Hints for writing a resume

            My written English class has been working on writing resumes.  This blog gives general guidelines for writing a resume.  The sources are both various websites and my own experience.  I’ve completely reorganized my ideas and stated everything in my own words, so I am keeping references to a minimum.

Types of resumes

            Wikipedia lists three types of resumes: reverse chronological, functional, and hybrid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resume).  The blog concentrates on the most common type, the reverse chronological resume which lists the most recent job first.

Reverse chronological resumes

            Employers are mostly interested in what a person has done in the last 15 years.  I don’t recommend someone follow my lead and list work from more than 10-15 years ago.  Why?  I’m an exception.  Most importantly, I have enough work experience and confidence that I put things on my resume that don’t belong on most resumes.  When a person is partly retired and extremely confident, not looking for full time work, that person can be much more flexible.  For example, most employers are not interested in knowing one of my goals is to simply “enjoy life.”  I use the phrase because that’s my priority at this stage of my life.

            I also add what is “ancient history” to my resume in a very brief form.  I’ve taught school and run my own home remodeling business.  Those things are not important for my editing work, although having taught elementary school English is a plus for an editor.  Most people don’t have the space on a resume to get that creative.  I’ve also developed my resume over 30 years.  I’ve had time to tweak it.

How long should your resume be?

            Think of yourself as an employer.  You have two hours, one job to fill, and 50 resumes.  You are not going to take the time to read a five page resume.  This is why most resumes should be only one page long and at the most two pages.  I fought this for a long time.  But I’m completely convinced a one page resume is the way to go.

Is formatting important?

            Spelling counts.  Your resume represents you.  Poor spelling, poor organization, inconsistencies will scream, “Don’t hire me!  I can’t deal with life.”  Deal with it.  Write your resume like your job depended on it.  It does!

What does not belong on a resume?

            Before discussing what goes on a resume, let’s eliminate some things.  These suggestions apply to the US but not to China.  Different cultures will require different things.

Age: age is considered personal information and does not belong on a resume.  In the US, age discrimination is illegal in the workplace, so an employer should not ask your age.

Gender: gender is considered personal information and does not belong on a resume.  In the US, discrimination based on gender is illegal in the workplace, so an employer should not ask your gender.

Photo: in the past, photos were standard but not anymore.  Photos indicate a person’s age and gender, so they don’t belong on a modern resumes.

Family information: an employer should not consider a person’s marriage, divorce, home town, or other information unrelated to their work skills.  That is considered personal information and does not belong on a resume.

Lists of publications: use a separate list.  Don’t add it to your resume.  Title it separately, if you have one.

What does belong on a resume?

Name: usually as a title at the top.  You want the employer to know who you are!

Most recent jobs: Include “knowledge, skills, and abilities.”  Your employer wants to know what you can do for them.  Include most recent supervisor’s name and contact information.

Education: Education can be listed first on a resume, but for myself I list it after my list of jobs.  Why?  As an older worker, I have enough experience and confident that I know my job list will imply I have a post-graduate college degree (master’s or Ph. D.).  The more well qualified you are, the less important your education becomes.  See below.

Goals: You should include your life goals on your resume.  This can include different aspects of your life.  What is your dream job you are targeting?  What non-job related goals do you have?  This part of your resume should make you think.  Many people have not considered their long term goals and actually written them down.  So, you may want to spend some time thinking about this.  What do you want to do with your life?  Say it in 2-3 lines of text.

Community service and hobbies: Many employers want to know “What else do you do?” Are you contributing to your community through volunteering?  People who are involved in their community will probably also be more interested in contributing at work.  People who have society’s needs in mind are not just blindly looking for a paycheck.  They want to contribute.

Skills: What skills do you have?  How fast can you type?  What do you know about computers?  Can you operate heavy machinery like a forklift?  What do you already know that the company will not have to teach you?  Tailor this information to the job.  A computer programmer has no need for operating a forklift and a forklift operator won’t need to know how to operate a dictaphone.

Awards and honors: These can be important because they highlight your contributions.  But don’t bore me with a list of honors you had in grades school or very minor honors.  As an employer, I don’t care if you won third prize in a speech contest which only 20 people participated in.  But if you were student body president in your high school, that shows initiative and personality.

            I want to add a point here.  I once heard a speaker who grouped people into for groups in the workplace.  One type, my personality, “Will post every award, every plaque they’ve ever received on their office wall.”  After I thought about it, I took most of them down.  Most people are not interested in knowing you had two weeks training in archeology (which I had a plaque for), but if you spent two weeks at the World Trade Center disaster in October 2011 (which I also did), that is of interest.  I left that plaque on the wall.  Your resume should be the same way.  Point out the best.

Contact information: Just the basics here, name, address, phone number, email address, etc.

What is the purpose of a college education?

            When I was 18 years old, I had a false idea of what college was all about.  I wanted to be an avian ecologist, studying how bird species lived.  Had I been smarter, I would have minored in anthropology or computer science.  I had absolutely no desire to study anything related to business or the marketplace.  It would take me years to release I should have had a minor or even a double major.  If I had it to do over today, I would have double majored in zoology (my actual major) and Chinese.  It would have been smarter to major in zoology with a minor in business or computer science.  But that was 1970 and I had no direction or help from my parents, who contributed almost nothing financially to my college career, less than $1,000 in today’s money (about $250 while I was in college).  I was on my own. 

            My point?  Think.  Ask for help.  Do the impossible.  I thought about studying overseas, but I didn’t see a way to finance it.  Had I bothered to ask, I would have found a way.  But I was too laser focused on graduating and studying only in the biological sciences.  My goal became to get a Ph. D., although that never materialized.  If you don’t think about the purpose of college, you may miss out on life.

            More importantly, I didn’t realize the real purpose of a college education.  College is not designed to give you an area of specialty.  The real purpose is to test and see if you can tolerate the workplace.  Are you willing to put up with all the garbage, unfairness, and idiots who are your college teachers?  Sure, some will be great professors.  I’m not talking about those.  I’m talking about the one who comes to class drunk.  The one who stutters, can’t speak clearly, and has no enthusiasm for what they teach.  The one who gives you meaningless assignments. 

            If you can put up with college professors and still graduate, then we can hire you?  Why?  Because you will find the same thing in the work place.  You’ll find bosses who can’t supervise.  Coworkers who don’t work.  Company policies that make no sense.  Government policies that are outdated and frustrating.  That’s why you go to college.  To see if you can deal with life.  That specialty of yours?  It is not important to your employers.  They really want to see if you can deal with people.  If you have a degree, it may qualify you for a specific job you want.  But the real purpose of that degree is to see if you can put up with other people’s garbage and idiocy.