Including references on your resume

Have you ever wondered what the most commonly used line on a resume is? It would have to be the all time favorite, “References available upon request.” There is an ongoing debate among professionals about the inclusion of references on your resume. Some people will strongly encourage you to include the aforementioned line at the bottom of your resume. In a way, this lets your potential employer know that, if asked, you can name at least a couple of people that think you are a great asset to any company. The opposing side will argue the validity of this line as it doesn’t provide any information with a call to action; we should operate under the assumption that every professional with a resume will be able to provide references from his previous employers. And yet another group of professionals will urge you not only to include this section in your resume, but list anywhere from three to five references, along with their titles, contact numbers and a description of your relationship to them. So, how do you know who to listen to?

We advocate mentioning references no matter what. It is proper resume etiquette that you include a section for your references at the bottom of your resume. This lets your potential employer know that you not only have professional references but you understand that checking references is an important part of your interview process. Additionally, you will want to have an employer request references from you so that you can let your references know they can expect to be contacted. Listing someone as your reference on your resume without letting them know, even if they have previously provided a reference for you, is not a good practice. You don’t want anyone on your reference list to be caught by surprise when they are contacted; you’ll want to let them know about the job you are applying for so that they know which qualifications they should highlight when they are contacted.

If you are posting your resume on job search web sites, such as monster.com, or are working with a head hunter to find the best opportunities for you, it is best that you simple use the line, “References available upon request” at the end of your resume. As indicated above, you will want to let your references know ahead of time if they will be contacted by a potential employer. Listing references on your resume and making it available to multiple employers for review may result in calls to your references by employers you may not have even been in touch with directly. Obviously, you’ll want to avoid this kind of annoyance to people you are using as references. You don’t want to abuse your relationship with them; therefore don’t include a full listing of references on your resume if you are making it available to masses.

If you are sending a resume to a specific employer, after you have been in touch with the hiring manager or someone at the company that will refer you for the job you are interested in, we suggest including references on your resume. This allows your potential employer to have all the information necessary to consider you as a serious candidate for the job. The reference list should include the person’s name, their title and the company they are working for, their relationship to you and their day-time telephone number. As a best practice, before you submit the resume, let your references know about the job opportunity, and that you are passing along their contact information to the potential employer.

If you have already submitted a resume without references, but are going to meet with the employer for an interview, bring a printed copy of your resume that includes a list of references. Following a good interview, employers typically check references – as a best practice, you will want to provide the hiring manager with a one-stop-shop of your qualifications and your references, so you should always bring a printed copy of your cover letter, your resume and references with you to an interview. Your vigilance is sure to make a great impression and bring you one step closer to getting the job you want.

How to list education and experience form different countries on your resume

As a society, we pride our selves in our diversity and make conscious effort to appreciate each other’s cultures and backgrounds. In any given company in America, you can find training teams conducting inclusion trainings, and openly discussion diverse work environments. Diversity has become a part of our culture, both in and outside of work, and it is something that we seldom stop to appreciate.

A sizeable portion of the American workforce has acquired at least a part of their education in a foreign country. If you are in that group, one of the main challenges you will face when composing your resume is transferring your education and any experience you may have from another country in a way that shows your qualifications and achievements in a way that is relevant to your American employer.

When it comes to your scholastic achievements, make sure that you understand the education system in the US. Familiarize yourself with various levels of college degrees; make sure that you understand the difference between trade schools, colleges and universities, as well as the various degrees you can acquire at each of these educational facilities. Do not translate your degree directly – make sure that the terminology you are using is appropriated to educational achievements in the US.

I would advise seeking assistance from a translating service or from a resume writing service that may have someone on staff that speaks your language or is familiar with your country and its culture. This will assure that the education and employment information you acquired in another country is properly listed in your resume. Do not make a mistake of exaggerating the position you have held or the degree you received in another country. Consider the fact that your potential employer has very limited resources in order to verify the foreign education or employment you list on your resume. This doesn’t mean you have a free pass to make things up; instead, gather any documentation you may have that shows your achievements. If you have any transcripts or degrees from your school, or any awards from your previous employment, take them to a translating service that will recreate and notarize these documents in English. Make a note on your resume or in your cover letter that you can show such documentation upon employer’s request. Additionally, if English is your second language, under your qualifications make sure to list any additional languages that you speak fluently. Having a resume free of typos and grammatical errors will indicate to your employer that you have taken the time to learn the language and that you place high emphasis on your communication skills.

