What is a résumé? Why is it so important?

A résumé is a document people use to present their skills, educational and professional backgrounds. They can be used for several reasons, most commonly to secure new employment. A résumé is shorter than a CV (Curriculum Vitæ), even though the two terms are often used interchangeably.

The word can be written with two accents (résumé), just one (resumé) or with none (resume). The term comes from the noun use of the past participle of Middle French resumer, which means ‘to sum up’. In British English, the term CV is more common.

A résumé can help single you out and make your employer see why you are best suited for the job.

It is one-page-long and contains all relevant information about an applicant. It is your opportunity to tell employers about your work experience, education, and skills.

If you want to avoid stress while making a resume, use a resume builder with a wide selection of professional templates and expert advice.

Why is a résumé important?

It provides employers a picture of who you are and highlights any relevant experience. Get your résumé right and you could land yourself an interview.

According to the Johns Hopkins University Career Center:

“Spend the appropriate amount of time on your résumé. It can take time to pull together all of this information and organize it in an appropriate manner. Be sure you know your audience. Consider the employer, department, and position when writing your resume. You may want to create an “everything resume” which includes a record of everything you have done. Then when you write a one-page document for a specific opportunity, you can pull from your most pertinent experiences for the current opportunity you are targeting.”

A résumé should include a variety of different things, however, what you include really depends on the reason you are sending it, such as the nature of the job you are applying for. For example, a resume for scientific research work will be looked at differently compared to a non-technical position.

What should be included in a résumé?

  • A title (CV or Job proposal).
  • Personal information.
  • Self-motivation and interests.
  • Education information including qualifications, degrees, diplomas and research experience.
  • Publications, especially if the résumé is for a scientific research position.
  • Social society memberships.
  • Any professional field related experience (Work experience as an IT officer in the telecommunications sector).
  • Honors and awards.

A survey of employers found that the following aspects of a CV were the most looked for:

  • 45% Previous related work experience
  • 35% Qualifications & skills
  • 25% Easy to read
  • 16% Accomplishments
  • 14% Spelling & grammar
  • 9% Education
  • 9% Intangibles: individuality/desire to succeed
  • 3% Clear objective
  • 2% Keywords added
  • 1% Contact information
  • 1% Personal experiences
  • 1% Computer skills

A general rule of thumb is to keep a résumé less than two standard A4 pages long. Many job agencies tell their candidates to limit their documents to one page.

What should not be included in a résumé?

  • Don’t write the word résumé because it is not needed.
  • Don’t add your photo until requested by the employer.
  • Don’t write about unrelated work.
  • Previous salary or income history.
  • Poor GPA’s or educational grades.
  • Physical characteristics.

Top 10 tips on writing a resume

The Government of Canada’s Services for Youth offer some great tips on what to include in a resume:

  1. Think ahead. Do not wait until the last minute to hand in your resume.
  2. Tailor it. Make sure it is tailored specifically for the position you’re looking for.
  3. Chunk it out. Break your information into different sections.
  4. Use action words. Include all your accomplishments.
  5. Proofread.
  6. Repeat Tip 5.
  7. Make it presentable. Make sure your resume looks professional – use white, letter-sized paper (8.5 x 11-inch) and a font such as Times New Roman or Arial.
  8. Keep it concise. Keep it to ideally one page, two pages maximum.
  9. Be honest. Do not lie, employers may find out, which will ruin your chance of landing the job.
  10. Be professional. Avoid embellishment and keep it professional.

Different styles of writing a resume

Reverse chronological résumé – includes previous job experience in reverse chronological order. The main element in this format is the professional experience section, building credibility through experience gained and showing your career growth.

Functional résumé – focuses on listing work experience and skills categorized by skill area for the type of position being sought. In contrast to a reverse chronological one, the functional document includes experience summaries (as opposed to a brief mention) as its main means of communicating professional competency.

Hybrid résumé – a functional and a chronological; typically a functional list of job skills followed by a list of job employers. However, this type of document often repeats itself and isn’t  as commonly used as the other two.

Use bulleted statements that begin with POWER WORDS

Rutgers University recommends using the following power words in a résumé:

Management Power Words – Built, Demonstrated, Developed, Enhanced, Facilitated, Generated, Impacted, Implemented, Negotiated, Revitalized.

Sales and Marketing Power Words – Closed, Collaborated, Delivered, Drove, Established, Generated, Increased, Presented, Retained.

Technical Power Words – Analyzed, Built, Consulted, Created, Escalated, Formatted, Integrated,Maintained, Programmed, Supported, Troubleshot .

Academic Power Words – Applied, Authored, Counseled, Developed, Educated, Evaluated, Mentored, Nourished, Researched, Taught, Tutored.

Healthcare Power Words – Assigned, Assessed, Assisted, Cared, Charged, Provided, Monitored, Nursed, Secured.

Accounting Power Words – Analyzed, Audited, Justified, Verified, Prepared, Processed, Reported, Researched, Reviewed.

Sample Résumé:

sample resume