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Resume Tips - How to Write a Professional Resume

Sample Resume

Common Spelling, Grammar or Word-Use Mistakes Found in Resumes or Cover Letters


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The format of your resume is extremely important and can make or break your chances with an employer. The key is to make it easily readable with your accomplishments or important points easily seen with bullets or some other means. Don't make the employer have to look for what you've done. If it's too hard to find, they'll just move on to the next candidate.

Also, try to explain gaps in employment by providing an explanation about them. If the employer assumes you're trying to hide something you'll be passed up. Be up front, it is likely to come out sooner or later. Provide the months and dates of employment as this will also make them less suspicious that you are trying to hide something and will also show that you are a thorough and detailed candidate.



Ten Keys to a Dynamite Resume

To help you construct a better, more powerful resume, here are ten overall considerations in regard to your resume's content and presentation. These ten resume tips should help you learn how to write a professional resume with strength and clarity.

1. Position title and job description. Provide your title, plus a detailed explanation of your duties and accomplishments. Since job titles are often misleading or their function may vary from one company to another, your resume should tell the reader exactly what you've done.

2. Clarity of dates and place. Document your work history and educational credentials accurately. Don't leave the reader guessing where and when you were employed, or when you earned your degree.

3. Explicitness. Let the reader know the nature, size and location of your past employers, and what their business is.

4. Detail. Specify some of the more technical, or involved aspects of your past work or training, especially if you've performed tasks of any complexity, or significance.

5. Proportion. Give appropriate attention to jobs or educational credentials according to their length, or importance to the reader. For example, if you wish to be considered for an engineering position, don't write one paragraph describing your current engineering job, followed by three paragraphs about your summer job as a lifeguard.

6. Relevancy. Confine your information to that which is job-related or clearly demonstrates a pattern of success. Concentrate only on subject matter that addresses the needs of the employer.

7. Length. This is an important issue, and there's two sides to consider depending on the type of job you're considering and the amount of experience you've had. In both cases though, try to be as concise as possible.

If you think the job calls for it, fill up only a page or two. If you write more than two pages, it sends a signal to the reader that you can't organize your thoughts, or you're trying too hard to make a good impression. If your content is strong, you won't need more than two pages.

Yet, some jobs may look for a person who has had a lot of experience. In this case, thelength of the resume is not as important as readability. Don't try to cram a careers worth of information into one page. It's better to show what you've done with two or more pages in a readable and understandable fashion, than overwhelming the reader with one page with few breaks or white space. Overwhelming the reader will not help your case.

8. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Create an error-free document that's representative of an educated person. If you're unsure about the correctness of your writing (or if English is your second language), consult a professional writer or editor. See below for common spelling, grammar and word-use mistakes found in resumes or cover letters.

9. Readability. Organize your thoughts in a clear, concise manner. No resume ever won a Nobel Prize for literature; however, a fragmented or long-winded resume will virtually assure you of a place at the back of the line.

10. Readability. Be sure to select a conventional type style, such as Times Roman or Arial, and choose a neutral background or stationery. If your resume takes too much effort to read, it may end up in the trash, even if you have terrific skills. Finally, I suggest you write several drafts, and allow yourself time to review your work and proofread for errors. If you have a professional associate whose opinion you trust, by all means, listen to what he or she has to say. A simple critique can make the difference between an interview and a rejection.

In addition, the following resume tips should help
  • Text should be broken out by using bullets and sentences or phrases rather than long paragraphs

  • Format resume with:

  • Work History-Employers, Position Titles and Dates including Month And Year
  • Detailed Work Activities-Duties and Responsibilities
  • Specific Achievements and Accomplishments
  • Education- Degrees, Special Schools, Certifications and Short Courses

  • Use numbers ( $'s, %'s, MM, K, .) and acronyms that an employer will quickly understand (CMMS, ISO, RCM, TPM, STOP .) to demonstrate specific achievements and accomplishment


Choosing The Best Resume Format: Summary or Chronological

Your resume can be arranged in one of two basic formats: summary or chronological.

