Here is some advice for how to format and submit a resume, from the perspective of a hiring manager.
First Impression: Ten Seconds
Most important is that you must assume you have only a few seconds to get them to read the resume. In ten seconds, I want to know what you want and what you do best. If it matches what I want, I will read on. The opening statement should be on a cover letter (more on that later) if you are responding a posted job; in an objective statement on the resume if you are posting your resume. Make it something that will appeal to a manager who is flipping through 300 resumes in the next hour and is looking for your exact experience and skills! Think like the person who will be hiring you, not like the other 299 resume writers in the stack.
Always include an objective so I can know what you want, and always make it as laser-focused as you can. Please, please, please never write anything like, "Objective: Position that uses my skills and experience in..." I see that every day and all it tells me is that you are an amateur. You are expecting me to figure out what you want!
I will usually read the cover letter, the objective and the first section, which should be a very concise list of accomplishments, experience, skills, usually in bullet form.
Remember that the job of the first few lines is not to sell you -- it is to get the right manager to read the rest of the resume!
Then remember that the rest of the resume's job is not to sell you. It is to get the right manager to want to interview you.
Edit Your Resume
General formatting comment: Please, please have your resume reviewed by someone with excellent editing skills. I am somewhat tolerant of errors for technical jobs such as programmer, database administrator, or electrical engineer. Somewhat. Even for the techiest techie, an error of any kind is a big strike one. I can't help but think that if you have errors on your resume, there will be errors in your work. I saw a survey that said a high percentage of managers give up on a resume with a single typo.
A Microsoft Word attachment is usually the best way to send the resume but Word is not a universal format. Be careful to make sure it all works -- fonts, character sets can mess you up if the receiver is on Linux or Mac or uses an older version of Word. Use Times and Arial and be careful. Save in a Word version that is universal (I think all recent versions save in a pretty standard format).
A PDF may be better if you are looking for a job where communication matters -- e.g. Marcom, writing, graphics.
You also need a carefully formatted text version that works on the dumbest text programs. You need this because a lot of resume sites make you paste your resume into some web form and lord knows what it will look like when it ends up in the manager's e-mail.
Refining Your Resume
Ask people you admire for advice and do not hesitate to ask to see their resume. They will be flattered. I did this when I was looking for my first new job. I was a 25-year-old engineer, asking managers in their 50s and 60s. Section managers and division managers, several grades above me, some of whom I worked for, happily gave me their resumes! I learned a couple of things. First, what high-level resumes look like (and by the way, some of them were really awful). Second, that a lot of them had reasonably up to date resumes even though they were not looking.
When replying to a posted job, always use a very brief, well-written cover letter. Very few do. It makes you stand out, and indicates you are replying to the job that the manager has open. The cover note can be in the e-mail message to which your resume is attached or it can be a cover page on the attached resume (or better, both).
In that brief note, demonstrate that you read the job description and you see aspects that make the job perfect for you! Show that there is a match and a special interest. Not overly enthusiastic or begging -- just show interest. And did I say -- make it brief? A couple of paragraphs.
My friend Lars Rider, a recruiter, offers this formula for cover letters:
- Attached is my resume for (position title).
- I have (degree, if relevant) with x years total experience and x years in (relevant skill).
- What I found particularly interesting is (say why you are a benefit for them and something about the job that benefits you).
- I am available for interview (if you need 1-2 day notice, or whatever the situation is, be eager to interview) and can start (immediately, with short notice, etc.).
Attached is my resume for your technical documentation lead position (job
p213SJ) that I saw on the Tech Writers' bulletin board.
I have over 20 years experience in most phases of technical documentation,
including 10 years managing teams of up to 12 writers and editors. I
am particularly adept at training new editors and mentoring
experienced writers. My current work is in technical manuals and
online help documents.
I found your position particularly interesting because your client
base matches my experience and I am especially skilled at the team
coaching you described.
I am available immediately for interviews and I can start with two
I look forward to discussing the fit with you.
Your Name and contact information
Feel free to follow up a few days later. It never hurts, often helps. But don't be demanding, pathetic, or make-wrong. Use e-mail. Something like, "I sent my resume a few days ago and wanted to make sure you saw it. The position you described is exactly what I am seeking. I looked at your website and it looks like my experience in (whatever) would be an excellent match for your organization because (why). Thank you for considering me, hope to talk to you soon."