Having a great resume is perhaps the most important component in the process of getting a job. Although the job interview is also crucial, you won't get that interview without an outstanding resume that gets the attention of a recruiter (in some fields), gets you past the keyword-scanning software (in other fields), and gets you more than a 30-second glance from an HR professional (in all fields).

Here’s a secret: resumes are used more to screen people out than to screen people in. And the screener may not be human: More than 80% of companies now use an automated resume tracking system. See eResumes for more information on formatting resumes for online use. For getting through the computer screening process, follow these tips:

  • Put you name -- and only your name -- on the first line.
  • Use a laser jet printer.
  • Use common sans-serif type faces in a 12-point font.
  • Use bold only for headings.
  • Keep the layout simple—avoid tables and columns.
  • Do not use graphics.
  • Do not fax your resume, staple it or even fold it – scanners can get hung-up on folds

Begin your resume with a section of keywords. You may want to call it “Summary Statement” or “Skills,” but it should contain technical words and other nouns (i.e. systems analyst; instructional designer; direct marketing specialist; museum proposal writer) that describe the job or describe you. Think about words that you might type in to Google or MSN to find someone to fill the kind of job you want. You can look for these words in classified ads and on industry-related Web sites.

Of course you need to make sure that your resume looks good, emphasizes the appropriate keywords, and is short and easy-to-read for both humans and computers. But most importantly, you want to show that you are a problem-solver whose completed projects and other accomplishments added to your previous employers’ bottom line.

If you’re a recent college grad or otherwise an entry-level worker, you will want to show yourself as a potential problem-solver by emphasizing projects you may have completed while in school, part-time work efforts, or other ways you can show the company how you will be an asset if they hire you. Check out the eResume Tutorial pages on this site to get you started on your first resume.

Writing a great resume is an art form, and there are plenty of professional resume writers and companies that specialize in resume help who state that their resumes will get you a job interview. Resume writing can be a daunting and intimidating process, so you may want to consider this help rather than trying to create your own resume. If you do decide to do it on your own, you may want to first examine the many resume examples available for free in virtually every employment niche. See Job-Specific Resumes for a variety of resumes to choose from.

In general, you will want to think about keywords that describe your job responsibilities and your accomplishments. These accomplishments are what you will feature in your resume, not your previous job titles and job descriptions. The more that you can state these accomplishments in terms of problems solved, the better your resume will be. And the more these problems can focus on an impact to the bottom line, the more you will get noticed. The criteria that are important for determining bottom-line impact will vary by industry and job area. For example, in sales, the dollar volume is what counts; in management positions the emphasis is on time saved (time =money), and in technical jobs, you will discuss production increases that do more with the same or fewer resources.

Once you’ve thought about your skills, keywords and accomplishments, consult the other pages on this site to get additional help with formats and posting.