been awarded.
  • Military Experience.  If you are a veteran, include a "Military-service" section.  Describe your military service as if it were any other job, citing dates, locations, positions, ranks, and tasks.  List positive job-performance evaluations.
  • Language Abilities.  If you have a working knowledge of another language include a "Language Skills" section.  Language skills are particularly relevant if the potential employer has international interests and you could be usefull in a translation or foreign service.
  • Willingness to Relocate.  If you are willing to relocate, state that fact.  Many organizations will find you a more attractive candidate if they know you are willing to move around as you learn the business.

How to Write References On A Resume

For complete details on how to write your references visit our reference writing help page.

 

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