This article is part of a series called How to Write a Resume. To start this series from the beginning, read the introduction.
Your resume is a body of work. It’s got a head, a body, and perhaps a footer. Hopefully you don’t make an a$$ of yourself when the parts are pieced together. The resume vitals are obvious, you’ve got to list your name and experience. But in what order? Should you include an objective or summary? Where should you list your education?
To help you piece the body of this important document together, let’s dissect the anatomy of a killer resume. So you don’t get slaughtered when applying for work, the parts of a “not so killer resume” are also covered.
|Resume Writing Series:|
To help you land a job interview, here is the anatomy of a killer resume:
1. Your Contact Information
The head of your resume should list your contact information. This resume part is straightforward: name, address, telephone number, and an email address. Your resume dies on the hiring manager’s desk if you miss one of these elements.
Listing your name should be a no-brainer. But don’t lose your head because of a bad email address. Many people face the chopping block on this part alone.
BAD Email Addresses
GOOD Email Addresses
Is your answering machine message deadly? When in the market for a job, be sure your answering machine has a respectable message. I’ve called a few job candidates only to hear off-putting messages on their machines. Keep it clean. Keep it simple.
2. Your Objective or Summary (or screw both)
A resume Objective or Summary can help describe the value you bring to a prospective employer and entice a hiring manager to read your resume. A poorly written Objective or Summary can kill your shot at a job interview. Most resume Objective and Summary statements fail to inspire for these reasons:
- They are poorly written.
- They are not tailored to the position.
- They focus on the job seeker.
- They fail to match job seeker skills to employer requirements.
So how do you decide between writing a Summary or Objective for your own resume? It’s not complicated. Promise.
Use an Objective if:
- You are starting out or entering the workforce.
- You are returning to the workforce after an extended absence.
- You are changing careers or industries.
Use a Summary if:
- You have several years of experience in the sought after position.
- You have established qualifications.
- You have skills matching employer requirements.
Screw both if:
- You don’t want one.
- You don’t need one for your industry or job.
- You have limited resume room to focus on skills and experience.
As a hiring manager I must be honest, I tend to skip reading these statements and flip to the job seeker’s Skills and Experience. I suppose I skim since most statements are written rotten. If you’re not going to write it right, then screw the statements and use your resume room to focus on what skills and experiences benefit the employer.
Writing it Right: Objectives and Summaries
The vast majority of job seekers write Objectives and Summaries focusing on their career wants and job needs. This is a fatal error. News flash: Your resume isn’t about you. It’s about how you fit the employer’s job requirements. What can you do for the employer? What does an employer gain from hiring you?
Write these statements well by focusing on your relevant experience, keeping it brief, and by removing all personal pronouns (Me, Myself, and I). Let’s look at some killer statements and those that kill your job opportunities.
The BAD Objective below presents several fatal errors. It is generic and mentions nothing of specific employer requirements. It is job seeker focused, using personal pronouns. It offers no skills or experiences and fails to sell the job seeker’s abilities.
BAD Job Seeker Focused
OBJECTIVE: I want a software development position in the high technology industry that can utilize my three years of programming skills and lead to a management role.
Compare the BAD to the GOOD. The GOOD example presents the job seeker’s skills, clarifies educational background, and offers value to the employer’s customers. Always a good mix.
GOOD: Employer Focused
OBJECTIVE: A position in software development requiring programming skills in C++ gained from a degree in Computer Science and three years of experience, helping technology companies deliver customer focused software.
Here is an example of a killer Summary statement. Notice the skills and experience the job seeker offers to a prospective employer.
GOOD Job Seeker Focused
PROFESSIONAL SUMMARY: Software Development professional with three years experience programming in C++ and Java. Highly skilled in specifications gathering, troubleshooting, and quality assurance testing. Fluent in English and German.
Be sure to keep your statements SHORT. No more than 50ish words. Anything longer and you’ll kill your resume.
3. Your Professional Experience
The Experience section is the body of your resume. It is the heart of the matter. If written well, it can make a hiring manager’s heart race with excitement. If phrased correctly, your experience will land you job interviews.
The name of this section can vary, with: Professional Experience, Experience, Work History, or Work Experience. Whatever you call it, be sure this section does more than list your past job duties or requirements. Use the Experience section to highlight your accomplishments and to show how you achieved results in a particular role. Use action verbs and active voice descriptions to highlight your sense of initiative. Describe each of your accomplishments using a simple, powerful, action statement and emphasize how you can benefit an employer.
The BAD Professional Experience description contains many deadly deeds. It lists job duties. It reads like a poorly-written job description. It contains a spelling error. It uses personal pronouns, leaving out the value offered to an employer. It lacks action verbs and excitement. It fails to differentiate the job seeker from other candidates. This dead description hits my paper shredder for sure.
BAD Professional Experience Description
January 2008 to Present
Widgets Digits Software, Mountain View, CA
- I programmmed software.
- I tested software.
- I debugged software.
- I worked in a team.
- I trained new grad hires to program and test software.
The GOOD Professional Experience Description is a killer. My heart races when I read these action words in action. This description lists skills with accomplishments and shows the value this job seeker brings to an employer.
GOOD Professional Experience Description
January 2008 to Present
Widgets Digits Software, Mountain View, CA
- Programmed award-winning educational software using the C++ programming language.
- Wrote quality assurance and software testing plans. Product shipped with 15 percent less customer support calls than previous versions.
- Facilitated critical support calls and solved customer issues.
- Managed a team of three junior programmers who exceeded department goals and received promotions.
After reading the BAD and the GOOD, who would you rather hire?
3. Your Education
Pass or fail, make sure the Education section makes the grade on your resume. The Education section can appear at the head or foot of your resume, depending on when you graduated. If you’re a new graduate, you should probably list your Education at the beginning. If you’ve been out of school for decades, de-emphasize your Education by listing it last. Here are some Education writing tips for those who want job honors:
- List your highest level of education first. Take a pass on listing your high school diploma if you have a degree.
- Write out school names (University of British Columbia, not UBC).
- Never embellish your educational credentials. (Doctor of what?).
- If you’re a new graduate, keep transcript copies in case an employer inquires.
The BAD Education section deserves the dunce cap. The job seeker failed to spell out the university name, offered dubious extra curricular activities worthy of visiting the principal’s office, listed high school diploma despite having graduated from college.
BAD Education Section
BSc., Computer Science
Alpha Delta Ohmygosha Fraternity, Frosh Drunking Member
Vancouver High School, 1991
The GOOD Education section goes to the head of the class. This job seeker offers the right academic mix.
GOOD Education Section
University of British Columbia, 1995
Bachelor of Computer Science, High Honors
4. Deadly Anatomy Don’ts
Some popular resume elements have gone out of style, so keep them from killing your resume by omitting them. For example, stop writing “References available upon request” at the end of your resume. It’s implied. If a prospective employer wants to interview you, they will ask for references.
Take a stab at these 10 Deadly Sins of Resume Writing to help keep you on the interview list.
What sections do you put on your resume?