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How To Write a Killer Resume


A good CV touts your talent and lands an interview.


A good resume touts your talent and lands a job interview.

Think of your resume as an advertisement for yourself. But a resume that isn't a winner is a sinner and you'll never get in the door. Remember: Simple mistakes can kill your prospects.

"Many students don't realize that a resume is one of the most important documents they'll ever prepare," says Jack Rayman, Director of Career Services at Penn State University. "Some students think they can throw a resume together in 15 or 20 minutes."

As part of a study, Rayman says his office prepared a set of resumes with intentional spelling and grammatical errors and passed them on to campus recruiters from major companies. Minyanville's Tips for June Grads Without fail, the resumes with minor errors were rejected, regardless of the mock student's internships, course of study and grade point average.

Moral: Check and double check your resume because presentation counts. Then have a friend read it over.

"A little thing like subject-verb disagreement will kill your chances," Rayman says.

A winning resume is concise and well-written. Keep it to one page if you're just out of school.

A solid resume is more than just a summary of your experience. It demands the attention of a prospective employer and sells you as a top prospect. Your pitch: This is what I can do for you.

Right under your name and contact information, a good resume should include a brief summary of your education, experience and strengths.

Three to six crisp sentences will do the job. Use the active voice. Keep it short and tight. No buzzwords or semicolons. Kill most adjectives and adverbs with a shovel. Never refer to yourself in the third person because it's silly and pretentious.

As a recent graduate, employers don't expect you to have a lot of experience. Include internships, but remember employers are betting on your potential to perform at a high level - not your limited track record in your field.

At a job interview, the prospective employer seeks to answer basic questions: Can the applicant fit into the corporate culture? What does the applicant bring to the table? You got the interview because the employer believes you can handle the job. Now, you must convince the interviewer that you're the right person for the job.

Major corporations such as Intel (INTC), Microsoft (MSFT), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and General Electric (GE) are flooded with resumes. Many companies electronically scan stacks of applications looking for key words. If you're applying to a major company, dig out the key words in your field -- programmer, copy writer, Web designer, for example -- and use them to boost your chances of getting picked up in the computer scan. But don't let this degenerate into jargon because an experienced person with a finely tuned blather detector will read your resume in round two.

Don't mix the professional with the personal. There's no reason to include marital status, church affiliation or political persuasion on your resume. Include relevant extracurricular activities, but don't note that you like kittens, hiking and Mozart, because who doesn't?

This should be a no-brainer, but apparently some recent grads don't think: Never lie on a resume. You can bet that the personnel office or an outside agency will check your degree and other qualifications.

A resume isn't a legal document so the only penalty for fibbing is not getting the job. However, a job application is a legal document and that's why many personnel offices ask you to copy key information from your resume onto the company's form. Lying on the company's job application will get you fired if discovered after you've gotten the job.

Here are five things you need to know about writing a resume that will get you noticed:

Contact Information:

At the top of the page, include your name, home address, phone number with area code and email address. This should be obvious, but some first efforts bury the information. Prospective employers don't have time to hunt for the basics.


You can't go wrong with 12- or 14-point Times New Roman. Avoid cutesy fonts and don't use too many fonts because you want your resume to be crisp, clean and easy to read. Use bold or bold italics for section headers.

Be Positive:

Don't knock your school, internships or anything else. A good resume is a sales tool designed to sell your talent and get a job interview. A sour tone will kill your chances.

Play It Straight:

Keep in mind that prospective employers aren't flower children seeking blithe spirits for a far-out time. They're in business to make money. Employers seek bright, talented and diligent people - make sure your talent comes through in your resume. Can the smarty pants attitude.

Presentation Counts:

Use a heavy, off-white paper. Avoid red, pink, lime green or anything that's hard to read and makes you look frivolous. Prepare an electronic version that can be emailed as an attachment or sent in PDF format. Run the spellchecker. Then have an eagle-eyed friend proofread your resume. A typo or using the wrong word is the surest way to kill your chances.

"We suggest that our students come to the career center and have someone review their resume on the spot," Rayman says. "It's important to have several people go over your work before sending it to a prospective employer."

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