Professionally, a resume is an advertisement for yourself, it is essentially you on paper; the general idea is to sell your professional self in the least number of pages possible. The task is rather simple since it should only contain relevant information—the difficulty is in making your “self” stand out from the rest.
SECTION 1: PERSONAL INFORMATION
This is the first and most important part of the resume. This should have your name and contact details, such as address, mobile and landline numbers, email address, birthday, marital status, and photo. Include area codes for your contact numbers, and use a photo of you in corporate wear rather than a random cropped photo of yourself.
Depending on the position or the industry you’re applying for, there may be instances when your height, weight, and religion may pose as relevant information. Take for example the customer service industry: there is normally a height requirement for flight attendants and people who work behind counters, largely because it involves being able to reach for things.
One of the biggest and most common mistakes made on a resume are made in this section. The recruiter will probably have another stack of applicants with the right contact information available, and most probably won’t even bother trying to reach you. So it would be advisable to check before and after you print your resume.
SECTION 2: JOB OBJECTIVE
You can think of the job objective as your sales pitch. It should be able to give the recruiter an idea of what you’re looking for so they can assess whether your goals will fit the organization’s needs.
This can be summarized in three to five sentences at the most. It should state your career objectives and your goals or what you would like to achieve with regard to the position you’re applying for. Maintain realistic goals—sounding too idealistic may work against you in terms of job fit.
SECTION 3: EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT
Educational attainment is basically a list of credentials: degrees, schools, and significant awards received during your education.
This should be arranged in reverse chronological order. Begin with your course, school, your school’s location (especially if your school has more than one branch or campus), and the duration of your education, from the year you started until the year you graduated or expect to graduate (for example, 2005-2009).
It would also be useful to provide information on trainings, seminars, short courses, and certifications earned or accomplished.
SECTION 4: EMPLOYMENT HISTORY
Work history highlights your capabilities as an employee. If you have had previous work experience, this would be considered the second most important section of your resume. Indicate your previous employer, followed by the position you last held, and the duration of your employment (month and year).
There are a number of resume formats available, and the differences between them can normally be found in this section. A popular format is the reverse chronological resume, which is basically a review of your professional experiences, starting with the latest position. This emphasizes your career growth, and it’s ideal to have your work experiences be consistent with your intended career path. After indicating the details of your previous employment, include work experiences such as achievements and responsibilities.
Another format available is the functional resume, which emphasizes specific qualities, skills, tasks, responsibilities, or projects in relation to the position you are applying for. This is best used if you’re making a career change or have a seemingly diverse work history. Following this would be a list of your current and previous employers.
A section can be added for your extracurricular activities if you have responsibilities in various organizations, foundations, projects, and the like that would be relevant to the position you are applying for. This would be most useful for fresh graduates who have little or no work experience.
The placement of work experience and educational attainment can be interchangeable; while normally educational attainment would come first, this depends on what you want to highlight. For example, you might want to start off with work experience if your course is not related to your profession of choice.
SECTION 5: REFERENCES
In order to get a better picture of you as a professional and a person, a background investigation or character check is part of your application process. Given that your resume and interview are given from your point of view, it might illustrate a biased image of yourself. It is possible you are overstating or understating your capabilities, or even missing a few pertinent details that might affect your application process.
While you are encouraged to avoid relatives and close personal friends, it would still be advisable to select people who know you personally as well as professionally. These people should be able to give the recruiter an idea of your skills and capabilities as a professional and, most importantly, some insight into you as a person so the recruiter can assess how well you would fit into the organization. Lastly, you should inform your references that you have cited them as such, instead of surprising them with a call from a recruiter.
While this section is no longer considered a necessity, it would still be handy for the recruiter to have this information without having to request it. If you choose not to include references, remove the section. Don’t put “Available upon request” since this is useless information.
YOUR RESUME’S PRESENTATION
The most commonly used paper size is short bond paper, which is 8.5 inches by 11 inches, and this is the most advisable to use since it is easier for recruiters to file these documents if the standard size is followed. Keep to the conservative and standard white bond or typewriting paper, especially if you are applying for a position in a corporation.
If you are applying for a more creative position or industry, include a portfolio of your work on CD or indicate a link to your online portfolio on your resume. You may also get a little creative when laying out your resume, but avoid making this too flashy. Remember that it is more important for the recruiter to notice your credentials and capabilities and than your flashy graphics—reserve that for your portfolio.
You should tailor your resume to the position you’re applying for. It would be a waste of time and paper to include experiences that are irrelevant to the position or industry you are applying for. You have just a few minutes to catch the recruiter’s interest during the paper screening stage, and as much as possible, you should try to do this at page one. While first impressions may not last, it will entice people to take a closer look, giving you a shot at the more stressful job interview.
To see a sample resume, download this PDF file.