Updated: July 2023
Gathering the right information is essential to writing an interview-landing resume. If you haven't taken the time to gather each of the following pieces of information, you won't have the tools necessary to write a resume that impresses the reader. Facts that you will need to identify include: the job description of the targeted company(ies); details of your employment history; and names/dates of all education and training.
Before you begin writing, make sure that you have the correct dates, titles and details of your prior work history. The process is easier if you have these details handy before you begin. Refer to any records you have from former jobs. New-hire forms and evaluations are also great sources of information. If you will be adding professional organizations or community service to the resume, confirm that you have the correct formal names of the organizations, and not just acronyms, along with dates of service.
Reviewing the job description for your targeted position is important for writing your resume. If your resume doesn't reflect a clear understanding of the job you are applying for, it will not advance through the system.
Sometimes having several similar job descriptions may clarify for you the important tasks required. Choosing proper Keywords to showcase your experience will maximize your potential for advancement. If you are applying to many different employers, it is recommended that you tweak your resume against each prospective job to ensure that your information matches the desired requirements. You do not have to rewrite completely each resume; however, building on a generic resume and adding unique information for each position will maximize chances for a response.
Work history includes your paid or volunteer positions over the past 15 years. You can go further back if you choose; however, most employers are looking for the most recent, valuable experience. So adding more years a/o jobs will not necessarily be of interest.
You will need the following information for each paid or volunteer position.
Although some jobs require the exact dates of employment, simply listing the month and year for each position is acceptable. Recruiters prefer to see the most recent employment information first, and the remaining work history in reverse chronological order.
If you have been a consultant or self-employed, list your chosen job title, the name of the business, nature of the business, responsibilities/accomplishments and dates of involvement.
If there are gaps in your work history, explaining these gaps can be complicated, and a deterrent to the recruiter, if not handled properly. If the time of unemployment is only a few months, you can eliminate specifying months on the resume. If you were unemployed for a longer period, as a parent, for medical issues, for education, to research a new career, or being laid-off, a short line of explanation is all that may be needed. Or you can omit the information and explain further in an interview. (See How do I handle gaps in my employment history on my resume?)
List the schools you have attended and the degrees you have earned. If your work history is weak, consider including your academic credentials at the beginning, along with the courses you took, which are relevant to the position. Any certifications you have earned, continuing education courses, etc. can be useful for demonstrating your qualifications for a position with the company.
When you have information in all three of these areas, you are ready to write a first draft of your resume. Your goal is to have everything readily available. This will facilitate the process of writing a powerful resume that receives the attention it deserves.