The Importance of the Resumé
How do you choose your meal when you sit down at a restaurant you’ve never been to? You have a general idea of what you like and don’t like when it comes to food, of course, but you don’t know anything about how the food is prepared. You may have come to the restaurant with friends or colleagues, but it’s unlikely that they’ve had experience with every dish the restaurant has to offer.
Your best chance of finding just the right meal, then, begins with perusing the restaurant’s menu. The restaurant’s entrees are all on display, but they are not displayed equally: some choices contain a full description of how they are prepared and what ingredients are used, while others simply contain the entrée’s name and nothing more. Some even have sample pictures to show what the meal will look like coming to your table! If you think over your choices in that scenario, you will probably find that the more well-described and easily visualized meals often get selected.
That is what your resumé can do for you! A potential employer sits down to choose a new candidate in exactly the same way that a person going to a strange restaurant might. They have a general idea of what they’re looking for in terms of a skillset, but they don’t really know anything about the people who have applied.
Their best chance of finding the right person, then, begins with perusing the resumés that have been submitted to them. The resumés are their menu. And just like the restaurant menu, not all of their choices are described equally; the ones with the most relevant descriptions and clearest view will stand out from the rest.
It is particularly important that your resumé be one of the ones that attracts their attention. The rest of the information on this page is largely about making sure that your resumé can do that.
Resumé Writing Basics
General resources for constructing a resumé are prevalent throughout the internet. Locally, the University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine contain some of the best content on their website dedicated to assisting with resumé creation:
If you are more of a visual learner, there’s also this fairly comprehensive look at the basics of resumé creation from YouTuber Rachel Ballinger:
Tailoring a Resumé to Your Circumstances
There are two main types of resumé that potential employers are used to seeing. The Chronological Resumé is the more traditional, which highlights in its main section the candidates education and experience, listed with the most recent entry on top and proceeding backwards. The Functional Resumé highlights skills and qualifications, and puts experience and education in the background. This is typically a good focus for those without a lot of direct work experience, or those who have long employment gaps.
Again, for those who don’t favor learning by reading, here are a couple of common circumstances covered by Professor Heather Austin, a professional career coach and former Academic Dean:
While there are very few absolute “wrong” things to do on a resumé, there are some, and these videos highlight some of the biggest ones:
Your Standard Resumé Should NOT Be the One You Send
All of this is great for developing a resumé in general, but when you actually apply to a job, your resumé should be specifically tailored to the job you’re applying for. If you have listed seven years’ experience as a fry cook, and the job application says they want someone with 5+ years, then you should change your resumé to say 5+ years. If your summary statement says that you can handle angry customers and the job description says they’re looking for someone proficient in dealing with irate customers, change your wording to match.
Why does it matter? Two reasons:
- Using the same verbiage that the employer used subconsciously helps them see you as a better match for the way they think.
- Many employers use computers to search resumés for key words and phrases before they even look at them, and often the words in their job posting become the key words they search for. So matching exactly is an advantage.
Is that cheating? NO. It’s being smart. If you’re taking an open book test in school, it is not cheating to use the book. By the same token, you want to take every possible advantage you can find when competing against others for the job you want.
Remember to also include a cover letter; another opportunity to include their keywords and demonstrate that you have researched their company and can communicate why you’re a good fit for them.
The Objective of the Resumé
Remember, the ultimate goal of your resumé and cover letter is to get you an interview. Once you’ve earned that face-to-face time with the employer, you can really make sure that you shine for them. We have a separate section of this site devoted to interview tips(link to 3.3).