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Current best practices for resume writing

ANDREW LIMBONG, HOST:

So new year, new you, new job? If you're feeling like it's time for a professional change, one of the first things you'll need to do is update your resume. Career coach Cynthia Pong says, you never know when the right job will come along, and you'll want to send that resume over without delay.

CYNTHIA PONG: It's kind of one of those be ready so you don't have to get ready type of things.

LIMBONG: But getting a resume together can be daunting and stressful. No worries, though. NPR's got your back on this one. Here's Life Kit host Marielle Segarra.

MARIELLE SEGARRA, BYLINE: All right. Our goal here is to bring you one step closer to the job you want. See how I summarized there at the top of the piece? That's what you want to do on your resume. After you put down your personal info - name, email, phone number - at the very top, Pong says you should write a several-sentence summary.

PONG: So you can think of this as your mission statement.

SEGARRA: And this is a way to show the hiring manager why you'd be a great fit for this job.

PONG: Especially if you're someone who other folks tend to underestimate what you bring to the table, or you're doing something nontraditional in your career, or you're a career changer, something like that.

SEGARRA: Pong, by the way, is the founder of the career coaching firm Embrace Change. So she says about three to five lines here, really a few sentences at most - and this is who you are professionally, in a nutshell. You can start with some adjectives - engaging, thorough, creative - and then your role or desired role.

PONG: And then you could say, you know, podcast host for mission-driven audio initiatives and organizations. And then I would say something like, excels at X, Y, and Z.

SEGARRA: And the last sentence of the summary can be something about where you're going with your career. You know, is there an arc to it? Do you know what kind of roles you'd like next? After the summary, Pong suggests that you include a section called Core Competencies.

PONG: Where you list maximum of four to six areas where you really excel.

SEGARRA: So look at the job posting. You know, see what they're looking for, what keywords they use and how those align with your skills. Just make sure you're not repeating what's in your summary. OK. Next up is work experience. You're going to list the relevant places you've worked plus the years you were there, and maybe if the company isn't a household name, you can put down a few words about what it does. Then you'll put bullet points under each job that show what you've achieved or accomplished. If you have a gap in your resume, you can put down things like unpaid community work, freelance work, education, or skills development, basically other things you did during that time.

PONG: Now, the only other footnote I'd add here is if it is a very long gap or you otherwise feel kind of compelled to proactively frame what happened here for folks, then you could include that in the cover letter. But either way, you know, be prepared to discuss it in the interview confidently if and when you get to that stage.

SEGARRA: Also, if you took a while off from working because you were sick, for instance, or caring for a loved one, you could write something like medical leave or sabbatical on your resume and list the year. After that, in the lower third of your resume, you're going to list other skills - languages, software programs you know, also educational experience. You don't have to put down your date of graduation, especially if you're concerned about age discrimination, but it is good to include your major.

PONG: Because you never know what could spark a connection between you and whoever ultimately is reading the resume.

SEGARRA: And you can have a section for awards or volunteer or community work or publications or leadership roles in industry groups. After that, proofread your resume. Maybe have a friend or a mentor look it over, and it's ready to go. Hope you get the job. For NPR News, I'm Marielle Segarra.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Marielle Segarra
Marielle Segarra is a reporter and the host of NPR's Life Kit, the award-winning podcast and radio show that shares trustworthy, nonjudgmental tips that help listeners navigate their lives.