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Guidelines for Writing a Resume

Business Resume Guidelines

Length: Limit your resume to 1 Page

  • Explanation: If a hiring manager is holding it, she needs to be able to read everything quickly while holding it in one hand without flipping pages. You can certainly keep a Curriculum Vitae (CV) which can span for multiple pages. You will work from the CV when creating specific resumes for various job applications.

Margins: No Less than .5 inch margins all around.

  • Explanation: Anything else could get cut off when printing

Font Type: Times New Roman (is best)

  • Explanation: If you choose something else, make certain the font has serifs.

Font Size: No less than 11 point.

  • Explanation: Remember, nearly everyone has to get reading glasses by 40 years of age. Even at 20/20 vision, 11-point font requires concentration.

Sections: Generally 3-6. Always include: Header, Education, Work Experience, Skills.

  • Explanation: Other optional fields include: Volunteer work, Community Work/Industry Involvement, Awards, Recognitions

Section 1: The Header

Header (Name): Contains: First Name, Middle Name or Initial, Last Name;

  • Explanation: The name should be bold, in ALL CAPS, and Centered on the page.

Header (Email Address): A school or personal email address.

  • Explanation: You do not want to use your current company’s email address. A school email address is preferred for recent graduates. A professional personal email address is fine. The email address goes on the same line as the phone number. Generally separated by a | symbol or a text bullet.

Header (Phone Number): A permanent telephone number that belongs to you. Use one of the following formats: xxx.xxx.xxxx, (xxx) xxx – xxxx

  • Explanation: Using a cellular phone number is preferable. Make certain the voice message is personal and professional. No music for the ring. No funny message. Make certain to state your name in the message.

Header (Address): Street on one line. City, state, and zip code go on the next line.

  • Explanation: I generally recommend including the address, as a resume without an address seems strange. The address can be optional if the job is located far away and there is valid concern that you will not be considered because of your location. Some employers may exclude someone who will be required to move for the position.

Section 2: Generally begin with Education

Recent graduates will almost always follow the heading with the Education section. As you progress in your career, education assumes a place after experience (and potentially after skills). If a recent graduate has extensive experience in his/her career field, you can start with experience. This is often the case for careers in sales – as experience generally trumps education in this field. If you are in a very technical field, you may place Skills before experience and education. For example, technology fields often require skills (such as knowledge or programming languages) before a candidate is minimally qualified. Your experience and education are merely in support of these skills.

School (Names): Bold School Name and ALL CAPS. City and two-letter abbreviation for State where located. Include country name if necessary. Only include a school if you received a degree or certificate of completion. If multiple schools, list them in reverse chronological order. Ex. CITY UNIVERSITY, TOWN COLLEGE.

  • Explanation: You can leave out schools from which you transferred and did not receive a degree or certificate of completion. You can leave of High School if you went to college. The only exception is if you had specific honors or achievements you really think are beneficial to highlight from high school – such as Valedictorian or Class President.

School (Dates): On the same lines as the degree received, place the month and year of graduation. Use one of the following formats: Graduation – May 2003 or Graduation – 05/03.

  • Explanation: The dates for everything on your resume should run down the far right side of the resume. Once again, only the day and month of graduation. If you have not yet graduated, simply include “Expected” in front of the dates. Expected – May 2019 or Expected – 05/19

School (Degree): List the degree you received on the line immediately below the school name and date of graduation. Do not abbreviate. Place any minor or concentration on the same line but in (parentheses). For example, Bachelor of Business Administration (Marketing Concentration). If you had a double major, include them on separate lines. If you have a minor or multiple concentrations, include them in parentheses. For example, Bachelor of Business Administration (Marketing & Accounting Concentrations), or For example, Bachelor of Business Administration (Information Technology Minor).

  • Explanation: Most employers will understand the abbreviation for a degree; however, you do not want to make this assumption. Also, if your degree passes through an automated sorting program, it could inadvertently fail to pick up on your degree qualification.

School (Accomplishments): You can create a bullet (or two) below the degree line to include various accomplishments. Separate accomplishments with a semi-colon. For example, GPA 3.5; Dean’s List (3 semesters); Student Body President; Presidential Honors Scholar; Semester Study Abroad (Bogota, Columbia); Marketing Club President

  • Explanation: The objective of including academic accomplishments is to highlight things a potential employer will appreciate. A high GPA shows work ethic and dedication. An award or accolade shows how that grade compares to others in the concentration. A 3.5 GPA in a STEM field is far more impressive than a 4.0 in business. Studies abroad show cultural exposure. Club involvement shows interest and dedication to a career field.

Section 3: Experience

As stated above, it is possible that you follow an alternative order for the Education, Experience, and Skill sections of your resume. In any event, the following points apply. In any event, you are going to include the experience that is most relevant to your future career aspirations. If you are a recent graduate, you may include all of your recent work, as you may not have a great deal of experience. If you are an experienced employee, you may have to choose what to highlight. I am highly reluctant to advise you to leave out places of employment if it causes a gap in your work history. This can give a bad impression. Instead, I recommend that you include the company and position. You simply, do not waste space on the resume by adding much in the way of responsibilities or accomplishments. If you held two jobs at the same time, and one was to make ends meet, you may be able to leave off the employment entirely, as this does not create a gap in employment. Another situation is for highly-experienced individuals with many prior positions. My same advice applies, but this is the scenario in which you may want to list experience out of chronological order. You will prioritize the most relevant positions (and put those in chronological order), while subordinating less-relevant, but more recent employment.

Company (Name): Include the full name of the company Bold and in ALL CAPS. You can include the companies entity designation. For example, THE BUSINESS PROFESSOR, LLC.

