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A former Journalism professor of mine once said that you should never make the reader work for information when writing an article. That basic rule extends to resumes as well. A resume should provide potential employers with a brief description of who you are, what you've done, and why you are the right person for the job. Considering that employers weed through anywhere from 30 -- 300 resumes for a single job opening, simplicity is the key to assuring that your resume will not end up in the reject pile.
Should you include an objective at the top of your resume? While many resume books say yes, I am anti-objective. Why? Objectives tend to be either so specific that they convince the potential employer that you are interested in something other than the job at hand, or they are so vague that they include practically every position on the planet. During a recent search for a Film Producer Assistant, one candidate's objective was to become a TV producer; another wrote an essay on his career ambitions, the future of the film industry, and general U.S. policy. Neither candidate got an interview. Though these are extreme examples, objectives tend to do more harm than good.
The general format I advise is as follows: work experience, education, then skills.
Work experience should include internships and any other jobs that you had during college. Even if you spent your college career answering phones part-time or working as a clerk at a video store, all experience counts. Many skills are transferable (i.e., computer work, handling heavy phones, travel and logistics, basic accounts payable and receivable). Also, having a job in college demonstrates a number of qualities that employers look for in an employee such as responsibility, ambition, and dependability.
When responding to an advertisement, your potential employer has helped you with the hardest part of composing a resume -- the job description. Most entry-level job descriptions will list desirable qualities such as: 'top notch organizational skills', 'excellent communication skills', 'ability to work in a fast-paced environment', and 'computer skills'. Plug these descriptions straight into your resume. Internships, retail, and receptionist positions tend to require all of the requirements listed above. By adding these skills to previous job descriptions, you improve your resume tenfold.
Education and Skills
The education and skills sections should be brief. Education should include college, degree and graduation year. If you studied abroad or completed an intensive summer course -- list those too. Omit your high school information. The skills section should list computer skills, language skills, typing speed, and any skills that you believe make you a valuable candidate.
Tread with caution when approaching design, humor and style. These are extremely subjective. Diverge from the norm only if you believe that they will make your resume stand out in a positive way. As a rule, photographs, cartoons, quotes, horizontal formats and columns don't go over well. If you are unsure whether your creative outburst will help or harm, don't do it.
Salary and References
Unless a want ad specifically asks for salary information, do not include it. If you do include salary information, you run the risk of either pricing yourself out of a position or limiting your earning potential. For references, unless an ad requires them, a simple 'references upon request' at the bottom of your resume will suffice. You can bring a list of references and letters of recommendation with you to an interview.
Don't be intimidated about writing a resume -- just keep it clear and concise and you should get good results.
Margaret Eisenberg is the Human Resources Manager for Media Revolution, an award-winning interactive agency located in Santa Monica, Calif. Margaret has 7 years of Human Resources experience and has worked for such notable organizations as ICM, Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation (Steven Spielberg's non-profit organization) and Propaganda Films.
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