As a best practice, if your resume includes education or work experience you acquired in a foreign country, your cover letter should address any concerns that may be brought up by this information. Your employer may have questions on why you left the country where you previously work, or if you intend to go back after some time (if you came to the United States to further your education, indicate the length of time you are staying). Keep these things in mind – put yourself in a position of your potential employer who is reviewing your resume and anticipate any questions they may have about your professional history. Addressing any concerns about your resume ahead of time will assure that you are taken seriously as a qualified and credible candidate.

5 things you should never include in your resume

Composing a resume is a difficult task, as we all know. It takes time and patience to fit your whole professional history within one or two pages, and present yourself as the best candidate for the job. While we focus so much of our energy on what to include in our resumes, we forget to stop and think about the information that should never be included. The following five items are at the top of the Resume Don’ts list:

1. Do not get personal. Any information that discloses your demographics should not be listed in your resume. Your age, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, marital status, physical appearance, or your personal philosophies are not critical to your job performance, and therefore should never be listed on your resume. Present yourself as a professional to your potential employers. Your resume is not a list of your hobbies or interests; it is a listing of your education, your qualifications and your employment history. Stick to the information relevant to the job and your career objective.

2. Do not list salary information or requirements on your resume. This is a strict rule, and you must follow it. Your employer is concerned with what your desired salary is, not what you earned in your first job out of college. If you are asked to provide salary requirements, do so in your cover letter not your resume. As a best practice, always list a minimum you are willing to accept for the job, and avoid using a salary range. Do your research and know what the acceptable salary is for the job of your interest. Whenever possible, leave all salary conversations to for the interview with your potential employer.

3. Do not use jargon or too many “big words.” Unless you are absolutely certain that the person reading your resume will understand the terminology you are using, avoid using jargon in your resume. Gear your resume toward recruiters rather than an immediate hiring manager, because the human resources associates are usually the first to scan your resume. You should showcase your knowledge of a particular field through your education and experience; thus, jargon doesn’t have any place on your resume. In addition, avoid using too many “big words.” Don’t hide behind your vocabulary; making your resume overbearing is sure to lose the interest of your employer. Use the action words that are relevant to your career level.

4. Do not list your personal web site. As a rule, do not include your personal web site if it contains your photo or other photos that may be viewed as inappropriate, if it contains jokes (even if they are clean jokes), or your blog. In other words, if the site you have is entirely for personal purposes, you are best leaving it off your resume. Only include a link to your web site if the pages are set up to showcase your professional portfolio, a copy of your resume, reference letters, presentations, photos taken for professional use, or your web development skills.

5. Do not have any typos. The most important factor in achieving a winning resume is proof reading. You want to put your best foot forward. If your resume contains grammar and spelling problems, your potential employer will get an impression that you are not detail-oriented. It is hard to proof a document you have been working on so closely – use spell check (but be ware, it will not catch everything), ask your friends for help, meet with a career counselor. Do your best to present the most polished resume to your potential employers.

Keep it short – resume length guidelines

One of the main questions asked about resumes is, “Do I have to include everything on one page?” The most common misconception of resume writing is that your entire professional history has to fit within one 8 ½”x11” page of white paper. The truth is, the resume should be well written and concise, and should promote your qualifications in the best possible light. This is sometimes impossible to do in one page. Thus, a resume can extend to multiple pages, with some consideration depending on your career level.

• Be concise. This is critical. Do not use lengthy sentences and paragraph forms to disclose your experience and your education. Employers want straight forward statements that highlight your qualifications. A resume is not a place to show your creative writing skills.

• Perfect your resume. You have second to catch your potential employer’s attention. Make sure that your resume is properly formatted, and you are not trying to fit too much copy on a single page of paper. Create appropriate and professional sections for your resume. Your potential employer is more concerned with the look and content of your resume than with its length.

