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Resume

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You may have some concerns about putting together your resume—most people do. After all, there's a lot of pressure to send out a document that lets you make a good impression on prospective employers. To help you with those concerns, here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

Where should educational background go?

If your education includes a college degree it is not necessary to include information about high school. If you have completed your education recently (less than five years ago) and your degree is relevant to the position for which you are applying, you should place your educational background near the top of your resume. Otherwise, you may place it at the bottom. If you completed your education more than five years ago and worked outside the field in which you were educated, but are now seeking to enter that field, you should also place your educational information at the top of your resume.

How long is too long?

A rule of thumb is to stick to a one page resume. Employers need only see a snapshot of your background—something that will make them want to learn more about you. However, if there is something you must include, for example, special awards and achievements, publications, or a grant you procured, you can run onto a second page. This rule differs for a curriculum vitae (CV) which is used by academics. In general a CV is several pages long as it includes a list of publications.

What about personal information?

Do not, under any circumstances, include personal information such as height, weight, age, marital status or religious background on your resume. A resume is a professional document that should only reflect your career-related accomplishments. In the United States, it is not legal for an employer to request personal information during the application process. You would need to ascertain whether this information is necessary if you are applying for work in another country.

Where do I put salary history?

Sometimes a prospective employer will require a salary history along with a resume and cover letter. If that is the case, you can include the salary history as an addendum to your resume.

How do I handle a brief period of employment?

Every so often a job comes along that just wasn't meant to be. You begin a job that you soon discover isn't for you. Rather than continue at the job you decide to cut your losses and quit. If you do decide to place that job on your resume, a short period of employment might raise a lot of questions. On the other hand, you should never lie on your resume. Rather than include specific dates on your resume, include only years. For example, for each job you list, state the years or year that encompassed your tenure there. Of course, when you fill out an employment application, you are going to have to include the actual dates of employment.

What is one of the most serious mistakes many people make with their resume?

The biggest mistake job applicants make is sending a resume that has grammatical or spelling errors. Don't forget to proofread your resume—over and over again. Have someone else do it as well. Before you send it out, put it away for a day. Take it out again and look it over. You will probably pick up some new errors.

How creative can I be with my resume? For example, can I use colorful paper or an unusual format to make it stand out?

A resume that breaks from the traditional formats should be used only in very specific situations and only if the job hunter feels very comfortable with it. You might consider using a creative resume if you are pursuing a job in art and design, the creative side of advertising, the computer game industry, or similar fields. In those cases, you may design a resume to look like an advertisement, a website, or anything that expresses your individuality and job-related skills. Keep in mind, though, that the resume will not be able to be read by computer software the employer may use to enter it into a database. You should think about including a plain-text version of your resume for this purpose.

How do I make sense of all the resume advice?

You will hear the opinions of many experts, each giving different advice. The bottom line is that you must produce a resume that makes you proud. Your name is right up there on top, it represents you, and will affect your chance of getting the interview. You get my point. Read through all the information, listen to what everyone has to say, and then decide what you want to do.

How can I make writing my next resume easier?

Keep your resume up-to-date. Even if you are currently employed and have no intention of job hunting, add new skills to your resume. If you work on a special project, add that as well. You may not remember some important additions if you have to write a resume under pressure.

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