While no two resumes will look the same, there are certain commonalties in all good resumes. Perhaps the most obvious thing for a resumed to include is the applicant's name, which should appear at the top of the resume, along with current contact information. Almost every resume should include the following headings or sections, if applicable: objective, education, work experience, teaching experience, publications of note, and a references section. There is no specific order for the information, but the objective generally comes first. The remaining sections are usually best listed in order of relevance to the job being applied for; in other words, it may be necessary to make changes to a resume for each job application.
- Objective: Under the "Objective" heading, the job seeker states the reason for applying for the position; the overall goal of this statement is to grab an employer's attention and interest. Ideally, the objective section of a resume should be stated in one sentence; if an additional sentence is needed, it is best to keep it concise. Here are two examples, one bad and one good, of what might be written as an objective: the bad example, "It is my goal to obtain a sales management job" and the good example, "As someone with an extensive background in pharmaceutical sales, my objective is to obtain a sales management position that allows me to share my sales experiences and train the next generation of top pharmaceutical salesmen." The first example is very general and does not tell the employer why the applicant wants the job, whereas the second example is much more specific than the first.
- Education: For college students just entering the job world, including an "Education" section directly after the objective may increase hiring potential. It is important to include any high marks, such as academic achievements and awards. Also, extra-curricular involvement in clubs, sports teams, and such similar campus organizations can be included in this section. If a student worked during the summers between school years, especially if the jobs were in the same field as the job being applied for, those jobs should also be included.
- Work Experience: This section is recommended once an applicant has been out in the job world for some time, and often follows immediately after the objective section. In many cases, job experience is usually much more important to an employer than what college grades an applicant earned. If an applicant has more experience working the field than education in the field, the work experience section should proceed the education section.
- References: In the "Reference" section, many job seekers write, "references available upon request," however, many employers prefer to see the names of two or three people instead. When names are listed, it gives the impression that the applicant is saying, "Go ahead and call these people. I dare you." Listing references shows that there is nothing to hide. To avoid confusion, it is also important to inform those people listed as references that job employers may be contacting them.
Also referred to as application letters, cover letters usually accompany resumes when applying for a job. The purpose of the letter is to catch the employer's eye so that the resume will also be read; it also highlights the applicant's skills and knowledge and requests an interview with the employer. Persuasion is usually used in the cover letter, while still keeping a formal and polite tone, and the letter is written in paragraph style.