• Longer is not better when you don’t have the experience to meet your career objective. If you are new to the job market, are changing careers, or you’ve only had one job, stick to a one page resume. If you don’t have the experience to meet your career objective, no matter the reason, do not apologize for it. Don’t try to fill up your resume with irrelevant content; instead do your best to highlight your transferable skills, and stick to the “short and sweet.”

• Unless you are applying for an executive-level job, or are composing curriculum vitae, your resume should not exceed two pages. The purpose of a well-written resume is to sell you as the best candidate for the job with a confident and a straight-forward approach. Do not oversell your skills. Do not list more than three to five previous positions you’ve help. Stick to those skills and experiences that best meet the job requirements and your career objective. The most relevant information has to be included on the first page. The second page should be numbered, with your contact information included as well (just in case the pages are separated when printed, you don’t want your potential employer to discard the second page of your resume completely). If you find yourself going over two pages, review your resume and make sure that you are not incorporating information that is irrelevant to your goals or to the position you are seeking.

• Make sure that your professional history warrants a resume that is three pages or longer. As mentioned above, unless you are a senior- or executive-level professional, or you are composing curriculum vitae, your resume should not extend to over two pages. If you have a longer resume, you will have to make sure that every statement on the resume is applicable to your career goals. If you have had decades of leadership experience for example, demonstrate that using the reverse chronological resume style and only list those jobs that best qualify you for the position you are seeking. If you need to include an extensive list of publications or certifications, your resume can take up more than three pages. Make sure that the important information is still listed on the first page. This includes your career objective and professional profile, and your current or most recent professional experience. All subsequent pages need to be numbered, and include your contact information in the heading.

Three things to make your resume unique

A resume is a one- to two-page document summarizing your career objectives, professional experiences and achievements, and educational background. To stand apart from other candidates, you should consider the information in your resume carefully and make sure that it is personal to you. Here are three tips on making your resume unique to you:

1. Customize your career objective. Think of your whole resume as a sales tool; your career objective is your opening statement. You want your employer to know what you want, not just restate what other people want. State your commitment to your career goal. If you are unsure of what you want, how is your employer to believe that you really want the job at their organization and you are not just applying because you want to get out of your current work environment? Don’t be afraid to state what you want from a job and from an organization. While you want to state your commitment, you also want to show that you are willing to take action to achieve your goal. Indicate what direction or action you are willing to take in order to accomplish your career objective. Lastly, be specific about what you are looking for in a work situation. While you can say that you are looking for a “challenging” environment, this doesn’t mean anything to your employer, as people define challenges in various ways. Avoid using generic and broad terms. Simply state what you want, and what you are willing to do to get it.

2. Highlight the best elements of your experience. This is the most commonly missed aspect of writing a resume. The entire professional experience section on your resume is unique to you. Take advantage of that. Use power words to list your responsibilities, and make sure that you have a winning attitude in each of statement. Focus on those responsibilities that best describe the skills you acquired while in each job that make you the most qualified candidate for the position you are seeking. Quantify your responsibilities when possible to showcase to your potential employer that you are drive by results and are capable of exceeding goals. Don’t be shy about promoting your qualifications – you earned them with your hard work and dedication.

3. Personalize your cover letter. The biggest mistake professionals make is not spending any time on their cover letter. Your cover letter should receive the same attention as your resume as they go hand-in-hand. Address your cover letter to the appropriate person at the company (contact info is typically listed in the job description). Make sure to mention what position you are applying for, and demonstrate how the information in your resume aligns well with the job requirements. Your cover letter also allows you to address any information in your resume that may raise questions – take the time to do so, as you don’t want your resume discarded because you chose not to create a personalized cover letter. Overall make sure that your cover letter supports your resume and presents you as the most qualified candidate for the job.

Top 5 common resume mistakes and how to avoid them

If you have ever tried to write a resume, for yourself or for someone you know, you are already familiar with the fact that this is not an easy task to take on. So much information goes into a resume; from your career objective to the list of your qualifications, your resume should be personal, convey confidence and set your best foot forward in order to impress a potential employer. However, creating a winning resume is not easy. The following are the most commonly made mistakes in resume composition:

• Including references to personal web sites.