  • The summary (or functional) resume distills your total work experience into major areas of expertise, and focuses the reader's attention on your accumulated skills.
  • The chronological resume presents your skills and accomplishments within the framework of your past employers. (Actually, it should be called a reverse chronological resume, since your last job should always appear first.)

Although the information you furnish the reader may essentially be the same, there's a big difference in the way the two resumes are constructed, and the type of impact each will have. My experience has shown that the chronological resume brings the best results, since it's the most explicit description of the quality and application of your skills within a specific time frame.

The summary resume, on the other hand, works well if you've changed jobs or careers often, and wish to downplay your work history and highlight your level of expertise. If a prospective hiring manager is specifically interested in a steady, progressively advancing employment history (as most are), then the summary resume will very likely work against you, since the format will seem confusing, and might arouse suspicions as to your potential for longevity.

However, if the employer's main concern is your technical or problem-solving ability, the summary resume will serve your needs just fine. Either way, you should always follow the guidelines mentioned earlier regarding content and appearance.

Crafting Your Resume "Objective"

Most employers find that a carefully worded statement of purpose will help them quickly evaluate your suitability for a given position. An objective statement can be particularly useful as a quick-screen device when viewed by the manager responsible for staffing several different types of positions. ("Let's see; programmers in this pile, plant managers in that pile...")

While a stated objective gives you the advantage of targeting your employment goals, it can also work against you. A hiring manager lacking in imagination or who's hard pressed for time will often overlook a resume with an objective that doesn't conform to the exact specifications of a position opening. That means that if your objective reads "Vice President position with a progressive, growth-oriented company," you may limit your options and not be considered for the job of regional manager for a struggling company in a mature market-a job you may enjoy and be well suited to.

If you're pretty sure of the exact position you want in the field or industry you're interested in, then state it in your objective. Otherwise, broaden your objective or leave it off the resume.


Strengthen Your Resume to Enhance Your Candidacy

To get the most mileage out of your resume, you'll want to emphasize certain aspects of your background. By doing so, you'll present your qualifications in the most favorable light, and help give the employer a better understanding of your potential value to his or her organization. To build a stronger case for your candidacy, try highlighting the following areas of interest:

Professional achievements of particular interest. For example, if you're in sales, the first thing a hiring manager will want to know is your sales volume, and how you ranks with your peers. If you've won awards, reached goals or made your company money, let the employer know.

Educational accomplishments. List your degree(s) and/or relevant course work, thesis or dissertation, or specialized training. Be sure to mention any special honors, scholarships, or awards you may have received, such as Dean's List, Cum Laude, or Phi Beta Kappa.

Additional areas of competency. These might include computer software fluency, dollar amount of monthly raw materials purchased, or specialized training.

Success indicators. You should definitely include anything in your past that might distinguish you as a leader or achiever. Or, if you worked full time to put yourself through school, you should consider that experience a success indicator, and mention it on your resume.

Related experience. Anything that would be relevant to your prospective employer's needs. For example, if your occupation requires overseas travel or communication, list your knowledge of foreign languages. If you worked as a co-op student in college, especially in the industry you're currently in, let the reader know.

Military history. If you served in the armed forces, describe your length of service, branch of service, rank, special training, medals, and discharge and/or reserve status. Employers generally react favorably to military service experience.

Security clearances. Some industries require a clearance when it comes to getting hired or being promoted. If you're targeting an industry such as aerospace or defense, give your current and/or highest clearable status, and whether you've been specially checked by an investigative agency.

Citizenship or right to work. This should be mentioned if your industry requires it. Dual citizenship should also be mentioned, especially if you think you may be working in a foreign country.

In a competitive market, employers are always on the lookout for traits that distinguish one candidate from another.


For more resume tips and additional career development and job search information, see our Career Development Articles: Tips on Resume building, job transition, evaluating job offers, sample resume, job interviewing, salary negotiation, how to resign, and more.


View and Print a Sample Resume

You will Need to Get the Adobe Reader to view the Sample Resume

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