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How to Write a Resume

job search . / Credit: Resume Image via Shutterstock

A resume is one of the most important documents for any worker. It is a written record of a person's employment and educational background. It includes specific details on past employers, schools attended, degrees attained and the skills they bring to the table. It is a way to quickly highlight past accomplishments for future employers.

In today's overcrowded job market, a resume has never been more important. While a resume alone probably won't get an employee a job, it's needed to a get a foot in the door. Nearly all employers require and expect applicants to provide them with a thorough resume for any position they hope to be a candidate for.  With jobs at a premium, hiring managers have little time to devote to each applicant and will use the resume as an initial filter. A poorly written or formatted resume is all the motivation an employer needs to immediately eliminate that applicant from consideration.

On the other hand, a well-written resume that is formatted properly and includes the information the hiring manager usually results in the candidate moving on to the next stage of the hiring process.

While each resume can be different in how it is formatted and written, there are some basic parts that should always be included. The most important parts of an employee's resume are:

Contact information: This is basic contact information, including phone numbers, addresses and email addresses. This ensures the employer can reach the candidate should they need to do so.

Objective: This is a quick statement letting potential employers know the types of jobs that interest them.

Work experience: This provides space for employees to list the companies where they have worked previously and the positions they held with each. In addition, it is important for employees to use this section to highlight accomplishments they achieved in each of those previous positions.

Educational background: This area is where employees can detail any college or post-secondary degrees they have earned. In this section, employees can also list any awards they earned while in school.

Skills: In this section, employees should list all the job skills they have acquired in their past work experience. It is especially important to list the skills that are most relevant for the jobs they are seeking.

References: These should be from past colleagues or bosses who can vouch for the type of employee the job candidate is and they type of work the prospective employee can produce.

Other parts of a resume that some choose to include, but aren't required, include volunteer and charity work, as well as any professional awards and achievements earned in the past.

The key to writing a good resume is making it clear and concise. Since hiring managers are time-crunched, they don't have the luxury of reading a novel on each applicant. Resumes should be as succinct as possible, without leaving out relevant details. If sending a resume via snail mail and using paper, it's best to keep it to one page. However, in today's electronic world, many are sent via email and online, making length less of an issue.

While actual length might not be of great concern, keeping it concise should be. Hiring managers should be able to skim through any good resume and quickly find the details they are looking for. If they can't do so, they're likely discarding the resume and moving on to the next candidate. In addition to writing and formatting the resume properly, there are a number of dos and don'ts that employees should follow.

In the past, BusinessNewsDaily has spoken with dozens of hiring experts on what employees should and shouldn't be putting in their resume. When writing a resume, the University of Michigan advises students to pack it full of action verbs. Among the verbs they recommend using include coached, designed, generated, improved, motivated, oversaw, recruited, trained and upgraded.

Ford R. Myers, career coach, speaker and author of the book "Get The Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring" (John Wiley & Sons, 2009), said jobseekers should include their top transferable skills on their resume. Myers divided transferrable skills into five broad skill areas: communication, interpersonal skills, research and planning, organizational skills and management skills.

Writing a good resume also means not including the wrong words. Experts agree that using clichés, including irrelevant and outdated experiences, and making vague claims are a quick way to get hiring managers to question the validity of the resume and the employee behind it. Other don'ts, according to hiring experts, include having too many details or distracting facts, using hard-to-read fonts and adding a personal photo.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.