Resume Greatest Hits: Questions I Get Asked Most

November 28, 2012

By Guest Contributor Rachel Pryzby

Many young professionals get one set of resume advice from their parents, completely different suggestions from their college career center, and a regular ol’ Google search brings up countless articles and blog posts with titles like “Common Resume Mistakes That Can Cost You Your Dream Job.” It can be confusing and intimidating!

Here’s the good news: writing a great resume is not as complicated as it seems. A winning resume can be boiled down to three main components:

• Easy to read and understand

As the author of your resume, your job is to write in a language that will resonate with the reader. Your resume also needs to be aesthetically pleasing so the content is not overlooked!

• A positive marketing tool

A resume is your chance to market your experience and sell yourself! Describe accomplishments, not tasks. Use quantifiable data whenever possible for maximum impact.

• Organized, logical, and consistent

This goes along with the first bullet. A well-organized document will be easier for the reader to digest.That said, many young professionals still ask me questions about the mechanics of a resume. Here are some of those FAQs:

Which goes first on a resume, education or work experience?
There’s no hard and fast rule about the order of headings on a resume. However, studies suggest that recruiters and hiring managers spend the most time on the top quarter page of a resume, so it’s in your best interest to include the most important information first.

Whether you start your resume with education, work experience, skills, or other content is your choice. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. If you just graduated from college and you don’t have a lot of work experience, it’s probably in your best interest to place your education first. On the other hand, if you have a lot of relevant work experience but your degree isn’t necessarily applicable, you should lead with your work experience.

Can I include volunteer experience? What about work experience that’s not directly related?
There are differing opinions among resume writers, recruiters, and human resources professionals about how to present various types of experience on a resume. I believe that valuable experience comes in all shapes and sizes. Increasingly, young professionals are building their resumes and portfolios by completing internships. Though these may not be paid, they are often some of the greatest learning opportunities.

Think about your experience in terms of skills, not compensation. When you volunteered to run that social media campaign for a local nonprofit, did you build or utilize skills? When you did an unpaid internship at a museum or research lab, what did you learn that you could apply to your future career?

What is a CV and how is it different from a resume?
A curriculum vitae (often abbreviated CV) is essentially an extended resume, often used in academia and scientific fields. It is generally much more comprehensive than a resume, and includes information on publications, honors and achievements. By contrast, a resume is typically 1-2 pages and serves as a summary of applicable experience.For more information on CVs, read this handout from Marquette University.

How can I make my resume stand out?

Recent statistics show that for every job that is posted, an average of 118 candidates apply. Therefore, it’s critical that your resume stand out in the proverbial pile. So does that mean that you should use size 72 font for your name? Or print it on hot pink paper? Or use an outrageous design?

No way!

The honest-to-goodness, tried and true method of standing out is to use the three bullet points above to create a well-written, organized, attractive resume. Thoroughly research the companies you’re applying to and integrate their language and priorities into your resume. Invest time into writing your resume. Do everything you can to make sure it gets into the right person’s hands.

Rachel Pryzby is a career coach, resume writer, and owner of Resume by Rachel.

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Terri Tierney Clark

Terri Tierney Clark


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