Writing A Resume

What Is A Resume?

A resume is a document that outlines the professional qualifications and work experience of an individual. Resumes are usually drafted when searching for a job or an internship. A resume is also known as a curriculum vitae. A resume is similar to a cover letter in the sense that it provides a platform from which to market oneself to a potential employer. Poorly written and presented resumes are tossed aside by managers. Each resume should be customized for the job being applied for because different jobs might need an emphasis on different strengths.


When Should A Resume Be Sent?

Intuitively, a resume should be sent when a potential employer advertises the availability of a vacancy. A resume can also be sent to a prospective employer that has not announced a vacancy in the hope that they do have one. Sending resumes in the hope that an employer may have a vacancy shows initiative to an employer and it might sometimes result in an interview for a position as soon as one opens up.

What Formatting Should Be Used In A Resume?

Because of the sheer volume of resumes that can be received for limited vacancies, hiring managers do not have much time to spend going through each resume they receive. Therefore, a resume should be ordered in a logical way that is easy to follow. The information should look presentable – not too widely spaced and not too crowded up. Headings and significant information should be formatted in bold or italics.

What Content Should Be Included In A Resume?

Personal Information Profile

This section should include your name, date of birth, address, email and phone number. Ensure that a professional email address is provided. An unprofessional email address leads to getting a resume tossed aside. If currently employed and applying for a job somewhere else, it is not advisable to list your office contact information as your personal contact information.

Education and Professional Qualifications

This section should list university and high school attended, years of attendance, and grades attained. Including primary school education is optional but it can be ignored to save on space. It should also list any memberships to professional bodies and the qualifications attained with those professional bodies. In cases where required to present a one-page resume, only the most recent education experience may be relevant.

Work Experience

Places of employment should be listed in backward chronology starting with the latest job. The month and year of entry and exit should also be indicated. Do not list why you left any job. Should the application prove successful, this will be discussed.

Be brief and clear about former work experience. Endeavor to relate former experience to the job being applied for. Use constructive verbs in explaining work experience for example, instead of writing ‘I was in a group that accomplished XXX on time’ you could write ‘managed a group that was able to complete XXX one month before the deadline.’ 

Creatives and web designers can add links to their portfolio in this section, provided the links are not so long that they infringe upon space. Alternatively, it is acceptable to state that the portfolio is available on request.

Hobbies and Achievements

Hobbies and achievements can be used by employers to assess the personality of an applicant. It is thus important to list any hobbies that might apply to the job. For example, being the captain of a rugby team may be seen as an indication of leadership skills, attending cultural events at foreign country embassies can suggest a global mindset, and so on. It is also important to avoid listing too many hobbies that are done in isolation as this may come off as antisocial or lacking in team activities. 


Language proficiency, presentation skills, proficiency with MS Office, or software relevant to the job should be listed here.


Three references are the usual norm, and they can include people from academia, former places of employment or professional acquaintances. If you did not part ways well with your former employer, it is wise not to list them as a reference.


Always proofread and spellcheck the final draft of the resume before sending it out to potential employers. Employers take incorrect spelling and poor punctuation on a resume very seriously.


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