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1. What to Include in a Resume

The way you construct your resume will vary depending on the job you're applying for, your experience and your education. For example, a construction worker might focus on certain skills, a network engineer may focus on their education, and an EMT may consider experience most important.

While there's no one right way to craft a professional resume, there are certain elements that should be included no matter what style (chronological or functional) you choose or what profession or industry you're a part of. Those elements are:

  • Contact info (name/phone/email)
  • Resume summary statement
  • Accomplishments*
  • Work experience
  • Skills
  • Education

*The Accomplishments section is inserted to create a functional style resume.

As for the resume style, there are two primary layouts to choose from.

The chronological style resume focuses primarily on presenting a date-ordered (hence chronological) list of previous jobs, beginning with the most recent first. Each job listing will include a list of 3-5 job responsibilities or accomplishments for that employer. This style works best for those with no employment gaps and who are following a traditional career path.

The functional style is best suited for those who are considering a career change or have difficult-to-explain employment gaps. With this approach, using the addition of an accomplishments section, you can focus on transferable skills and accomplishments without linking them to a specific employer.


2. How to Write the Resume Summary Statement

Since the resume summary statement is the first element of your resume that a potential employer sees, it should be compelling. Refer to the job description so you can match your accomplishments to the employer's needs. Lead them to the conclusion that you're the ideal candidate for the job.

Structurally, your resume summary should follow a few simple but important grammatical concepts:

  • Your summary should be a brief paragraph no longer than 3 sentences.
  • Avoid first-person pronouns in your summary and throughout your entire resume.
  • Incomplete sentences are favored because they get to the point quickly, and by using the strategy of gapping (cutting out unnecessary words), you can say more with less.

You have two excellent resources for reference before you begin writing your summary. The first is the actual job description. If you have the experience, skills and qualifications they need, make sure they know it. You want them to recognize you as the person they had in mind.

The second resource you have at your finger-tips is the variety of professional resume samples provided here. Read the resume summaries to get a feel for the tone and strength of each one.

Also provided for your consideration are two additional examples of well-crafted but varied professional resume summaries:

Emergency medical technician (EMT) with over 15 years of experience responding to 911 calls for emergency medical assistance. Have performed medical services at the scene of emergencies while working in conjunction with police and firefighters. After 11 years of transporting patients in an ambulance, because of a high rate of successful transports under extreme conditions, was promoted to helicopter rescue flight crew for transport of critically injured or ill patients.

Electrician who's experienced in the installation, maintenance and repair of electrical power and lighting systems in both residential and commercial structures. Troubleshooting wizard able to identify electrical problems through the use of testing devices. Specializes in the often difficult and more complicated maintenance of electrical systems in existing buildings and has reduced amount of down time because of thorough understanding of blueprints and technical diagrams.

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3. How to Write the Education Section in Your Resume

No matter what your profession, the education section of your resume can help you stand out from the crowd. While many professions don't require a bachelor's degree, if you have one, lead with it. If they only want a bachelor's and you've got a master's, let them know. Right off the bat, start this section by listing your most relevant recent degree first.

Include the name of the school/school location/degree obtained in each listing.

If you took part in an industry-related internship program, list it as part of your education. Include the name of the internship, who sponsored it, and what it involved.

Additional information of interest to an employer would include a possible sub-heading called Continuing Education. Here you could list industry-related courses you've taken or in-house training courses provided by previous employers, like:

  • Front Line Management – June 2011 – ABC Products in-house training

Many industries require certification, and if yours is one of them, be sure to indicate your certification, license, or association membership, for example:

  • Preapprenticeship certificate training (PACT) – The Home Builders Institute

A final sub-category in the education section might be “Memberships/Associations.” If all else is equal, but you've shown dedication through association, it could tip the scale in your favor. It can't hurt. Examples include:

  • Member, National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT)
  • Member, Information Systems Security Association (ISSA)

Go back to the professional resume samples already identified for formatting and additional content ideas.


4. How to Write the Work Experience Section in Your Resume

By the time you're ready for your work experience section, you should have decided whether you're going to go with the chronological or functional resume format. If you're still not sure, refer to the professional resume samples to consider which format works best for you and how they look on the page.