You may wonder why referencing a personal web site may be a mistake. What if you have a sample of your graphic design work on your site that you want your potential employer to see? It sounds like a great idea, if the site you are referencing only has work-related information available. Many people make a mistake of including their personal web sites that may contain information potential employers may find irrelevant (and now you are wasting their time) or inappropriate.

As a rule, do not include your personal web site if it contains your photo or other photos that may be viewed as inappropriate, if it contains jokes (even if they are clean jokes), or your blog. In other words, if the site you have is entirely for personal purposes, you are best leaving it off your resume.

Include a link to your web site if the pages are set up to showcase your professional portfolio, a copy of your resume, reference letters, presentations, photos taken for professional use, or your web development skills.

• Using very small fonts in order to get everything to fit on one page.

One of the most common challenges is creating a resume that formats well on a single page. As a rule, a resume should not exceed two pages. However, in recent years, it has become commonplace for professionals to change jobs frequently, and listing all the experiences, in addition to your career objective, education, qualifications and references, can certainly take up a lot of space.

Do not use a small font in order to fit everything into your resume. There is not a single area in your resume that should have a font size of less than 10 points. Keep in mind the font type you are using – stick to the basics, Arial and Times New Roman are your best bet. Instead of changing the font size, review and revise your resume to make your statements more concise.

• Incorrect company/school listings.

The biggest mistake people make, without realizing that they are making it, is not referring to the past employers and/or the school(s) they’ve attended by their full names. Do not use variations of company and school names. Don’t use abbreviations unless they are in fact part of the name. If you have attended New York University, list the complete name, not just NYU (even though it’s commonly known and your employer will likely recognize it). You don’t want to appear sloppy or as if you don’t pay attention to details.

• Lengthy paragraphs describing your experiences.

To list the responsibilities you’ve had in your past professional experience, you are best off using bullet points that begin with action verbs, such as managed, developed, etc. You do not need to use full sentences, and you certainly do not need to use the paragraph format. This makes the information in your resume overwhelming and difficult to review quickly. Make your statements brief and clear; don’t add words to fill in space.

• Typos.

The most important factor in achieving a winning resume is proof reading. You want to put your best foot forward. If your resume contains grammar and spelling problems, your potential employer will get an impression that you are not detail-oriented. It is hard to proof a document you have been working on so closely – use spell check (but be ware, it will not catch everything), ask your friends for help, meet with a career counselor. Do your best to present the most polished resume to your potential employers.

Prioritizing job descriptions in your resume

The most difficult and time consuming section of any resume is the listing of your work experience, no matter the level you have reached in your professional career. If you have just graduated college and don’t have any full-time professional experience, you are concerned if your part time job and summer internship are enough to get your foot in the door. If you are a seasoned professional with extensive work experience, you are worried how to fit all of your hard work on only one page. If you are changing careers, you are unsure which skills best showcase your qualifications. Listing work responsibilities on our resumes doesn’t get easier as our career progresses. The key is to consider your career objective and prioritize your work in accordance to your goals.

When people are asked about work responsibilities, they have a tendency to disclose the routine items first. This method can be a costly mistake for listing your professional experiences on your resume because it leaves all of the important and key qualifications at the bottom of the list. To avoid falling into this practice, first put together a list of your responsibilities on a sheet of paper. For your initial draft, don’t worry about how you are phrasing each statement – just make a list of everything that you do in your current or have done in your previous jobs.

Once your list is completed, consider all of the responsibilities you have included. What are the three most important items on the list for each job? How do those items relate to your career objective? Are there any other responsibilities you have listed that better support your career objective than the three you picked as the most critical to your job? You have to consider all these questions in order to prioritize your job descriptions on your resume.

