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What is a Resume and What are its Purposes?

The word "resume" is derived from the French word for summary and it is just that--a summary of your career objectives, educational history, and work experience. A resume should answer two important questions for a potential employer: "What can you do for me?" (answered in your career objectives) and "Why should you be considered for this job?" (answered in your sections on educational history and work experience). Irish (1978) states that job seekers must be able to answer the following three question to write effective resumes: Who am I? What do I do well? What do I want? Fretz and Stang (1988, p. 43) urge graduate school applicants to write resumes for three important reasons. "First, each application requires a variety of statistical information that you will now have conveniently located in one place. Second, a copy of your resume should be given to each person you ask for a recommendation so that they can include useful information about you in their letters. Finally, include a copy of your resume with your application. Graduate selection committees will be impressed if you take this extra step in a thorough and concise presentation of information about yourself." If you have never written a resume before, it can be a slightly intimidating task that is difficult to start. Keep in mind that you are not bragging about yourself in a resume; you are simply attempting to give a person who does not know you a realistic idea of what you are like and what you can do. One way to help you begin to write your resume is to help you become aware of the ten reasons why people write resumes (Lock, 1988, p. 57-60). Keeping these reasons in mind will guide you during the resume-writing process. Who knows, you may even discover that you enjoy writing about yourself!

  • "A resume is often a requirement for a personal interview." Few potential employers will interview a prospective employee without a resume.
  • "A resume lets you tell your story in your own way." Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses; write your resume to emphasize your strong points.
  • "The preparation of a resume reminds you of things about yourself that you ought to remember as you search for a job." Writing a resume can be an adventure in self-discovery.
  • "A resume represents you when you are not on hand to speak in your own behalf." Do your best to produce an attractive and well-written resume that will help you to survive an employer's pre-screening of job candidates.
  • "The resume can help you to be remembered after the interview has taken place." You want to impress a potential employer with both your verbal (the interview) and written (the resume) communication skills.
  • "If you apply for a job through the mail, the employer generally expects a resume whether it is specifically requested or not." You have doomed your application to failure if you are the only job candidate who has not included a resume.
  • "A good resume serves as the most effective piece in a direct mail campaign." You may have included a host of other information about yourself, but it is your resume that will receive the most attention from potential employers.
  • "A resume can function as a calling card as you research work organizations." Leave copies of your resume when you research job leads and give copies to those who can pass them on to potential employers.
  • "You can transfer information from your resume to an employer's application for employment and know that it is accurate." If you are asked to fill out an application before or after an interview, your information is readily available from your resume.
  • "A resume helps ease the transition of introducing yourself and getting acquainted with the employer or interviewer." Think of your resume as a way to help an interviewer put you at ease during an interview.
REMEMBER: You have only one chance to make a good first impression. Before a employer meets you in person, your resume is YOU to that person. Do not allow a sloppy, unorganized, or unattractive resume create an undesirable impression of you.


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