Resume Basics

Creating a resume is one of those things, like doing laundry and balancing checkbooks, that everyone assumes you know how to do even if no one has ever explicitly taught you how to do it. Thus I thought I'd devote a post to some of the basics of what should be in a resume.

I should note upfront that there are a multitude of aspects about resumes that are the subjects of fierce debate. Although it's always possible to find that one hiring manager who says, "I won't hire anyone whose resume is _______!" (more than one page, not on fancy paper, etc.), I think it's more important that you understand the very basics and then work on making the content the best it can be.

Here's the information a hiring manager is going to look for in your resume:

Contact information: At the top of your resume, include relevant contact information — address, phone number, e-mail address. If you have a professional website, you can include the URL here as well, but don't go overboard listing out all the different places you can be reached. If you're in college and living on campus, you may want to include both your campus address and permanent home address, with each clearly labeled and an indication of the "until" date when you'll be switching abodes.

Education: Include both your degree (B.A., B.S., etc.) and field of study, and the school where you got the degree. If you have multiple degrees, lead with the highest degree and go backwards. I advise current college students to put "Expected Graduation" and the month and year, but otherwise it's usually to your advantage to leave off the year of your degree. (Not everyone will agree with me on this.)

Experience: Whether Education or Experience goes first depends on which is your stronger qualification for the job in question. This section can include any relevant experience, regardless of whether you were paid for it. For each job or volunteer opportunity, include the company or organization, your title, the dates you were there, and where the job was (city and state). Then include one or more bullet points underneath describing what you accomplished in that position. List your experience in reverse chronological order, meaning the most recent experience goes at the top, and you work backwards based on your start dates.

Those are the basics! There is plenty of other information that can be included on a resume — skills, publications, other activities — but this is the minimum information you should include. In future weeks we'll look at the Education and Experience sections in more detail.