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Finding a job in today’s economy can be difficult. Companies can receive dozens— or even hundreds—of applicants for an open job. This competition means you must be prepared. Being prepared requires more than filling out an application. You must have at least a basic resume that clearly spells out your education, qualifications and skills for the job you’re after.
Building a basic resume isn’t difficult: the biggest commitment it takes from you is time. Once it’s finished you’ll have an accurate description of your talent to show potential employers just how perfect you are for the job you want.
Determine the format of your resume. Microsoft Word has sample resume templates you can use, or you can develop your own format. Use an easy-to-read font like Times New Roman or Arial and set the size anywhere from 11 point to 14 point.
List your contact information clearly at the top of the page. Start with your full name, followed by your current mailing address. Underneath your address, list a current phone number with voice mail that you check regularly. The last bit of contact information should be a professional email address—think email@example.com.
Create a section for education. List your educational background in reverse chronological order. This means the most recent degree you earned will be first. Provide the name of each school attended along with dates of attendance and degree or degrees earned. If you're still in school, provide your projected graduation date.
Develop a work experience section. This section should also list your work experience in reverse chronological order, with your most recent job listed first. For each job, include the company's name and location, by city and state; your dates of employment; your job title; and your primary job duties and accomplishments. Use active verbs to describe your work—think words like "organized," "managed" or "developed."
List your relevant job-related skills. If you're talented with computer software, then list the programs you know well. List other skills, such as foreign-language knowledge, typing speed and customer-service experience, that can set you apart from other qualified applicants and tip job prospects in your favor.
Add relevant extracurricular and volunteer activities, if you have room. This shows potential employers that you're a well-rounded person. Like the sections for education and work experience, it's important that you list your activities in reverse chronological order and include relevant dates and descriptions of your involvement. Again, use active verbs in your descriptions.
Review and proofread your resume. Spelling and grammatical errors on your resume can quickly disqualify you for a job. If you have time, set your resume aside for a day and then review it again. You may find errors you missed the first time. Asking a friend to review your resume is also a good idea.
Determine jobs to pursue. Develop a cover letter describing your interest in a job, along with the skills and experience you have that's relevant to that particular job. Print out your resume and cover letter on resume paper for mailing, or email your resume and cover letter as attachments to a potential employer.
Play the waiting game. An interested employer will contact you directly to set up an interview. If you are not contacted, try again. Your resume is already completed—all you have to do is create a new cover letter and keep applying until you find the perfect job.
Keep your resume to one page. Employers receive many resumes and want to quickly assess your skills for the open position, not read your life history. Be easy to contact. Consider emphasizing your contact information by making it bold so potential employers can find it easily. Don't include references on your resume. Instead, you can develop a separate page for references or indicate your willingness to provide references on your cover letter.
Never embellish or lie about your accomplishments on your resume. It is unethical, and it is likely that the employer will eventually discover the truth. Don't put personal information like your Social Security number, height, weight or marital status on your resume. It's illegal for employers to ask this information during the hiring process. If you list this information, then employers might disqualify you from the applicant pool to avoid potential problems with the law.