The work experience section in the chronological style is pretty straight forward. Each job is its own subheading with 3-5 bullet points that focus on your accomplishments and responsibilities at the job. An entry would look something like this:

IT Security Manager
ABC Manufacturing – Cleveland OH
February 2012 – September 2015

  • Supervised a 5-person help desk unit with instructions to report any unapproved downloads on company computers
  • Recommended top three firewall protections and prepared cost vs. benefit proposals for each
  • Attended computer security seminars to remain current on threats and emergency operation procedures

You don't have to list every job you ever had. Employers generally consider only the last 10-15 years to be relevant. If you show 35 years of experience, besides a resume that's way too long, you could be setting yourself up for age discrimination that you'd never know about.

In the functional style, the focus is on what you've done, not when you did it or for whom. This is the point where you insert the accomplishments section, which should include at least 6-8 bullet points that are concisely written, and if at all possible, should describe a problem you faced, the solution you devised, and the positive result. By referring to the job description, you'll be able to match your skills and qualifications to the employer's requirements.

When you've completed the accomplishments section, you can move on to the now simplified work experience section. All you need to do is list your job title and the company where you worked. You don't even need to mention dates or responsibilities.


5. Action Verbs to Include in Your Work Experience Section

When you're describing your work experience, focus on using action verbs to create the image of action. The action verbs below cover a wide range of activities, industries and business sectors:

  • Report
  • Document
  • Inventory
  • Create
  • Research
  • Respond
  • Assess
  • Articulate
  • Define
  • Direct
  • Implement
  • Build
  • Operate
  • Prepare
  • Transport
  • Present
  • Plan
  • Create
  • Analyze
  • Test

A quick scan of the professional resume samples already identified will likely provide more examples of action verbs you can use.

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6. How to Write the Skills Section in Your Resume

If you have experience in your industry or business sector, you probably have an idea of which skills are valued. In general, there are a few skills categories that are important to almost every employer. Examples of those categories and possible skills include:

Technical/Mechanical skills:

  • MS Office and MS Project
  • Operation of various measurement tools and devices
  • Licensed fork-lift operator

Personal/Interpersonal skills:

  • Strong written and verbal communication
  • Able to see big picture
  • Strong organization
  • Bilingual (English/Spanish)

Physical abilities:

  • Able to lift up to 40 lbs.
  • Able to walk or stand for entire shift

Take a look at a few of the professional resume samples that most closely resemble your industry or business sector and examine the skills section for skills that you can claim or categories that fit your profession.


7. Should I Include References in my Resume

You've probably noticed that none of the professional resume samples provided include references. That's because it's best to use the recommended two pages for your resume to highlight your qualifications and fit for the potential employer.

The simple statement that your references are available upon request works to your advantage because:

  • You'll know the employer is interested when they request your references
  • You'll be able to give your references a heads-up to be expecting a call
  • You can ask them to let you know when contact has been made and how it went

When choosing your 3-4 references, it's best to use former managers or supervisors with whom you had a good relationship and who evaluated your performance. A co-worker might be valuable to show your teamwork abilities, and depending on the position you're applying for, customers that might be appealing to the potential client could be a positive.

In all cases, make sure you have their permission, and if you sense some reluctance, consider using someone else. If you can sense it, so will a potential employer.


8. Common Resume Fails: Mistakes to Avoid

  • If you're updating an old resume, don't overlook the value of the professional resume samples provided here. Things in the resume world may have changed since you last wrote one. Resume objectives are out, resume summaries are in. Even if you have solid experience in the work world, you want to present yourself as someone who's up to date with current trends, beginning with the composition of your resume.
  • Unfortunately, you may not justbr writing your resume for the delight of the hiring manager. It could also go through an applicant tracking system (ATS) first. That's why it's so important to mirror the employer's words. The ATS system is programmed to look for important key words in your resume, and no matter how qualified your are, if you don't satisfy the ATS's need for keywords from the job description, you won't make it through to the hiring manager.
  • Proofreading is a pain, but it's oh so necessary. And even when you think you've read it pretty thoroughly, you might want to read it again. Give it to a friend to read. Better a friend finds typos than a potential employer.
  • No matter what the circumstances of your previous employment, put a positive spin on it. If you bad-mouth a company by complaining about the way they treat their employees or mismanage their finances, you'll end up on the reject pile, even if it's all true. Stay positive, and show that you respect confidentiality.

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