How to Write a Resume

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When you apply for a job, you can’t just knock on the employer’s door, introduce yourself, and explain why you should be hired. That’s why you submit your resume. It’s how you say to prospective employers: “This is me. These are my experiences, skills, interests, and abilities. I’m perfect for the job!”

Write one master resume that you will keep on a flash drive and use as a reference. It’s important to understand that you will rewrite this resume many, many times so that it directly addresses the specific job you are applying for. Everything on your resume – from your education to your interests to how you describe your job experiences – should contribute to the impression that you are a good fit for the job.

The Denver Public Library has countless books on its shelves that explain how to write a resume, and they are filled with samples. We can help you find books and samples to look at. Look at them and see what appeals to you. Copy the format and tone of the ones that you like.

Resume Do’s

DO tailor your resume to the job. As we said above, you can have a form resume to use as a guide, but always tweak it to highlight the skills and abilities you have for the position that you are applying for.

DO read and then reread the job announcement. Before you can tailor your resume to the job, you have to know what your job is. Make sure you understand what skills and education and abilities the employer is looking for. And then make sure you address each of these things in your resume.

DO match your resume to your cover letter. The style and formatting of your resume should match the style and formatting of your cover letter. Think about McDonald’s or Target. These companies use the same style for everything they produce so that they are instantly recognizable. You should be the same way.

DO make your resume neat and clean. Never submit a resume that is wrinkled or torn or smudged. Your resume represents you, and you want it to make a good impression. You can always print out fresh copies of your resume at the Community Technology Center.

DO include volunteer work. Volunteer work teaches you valuable skills, gives you important experience, and shows that you are responsible and engaged in your community.

DO consider including prison work and training. If the employer already knows that you spent time in prison, then there is no reason not to include the work and training that you did while you were there. It shows that you spent your time in prison productively and responsibly.

DO be honest. Be confident in yourself and understand that you have skills and abilities to highlight to employers. There is no need to lie. Plus, if you get caught, lying during the application process is grounds for immediate termination.

DO proofread, proofread, proofread. No matter what kind of job you are applying for, errors on a resume look bad. Proofread your resume yourself – and ask a friend to look over it for you, too.

DO stick to the point. A resume is not your biography. It is not the story of you. It’s simply a way for you to showcase the abilities, experience, and education that you have that make you a good fit for the job.

DO include hobbies and interests if they relate to the job. Although your resume is your professional self, and therefore not the place to put a ton of personal information, if you do have interests that relate directly to the job, then it is totally appropriate to have a section of your resume that describes your personal interests. For example, let’s say you love to garden and you have a thriving vegetable garden in your back yard. If you were applying for a job at a clothing store, you wouldn’t list that interest. But if you were applying for a job with a landscaping company or a garden supply store, you would.

DO leave out education and work history that make you seem overqualified. If you have just been released from prison, you may be looking simply to survive – and you may therefore be applying for jobs that in other circumstances you’d be overqualified for. Believe it or not, a candidate who is overqualified for something is a red flag for employers. It’s okay to leave off stuff that raises this flag.

Resume Don’ts

DON’T make it personal. A resume should be a reflection of your professional self, not your personal self. The only personal information that you should include is information that directly relates to the job.

DON’T be wordy. The content of resumes should be brief and to the point. Use as few words as possible.

DON’T wait until the last minute. Your resume is the jewel of your job application. Employers will look at it to get a sense of who you are. You don’t want to present them with something that is sloppy and hasty and poorly organized, because you will seem sloppy and hasty and poorly organized. Give yourself time to do a good job. And give yourself time to have someone else review it for you.

DON’T make the format cramped. Some people will tell you that a resume should be only one page – and they will encourage you to adjust the margins and use smaller type to make this possible. In most situations, this is bad advice. You want your resume to look nice and to be easy to read. If that means it has to be two pages, then so be it.

DON’T lie or exaggerate. If you get hired based on a false resume, you will always have to worry about those lies – and worry about getting fired if you are caught. It’s just not worth it.

DON’T use “I.” The first person pronoun is too informal for a resume. Avoid pronouns altogether and use action verbs.

DON’T include salary information. Talk of money belongs in the interview, not on the resume. This means you should leave off information about your salary history and about what kind of salary you are looking for.

DON’T hand correct your resume. You should have absolutely no handwriting on your resume. No matter how neatly you write, it looks sloppy and unprofessional. If you see a mistake on your resume, correct it on the computer and print out a new copy.

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