Phew! By now, you've finished making your Fat List, and you're ready to tackle actually writing the resume. The first thing to do is see what the job you're applying for is like. Every resume you send out should be tailor-made for that exact job. As convenient as it can be to just make one resume, mass copy it, and throw it from the rooftops hoping an eccentric millionaire will pick it up, effective resumes are written specifically for the person /company to whom you are sending it.

The biggest tip we can give you is this: put your best assets as far to the top of the resume as possible. This might be your education, or if you've been out of school for a little while (two or more years), your employment history. But keep in mind that your resume will not be looked at for more than 30 seconds, and no one's going to start reading at the bottom of the page. Now, the kind of job for which you are applying may affect what your "best assets" are. So what you need to do is pick the optimal resume format.

Of course, your resume will have all of the important pieces of information that all good resumes should have. Your name at the top, your contact information, and different sections that clearly label your education, work experience, skills, and possibly college activities. Many resumes will mush or separate work experience in creative ways, but as far as pure information is concerned, these are the basics. Click here to see an example of a typical resume. (To look at this file, download Adobe Acrobat Reader, available here for free.) But to make sure that your resume is tailored to your prospective employer, you should make sure that the resume format you use is the most effective one. The three most common are the chronological resume, the functional resume, and the curriculum vitae. Others may call these styles by different names, but you'll recognize that each has particular strengths, depending on what you've done with your life.

Chronological Résumé

This is the resume style that most students use for their first resume. It's called "chronological" because under the "employment" section, it lists your most recent experience first, and works backwards to your least recent experience. Note how it puts the work experience in one big lump, and works backwards. Employers usually prefer this type of resume, because it's simple, easy to read, and straightforward. It is never more than one page.

Functional Résumé

A functional resume is common among those who have garnered a potpourri of work experience, are changing fields, and want to emphasize their translatable skills. For instance, if you were interested in a job as an office manager, you might split your resume into two sections: "Management" and "Organization." Then you would list in each section accomplishments that you achieved, without necessarily specifying where these achievements took place. The point, rather, is to argue that you have the necessary skills by proving competence in key areas. After these two sections, you include a small employment history section, which merely lists where you worked and your dates of employment.

The functional resume also works well if you have a mixed bag of work experience with a loose thread holding them all together. The functional resume will allow you to emphasize that loose thread, and make your employment history look united. It's also good for when your job titles (e.g., Administrative Assistant) don't give a good indication of the things that you did. If possible, keep your information within each section chronological, because people always assume that stuff at the top is the most recent anyway. It is never more than one page.

Curriculum Vitae

Also called a "C.V.," a curriculum vitae is a resume that is often used when entering a teaching or science position. This resume not only is longer than one page, but it can be as long as you want (10 pages, 20 pages, however long it takes). A C.V. includes all the stuff that the other resumes do, but it also lists every single publication ever received, every project worked on, every honor awarded, and every bit of education received.

So let's pretend that you've researched the company to which you are sending your resume, and you've chosen to use the chronological style. Now it's time to realize that you can't keep everything. You have to decide what goes and what stays, to keep your resume down to one page. If you're trying to get a sense of proportion, devote about five to seven lines to education, list at least four previous jobs (with about three to six lines explaining each job), and about two lines to skills. So look at the job description, look at your Fat List, and mix and match. If you took courses in college that are relevant to the position, then feel free to list those under your education section. But the goal is NOT to overwhelm the reader with information. We all have lives and could talk about them endlessly. The goal is to list the relevant information that will help get your foot into the door. This includes things that are directly related, as well as things that might not be directly related to the job position, but have applicable skills (communication, leadership, organization, bilingualism, all the kind of stuff bosses wish they had).

In your education and employment history, you need to include certain details:

  • the name of the company/school
  • the dates worked/attended (start and finish)
  • the city in which this took place
  • for the job history, a description of what you did (you'll get more details about this in step 3)

A last word about the "Objective" section of your resume. Theologians and personnel directors have oft argued whether an objective section is necessary on a resume. The objective section is the first line of your resume, right under your name and contact information, which states what you are looking for in a job. We recommend you have an objective on your resume. Yes, it takes up space, but it also makes it look like you have direction, know what you are looking for in a job, and that you took the time to research the company and know what they can offer you. They usually are five to ten words long, but those are an important five to ten words.

So in summary (or as the French might say, au resume), you have to research the position for which you are applying, choose your experiences off your Fat List that directly apply to the position, and make sure that all of the things you choose will somehow enhance your stature as an employee.