  • Explanation: In some cases, a company name will have a level of prominence of familiarity with a potential employer. In any event, it provides information on the industry or context in which your received any experience.

Company (Dates): Include the dates of employment on the same line as the company name and on the far right side of the resume. Use one of the following formats: May 2003 – June 2005. 05/03 – 06/05. Match the format with the school graduation date.

  • Explanation: If you held multiple positions at the same time, place the employment that ended last or (if you are still in both positions) began last first. If you held two jobs at the same time, this can signal diligence and dedication to an employer. As such, you may want to include both jobs, even if one or both of the jobs is/are not relevant to your career field.

Company (Title): Include your position title in Italics immediately below the company name. You can have a speaking title that goes beyond your exact title. For example, Marketing Manager (with focus on Product Placement and Analytics). If you held multiple positions at a company, list them chronologically. They will be separated by Accomplishment/Responsibility bullets for each position.

  • Explanation: A speaking title does a great deal to explain more about your position than the title alone demonstrates. Also, it provides essential keywords for when the resume is first sorted by HR machines. Having held multiple positions in a company looks great. It demonstrates performance, longevity, and respect from the employer.

Experience (Accomplishments/Responsibilities): These are the bullets that go directly beneath the job title. To develop these bullets, ask the following questions:

  • What were all of your responsibilities on a given day?
  • Did you facilitate work outside of your daily responsibilities?
  • Were you given any temporary or special projects?
  • Did you ever encounter problems you had to solve?
  • Where you in charge of people or employee shifts?
  • Where you in charge of assets or a budget?

These questions will help you develop some of the aspects of your employment that would be beneficial to list on the resume. You do not need to state obvious responsibilities. As a waiter, you would not write, “customer service”. Focus on the non-obvious responsibilities, accomplishments, and skills demonstrated in your activities. Below, we identify some of the major responsibilities or skills relevant to various industries or career paths.

I prefer to call these accomplishment bullets, as you do not want to just focus on your responsibilities. You want to explain what you accomplished within your various job functions. That is, you want to focus on results. For example, you may focus on cost savings, improved efficiencies, or measurable increases in revenues, sales, profits, market share, customers, etc. For example, “coordinated strategic review of operations, production, and sales of four divisions, resulting in $500K sales increase and $250K decrease in costs.”

Also, you will want to quantify that results with numbers (#), dollar signs ($), ratios or percentages (50%). For example, you would not write responsible for 20 customer accounts”. You would write “managed 20 customer accounts with $35K (12%) avg. growth per annum”.You can also go beyond just your accomplishments to demonstrate the context of your work. That is you can include company performance metrics to demonstrate the extent of responsibility or exposure. $150K revenue/mo; 2x recurring annual growth; 16 staff (24 operations shifts); etc. Doing this not only provides context, but it demonstrates your business acumen (ability to identify important operational/financial metrics for the position). This is extremely important for a management-level position.

Once you have developed and a list of quantified, responsibilities/accomplishments, you want to prioritize them to the position to which you are applying. Remember, you are trying to sell your competencies or abilities to a potential employer. Some of the bullets that you develop may not focus on what you did on a daily basis. They simply need to related to the skills and abilities that you want to accentuate.

Finally, If you were promoted through multiple positions, you will include accomplishments for each of these positions.

  • Explanation: I cannot stress enough how important it is to focus on accomplishments rather than just responsibilities, and to quantify all of those responsibilities through operational/financial metrics. Remember, you are trying to demonstrate relevant skills and competence to a human being. Showing your understanding of the business’s operations and your overall business acumen can only help. Also, our eyes naturally track numbers and symbols included within the text. This can have the effect of drawing attention or highlighting your performance or potential. If you help multiple positions, do not repeat responsibilities/accomplishments for each. Only include the additional ones added as a result of the promotion.

Experience (Format): When formatting the responsibility/accomplishment bullets, follow the following instructions:

  • Keep your responsibilities/accomplishments to a total of 5 bullets or less.
  • Combine multiple responsibilities/accomplishments into a single bullet.
  • Within bullets, separate responsibilities/accomplishments with a semicolon.
  • Begin each bullet point with a past-tense, action verb. For example, Managed, directed, analyzed, budgeted, led, etc.
  • Avoid too much industry jargon.
  • Use common abbreviations: approx., rev., /mo or /yr (per month or per year), MM (millions), B (billions), K (thousands).
    • Explanation: The primary focus of your format when writing bullets should be displaying accomplishments, responsibilities, and abilities in a concise, easy-to-understand manner. Try to read the bullets objectively and ask, “does this say about me what I want it to say?”

Section 4: Skills

Skills: Include specific skills that are relevant to your career aspirations and the position to which you are applying. Some common industry skills might include:

  • Management: Interpersonal skills, Communication skills, Management theory, Leadership theory, organization/detail oriented, accountability.
  • Accounting/Finance: Quantitative/analytical skills; Understanding of accounting and financial management principles; Ability to interpret numbers and draw conclusions from results of various financial strategy changes; Ability to handle a wide variety of tasks; Ability to coordinate with departments and individuals not under your control; Ability to initiate and implement major projects
  • Marketing/Sales: Analytics/statistical methods; Research methods, Presentation skills, interpersonal skills, project management skills, key software (Social Media, CRM, Data Analysis, SEO); Communication skills
  • Consulting: Strong quantitative skills; Modeling; Decision analysis; Strategic thinking; Project management; Presentation skills; Teamwork.
  • Operations/Supply Chain: Project management certifications; Efficiency training/certifications; modeling, statistical methods; Process-driven.

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