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Resume Design Principles

Robert B. Kauffman, Ph.D.


This section addresses both traditional and new design principles. By addressing these principles in the construction of your resume, you will be able to create a resume that communicates what you have to offer while also reflecting your unique characteristics. When you have completed your resume, you can evaluate it by asking questions based on these design principles. Is your resume designed as a sales instrument? Does it focus on your future? If you placed it on the wall next to a picture of yourself, would it be a good representation of you? In addition, many of these principles can also be applied equally well to your other communication tools including your portfolio, business card, and even e-mails.

 

Selling Yourself

The traditional purpose of your resume is to sell yourself to the potential employer. View your resume as a one- or two-page sales instrument. Everything that you place in this limited space should put you in a better light or sell you better to the potential employer. As a general rule, you should consider everything you include in your resume through this prism. For example, you may wonder whether you should include references on your resume. Ask the question, Does including a list of references sell you better to the person reviewing your resume, or could you use the space better with something else? The issue is not merely about presenting references, but about whether they will enhance your resume as a sales instrument. Review the section on endorsements later in this chapter. Because space on your resume is limited, a quote from your references on your capabilities may be a better use of this space.

 

Focusing on Your Future

Most people write their resumes or portfolios with a focus on the past. However, as a sales instrument, your focus should be on the future and your next job. Rather than reporting what you have done, your resume should tell the potential employer what you can do for him. For this reason, you should tailor your resume to address specific jobs and clientele.


Separating Yourself From Others

The questions that you need to address are What makes you special and separates you from everyone else? Did you increase sales? Did you receive a commendation? Did you increase productivity? Did you do something new? Your resume should communicate what makes you special and different from everyone else.

Drawing a Word Picture

Whether you use bulleted items or paragraph descriptions, choose your words carefully when you describe yourself. Don’t assume that the reader understands what you have done. For example, compare the following two bulleted items that depict your skills:

* Demonstrated excellent leadership skills.
* Supervised five lifeguards as an assistant pool manager.

 

Which one depicts the skills you have? Most people like some specifics with the word pictures that you draw of yourself.

 

Paying Attention to Form

The sample resumes in this chapter all use the same content-it’s the presentation of that content that differs from resume to resume. Exercise 10.1 at the end of this chapter lets you decide this principle for yourself. If you rate the resumes differently in terms of acceptability, you will agree that form does count.

 

Making a Good First Impression

The first impression of the person who reviews your resume influences how that person views your candidacy. Practice the five-second rule. Glance at your resume for five seconds; then look away. What do you remember? List these items. Do these items suggest good things such as skills, honors, or accomplishments, or do you remember a bunch of meaningless dates? Does your first glance suggest that you are a winner?

Collectively, the information presented says a lot about who you are and your motivation. Conversely, misspelled words, poor structure, excessive use of the word I, or poor grammar can reflect negatively on you.

 


Being Selective About What to Include

Your resume is not a job application that requires you to list everything about your past employment. If you had a lousy job, you don’t need to list it on your resume. If you have experiences that supersede earlier experiences, you need not include the earlier experiences. After students obtain their first full-time job, they often delete many of the part-time and volunteer positions they had in college, which they used to obtain their first full-time job. Two or three years of full-time employment supersedes these part-time and volunteer experiences. For example, after Sally Herr has been employed as an aquatics director, she can delete the substitute teacher and recreation assistant experiences from her resume because they are no longer necessary.

 

Keeping It to One or Two Pages

Some experts suggest that a one-page resume is more effective than a two-page resume. Others favor a two-page resume over a one-page resume. Take your choice. Either format is acceptable. The two-page resume gives you more room to present your knowledge, skills, abilities, and experiences (KSAEs). Some human resources personnel who review job applications prefer one-page resumes because they are easier to critique. Again, the choice is yours. When you develop your resume, if you find it gravitating to a page and a half in length, either cut it down to one page or expand it to two pages. Don’t have an overstuffed one-page resume that should really be a two-page resume (see resume 10.6 on page 191). Conversely, be careful not to have a two-page resume that should have obviously been a one-page resume.

 

 




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