The dos and don’ts of an effective resume

(ARA) – In today’s highly competitive job market, millions of people are preparing resumes in an effort to find employment. Before jumping headlong into a job search, it is important to consider the type of information that is appropriate to include on your resume.

Jeannine L. Moentmann, paralegal and adjunct Instructor at Brown Mackie College – St. Louis, teaches students how to write effective resumes that make potential employers want to learn more about them.

Moentmann specialized in employment law for six of her 15 years as a paralegal. In addition to her ongoing legal work, she currently teaches law and business courses in the Criminal Justice program at Brown Mackie College – St. Louis. “Most people think the purpose of a resume is to get a job, but the real purpose of a resume is to get the interview,” she says. “A resume is the employer’s first look at you. It must stand out among the potentially hundreds they will receive for an open position.”

“Each resume should be tailored to the individual job description. You can highlight specific areas of your background that target the position,” Moentmann continues. The Bureau of Labor Statistics supports this recommendation in the “Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition,” advising applicants to emphasize the experience, accomplishments, education and skills that most closely fit the job they want.

Resume content

As you compile your information, keep in mind the following sections available to showcase your qualifications.

* Header: Include your name, address, phone number and email address. “Your email address should not amuse or confuse a potential employer,” states Moentmann. “I recommend creating a professional sounding email identity for your search.”

* Career objective: Optional; a brief statement of the contributions you can make to a specific organization. A well-written career objective can add value to a resume; however, it can also disqualify candidates if the objective does not match the job description.

* Summary of qualifications: Optional; an overview of your most valuable career talents, skills and accomplishments. Leading with a summary makes the resume easier to read and ensures your most impressive qualifications are not overlooked.

* Employment history: Included in most resume formats; add each relevant employer’s name and location, and dates of employment, job title, significant duties, accomplishments and promotions.

* Skills and accomplishments: Optional; highlight relevant skills, including software or equipment proficiencies, and aptitudes such self-motivation, working well under stress, teamwork, etc.

* Education: Include college information; omit high school information, especially among older candidates.

* Honors and activities: Optional; highlight professional and educational accolades, membership in professional organizations and volunteer activities.

* Personal data: Optional; consists of hobbies and interests; exercise caution when deciding the information you want to share. Federal and state laws prohibit employers from asking questions about race, age, marital status, ethnicity and religion. It is not appropriate to include this type of information.

* References: A separate document that lists three to five professional individuals that can positively discuss your qualifications, skills and abilities.

You can now choose a resume style that best highlights your value as an ideal candidate for the open position you are seeking.

Chronological resume

The chronological resume is the most common format, with a focus on job history. The most recent positions are listed first. “The chronological style works well for someone who has experience in the field they wish to find employment,” says Moentmann. Many people choose to include a career objective in the chronological resume. “If used, it should be concise, customized for each job opening and focused on how you can contribute to the organization,” Moentmann says.

Functional resume

The functional resume highlights groups of skill sets instead of listing chronological career experience with each employer. You can categorize key job skills and past accomplishments under relevant headings, such as supervisory and management skills, computer skills, etc. “Each heading would include a summary of appropriate skills and accomplishments,” continues Moentmann. “Functional resumes work well when a candidate’s skills are transferrable from one field to another or when entering the work force for the first time.”

Combination resume

Some applicants prefer to blend the two types of resumes. The combination resume highlights valuable skills and accomplishments as the functional resume does. It also includes an employment history as in the chronological resume. “It’s a good way to highlight capabilities and capture the reader to make them want to look further,” Moentmann says. “For those who are switching careers, it’s an opportunity to explain transferrable skills.”

A resume is often a one-page document, however it can extend to two pages as years of experience grow. A well-written resume reflects professionalism and competence in your chosen career. A good resume is also never finished. “My own resume is a constant work in progress,” says Moentmann.