Begin each description with a power word, such as managed, developed, communicated, etc. Make sure that the statements you list first quantify your achievements – don’t be afraid to list sales figured, customer acquisition rates, budget and timeline successes, or any other figures which help put your responsibilities in a context of the business/field you are working in. Also, these statements should be aligned with your career objective. If you want to get a job in project management, letting your employer know that you managed a team of 20 people will effectively highlight your qualifications. It is important to quantify your job description statements on your resume; however, as a word of caution, do not quantify all statements, just one or two that are most critical to your job and are goal driven. This shows your employer that you think in terms of exceeding your goals. All subsequent descriptions of your responsibilities should support the first one or two items on your list.

Prioritizing doesn’t only apply to your job descriptions, although it is the most commonly disregarded element in this particular area of the resume. Achievements and qualifications are often misrepresented because they are not ordered properly. Same rules apply – consider which of your achievements and your qualifications are most complimentary to your career objective, and list them first. For example, if you are applying for a job in customer service, list your communication skills before your computer skills. While both are important, your communication skills are more in line with your career objective, and therefore should take priority.

As a final test, put yourself in the shoes of your employer. Cross-check the job description and make sure that you address the qualifications required for the job with the information on your resume. Let your potential employer know you have what they are looking for, and you’ll be sure to make a great impression.

Importance of honesty and originality in the world of resumes

Your resume, in addition to listing your professional experience, education and qualifications, is a reflection of who you are. When you take the time to compose your resume well, make sure that there are no errors or gaps that would raise questions, and highlight the qualifications that present you as the best candidate for the job, you show your employer that you are a polished, detail-oriented professional. In addition to having your professional life presented in the best light, you want to make sure that your resume and your cover letter showcase your ethics and your sincerity. This is a difficult task, as it is hard to convey honesty and your good intentions in a form letter and a resume. But many employers hold a strict no tolerance policy against dishonesty. Thus, you have to take extra care in making sure that all of the information on your resume is authentic and truthful. Intentional lies on a resume are not acceptable. However, there are certain areas of your resume may cause you to unintentionally list incorrect information. Pay attention to the following aspects of your resume to assure that you don’t find yourself appearing untruthful to your potential employer:

– List your exact title under professional experience. Many professionals have titles that are company specific and may not make sense outside of the organization where they work. Always list your exact title, but feel free to add a few words that explain what you do in the realm of the industry. This way, when your potential employer calls your employer for a reference check, they will confirm your exact title but also know the scope of your position as it applies outside of that specific organization.

– When in doubt, don’t guess. For example, if you are unsure when you started or ended a job because it has been a long time since you worked for that company, simply call the company and ask about your employment dates. Do not make assumptions about dates, titles of your references or their contact information, certification dates, etc. Always take time to verify the information you are unsure about before including it on your resume.

– Don’t cover up your employment gaps. It is ok to have gaps in your employment; most professionals have gaps in their experience for various reasons. Do not try to hide this from your potential employers. Address the gaps in your work history in your cover letter, and be honest regarding the reasons you were not working during a specific time.

– Be honest about your accomplishments. Rather than worrying about the qualifications you may not have, be confident and highlight your work experience and achievement in a truthful manner. Do not exaggerate skills, professional roles, or stretch the employment dates. Work on presenting yourself and your qualifications in the best possible light; take the time to quantify your accomplishments, and compose a positive professional summary for your resume.

Revise your resume until you feel comfortable that all the information included is truthful and will not raise any questions by the employer that you have not addressed in the resume or the cover letter. The rule is – be honest on your resume. Don’t break that rule.

Cover letter must haves

Before we discuss what your cover letter should contain in order for the employer to take notice and review your resume, it is critical that understand the importance of having a cover letter. The most commonly made mistake in resume submissions is not including a copy of your cover letter. If you are emailing your resume, the cover letter can be included in the body of the email, or attached (although employers typically prefer no attachments in email submissions). If you are faxing or mailing your resume, assure that the cover letter comes before the resume. Omitting a cover letter from your job application appears unprofessional to your potential employer; having a well-written, personalized cover letter allows the employer to get an insight into who you are, how you communicate and how you present yourself as a professional.

