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Three key tips for writing your résumé

You know the basic information that you’ve got to include on your résumé: your contact information, your education, and your work experience. Much of the thinking about effective résumés has changed in the last 20 years, but it’s still a good idea to list your work in reverse chronological order with your most recent experience first, and to include the dates and positions you held.

Use a clean format, not a downloaded template you download full of formatting like underlines and shaded block. Bells and whistles usually scream to an employer, “I’m overcompensating for my lack of real content.”

Beyond the basics, my three most important tips on writing your résumé are:

1. Use bullet points. Here’s where you summarize the most important information about each experience you’ve had: the description of the work you are doing or did, what you accomplished, how you made a difference.

Begin your bullet points with a verb, those powerful action words that tell the story: Coordinated, organized, researched, created, expanded, managed, delivered. Don’t write your bullet points as complete sentences, just keep them simple: action, result. “Managed rebranding campaign and met deadline.” “Researched and built library of reference materials for training department.”

2. Experience is experience. Don’t worry about breaking down what you’ve done into paid and unpaid—it’s all work. Certainly include your internship experiences. As a recent graduate or career changer, they may be your most relevant experience. Volunteer experience, too, sometimes calls on skills that are related to a prospective position.

Recent grads might include a heading, “Leadership,” in addition to “Experience.” Here you could list campus activities where you have held leadership positions such as officer in a student organization or fundraising campaign leader for a campus cause.

3. Tailor your résumé to the position. In your job search, one size will not fit all. Look carefully at the language in each job posting and the key words used to describe qualifications. Those same skills, abilities and experiences should be listed on your résumé and discussed in your cover letter. Your objective is to show prospective employers how your background suits their openings — nearly perfectly.

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