Resumes-First Impressions Count

How to Write a Résumé

You're better off writing your own résumé rather than hiring someone to do it for you. No one knows more than you do about your education, your work experience, or the career you're looking for. But be sure to ask for assistance from your parents, your college placement office, and your instructors if you need it. Following is the typical structure for a résumé:

  • The Heading. Anyone reading a résumé wants to find information easily and quickly, so the heading you use should stand out clearly. The heading provides your name, address, and phone number. If you use a work phone number, be sure that your employer knows about it and gives permission.
  • The Objective. The objective should be very specific. Recent surveys of personnel managers indicate that they look very closely at the job objective. Create a separate objective for those jobs where you have a serious chance at getting an interview, as well as for each type of job covered in mass mailings.
  • Education. The education section will generally come next for a new college graduate. When you have more professional experience, you may want to put work experience first and education second. List your bachelor's degree and any other post-secondary education, such as an associate's degree. Keep the most recent education first on the list. Include special courses or skills in this section, but stay away from the obvious. For example, all accounting majors take Principles and Intermediate. If you are just beginning your academic career, consider what courses or minors may help you become more marketable to employers.

When you list your GPA, include the scale (some schools have a 5.0 scale), and feel free to list separately your GPA in your major (it's expected to be higher than your overall GPA). If your GPA is not good, leave it out. If your grades were low in your first two years, but then improved, list your upper division GPA (and label it as such).

Not everyone will have honors and awards, but if you do, be sure to include them. Focus on those that are professional and academic.

  • Work and Experience. Work and experience should be listed in order of your most recent job. Set off the names of the companies and the title of the jobs. Don't worry about including every summer or part-time job you've had. For new college graduates, employers are not looking for a seamless job history. Omit jobs that lasted only a few weeks or those that add nothing to your attractiveness as an employee. In the job description, try to focus on what you did that was accounting-related and what you did that required maturity and responsibility.
  • Activities. Participating in clubs and extracurricular activities while in school demonstrates that you are a "go getter." If you're currently not a member of Beta Alpha Psi or the accounting club at your school, you should be. Most professional accounting organizations also offer student memberships. Joining these groups helps prepare you for the job search. In addition, employers look favorably at candidates who are involved in community service. Find out if your local community offers tax assistance programs to lower-income individuals. Volunteer to work in a soup kitchen. These experiences will ultimately make you more marketable.

It isn't necessary to list hobbies, but they can provide additional insight on your personality and interests, which may strike a chord in a potential employer reviewing your résumé. Keep in mind that certain hobbies can also have a negative effect. For example, you may want to avoid political groups unless you're certain where the potential employer stands on political issues.

  • References. Typically, you shouldn't include references on your résumé. You can also leave off the line "references are available on request" since it's assumed you can provide names if asked. Be certain that you have permission from your references before you give their names to potential employers. A good idea is to call each reference for permission, then write a thank you note and send a copy of your résumé. That will remind them that they may be contacted by a prospective employer, as well as provide them with additional information about you when a call does come.

Your résumé should be printed on minimum 20-pound weight paper—white, cream, or possibly light gray. If you have to pay a secretarial service to print the résumé, do it. It's also a good idea to have someone with good English skills proofread your resume. A sloppy resume with misspellings and grammatical errors will not make a good impression on potential employers.

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