What to Put in a Resume

First of all, personal information such as age, gender, marriage status, race, religion should not appear in a resume. US law is prohibits discrimination against the above factors. Therefore employers should not looks for such information in a resume.

You do not need to mention your visa status in the resume, unless the job ad or the recruiter asks for that information. Certain jobs need security clearance, meaning you have to be a permanent resident or citizen to apply. Some employers indicate clearly that they do not sponsor working (H-1) visa. Otherwise, you can assume that the visa issue is not a problem.

Personal interests can be put into the resume, as long as they show your character in a positive way. For example, playing team sports can indicate you are good at working with other, etc.

Key information in the resume include:

  • Your name, as the heading. Don't have the word "resume" as the heading, which is redundant.
  • Your contact information, including phone number, email address, and also postal address.
  • Objective, including what kind of position you are looking for, whether it's full-time, part-time, or internship, etc. This can be either general or rather specific (if you know exactly what you are looking for).
  • Academic degrees, starting from the most recent one. If you are going to graduate soon, list the expected degree and graduation time, and put note in parentheses saying "expected."
  • Industry experience, if any, starting from the most recent.
  • Relevant school projects.
  • A summary of your skills.
  • Publications, and any awarded you have received.
  • You don't need to list references. "References available upon request" is also redundant.
  • When describing your experience, use action verbs, avoid non-action verbs. For example, instead of saying "conducted a survey ..." say "surveyed...". Instead of saying "ran an experiment ..." say "experimented..."
  • In general, avoid the use of "I" as it is redundant in your resume.

How Much to Put in a Resume

The purpose of a resume (together with a cover letter, in some cases) is to attract the recruiter and get you an interview. Therefore you don't need to go into a lot of details of the projects your did. Your goal is to get the reader interested. Wait until the interview to discuss what exactly you did.

Another use of the resume is to be gone through during an interview. Therefore you should be prepared for all different questions people may ask about things on your resume.

During the interview, people will also want to know your non-technical skills: communication, team work (whether you cooperate well with your team members), leadership, and people skills (whether you can get along with different kinds of people, and support each other at work). Keep this in mind when writing your resume, so that during the interview you can use the projects mentions in the resume to show your different skills.

For a master's graduate with not much industry experience, a one-page resume should be enough. It's much easier to read than a multi-page resume. For a Ph.D. graduate, two to three pages should be enough.

Resume of a Leader

An article in the Aug. 21-25, 2000 issue of Business Week listed the most desirable education, experience, and personal skills to have on your resume:

  • Majored in economics, but took courses in psychology (how to motivate customers and employees), foreign language, and philosophy (to seek vision and meaning in your work).
  • Attended graduate school. The subject almost doesn't matter, so long as you developed your thinking and analytical skills.
  • Experience in multinational companies. Manage talented staff and helped tap new markets.
  • Experience in a foreign operation. Exposure to different culture, conditions, and ways of doing business.
  • Experience in a startup company. Helped to build a business from the ground up, assisting with everything from product development to market research.
  • Debating experience, where you learned to market ideas and think on your feet.
  • Sports, where you learned discipline and team work.
  • Volunteer work, where you learned to step outside your own narrow world to help others.
  • Travel, where you learned about different culture.

Cover Letter etc.

When sending your resume, either by e-mail or regular mail, you will usually include a cover letter with it. Exceptions are when you drop off your resume to an employer at a job fair, or submit a resume online and the system doesn't allow a cover letter.

  • If possible, the cover letter should be addressed to a particular person.
  • Salutation should be consistent with what's in the job ad (if available), or a standard one: Mr. for men, Ms. for women, Dr. if you know that the person has a Ph.D. If you cannot tell whether the person is male or female, just spell out the full name, e.g., "Dear Chris Fuller,". The salutation should end with either a comma or a colon.
  • State where you saw the job posting or from whom you learned about this opening. Mentioning a name that the person knows (in a positive way, of course) is very powerful. The person who receive your cover letter can very well pick up the phone immediately to call the person you mentioned to ask about you. At the end of the first paragraph, say you are very interested in the job (even though it's redundant).
  • Describe why you qualify for this job. Don't repeat everything on your resume, but highlight the things that are most relevant to the job. You should believe that you are the best person for this job and convince the reader of that.
  • Provide your contact information and availability for an interview. Some people are more aggressive by saying "if I do not hear from you by ..., I will give you a call to follow up." You have to choose a way to follow up based on your own personality and communication skills. An e-mail follow-up addressed to a particular person usually works fine.
  • As to response time, in big companies things go very slowly. It can take them months to react to a resume. Smaller companies reacts faster. Resume sent to a specific person usually gets a quick feedback, say a week, unless the person is out of town.
  • You need to keep record of to whom you have sent a resume, on what date, in what format, and the description of the job your were applying for. It would be really bad if you received a phone call from a company and you couldn't figure out what position you had applied for. Better yet, keep a record of the cover letter and the resume (if it's tailored to the position, which you should do).

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