Here are some great tips on composing a winning cover letter to accompany your resume:

– Address the letter to the appropriate person. The biggest mistake professionals make is not taking the time to address their cover letter to the appropriate person, such as the recruiter or the hiring manager. Take the time to address your cover letter to the appropriate person; if the job description does not include a person as a contact, take queue from the text and address the letter to the team listed as the contact. Using generic lines, such as “To whom it may concern,” is not acceptable on a cover letter.

– Know what the goal of your cover letter is and express it clearly, and concisely. Sell yourself in the best possible light; make sure that you sound confident professional in your cover letter. Concentrate on the positives, and highlight those qualifications that make you a perfect candidate for the job. Even if you are insecure in your qualifications, or feel that you may be slightly under-qualified for the job, put your best foot forward.

– Customize your cover letter to the position you are applying for. It is very important that your cover letter address why you are the best person for the job you are seeking. This includes indicating the job title in the cover letter. Generic statements, or statements indicating that you are interested in any open position with the company, make you appear unprofessional and unprepared.

– Answer these two questions: why do you want this particular job, and what can you do for the company? These two questions must be addressed in the cover letter in order to let your employer know that you are serious about your interest, that you have considered the opportunity and how it fits with your professional goals, and what you are willing to bring to the table in order to benefit the organization you want to work for.

– Proof your cover letter. Errors and misspellings leave a poor impression on the employer.

– Close the cover letter by indicating to your potential employer when you intent to follow up on your application. Do not end the letter with a statement that leaves it up to the employer to call you at their convenience. Let the employer know that you want to follow up, when and how you will do so. This confirms your interest in the position, and your professional etiquette. Note, you must follow up when and how you indicated on the cover letter.

What is a resume and why is it so important?

A resume is a one- to two-page document summarizing your career objectives, professional experiences and achievements, and educational background. The heading of the resume should contain your name, address and contact information. The body of the resume should be broken into the following sections: career objective, profile/summary, professional experience, achievements, scholastics, and references. Your career objective should be brief, up to two sentences; it should give your potential employers an idea of how you wish to move forward in your professional life. A concise profile or a summary should discuss who you are and how your skills and experience best apply to the job you are interested in. The summary, as well as other parts of your resume, should not contain personal information that discloses ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital status, age, living situations, or any other personal information that is not directly related to your career. Personal profile/summary should only contain a few well-written sentences that convey what you can bring to the table in terms of the specific job. Use this section to attract the employer’s attention, but don’t go overboard in trying to be creative – stay professional. Your experience listing should include information on one to five jobs you’ve held, starting with your current or last job, and listing previous positions in chronological order.

The listing should include the date range of your employment, name of the companies or person(s) you have worked for, and the city and state where the place of employment is located (full address of employment is not necessary). List your title and your main responsibilities, with emphasis on duties that are applicable to the type of work you are seeking. Your education should include college, graduate and post-graduate work, as well as any courses or professional certifications that are relevant to your career development. Achievements, volunteer positions, publications and interests should only be listed if they apply to your professional work experience References should be listed if requested; best practices suggest not to list generic statements about references being available upon request as this is understood.

In the competitive, internet-driven world of job searches, your resume represents you to potential employers. It serves as your tool to attract attention, get the interview and/or get a job. A great resume will make you stand out from other candidates by showcasing your aptitudes. Think of your resume as your sales pitch – you need to sell yourself in the best possible way. Invest some time and research into developing your resume. You will want to make sure that your resume is error free – double check your grammar and spelling, make sure that all company and school names and cities are spelled properly. A resume containing errors, no matter how minimal, will give your potential employer an impression that you do not have attention to detail, that you don’t take time to double check your work, and that you are a poor communicator. Additionally, make sure that your resume is formatted well. Stick to basic fonts, like Arial and Times New Roman. Keep the font size and color standard; don’t use large fonts or multi-colors in your resume. Don’t go overboard with bold, italicized, or large-cap text. Keep your format consistent and make sure that the resume looks great when viewed online as well as when printed out. Keep your resume to one or two pages – any additional pages give an impression that you either don’t know how to concisely summarize your education and experience, or that you are listing unnecessary information for the sake of taking up space. If you’ve never written a resume before, reference books, Internet resources or seek assistance from a professional resume writing service. A well-written resume can make a difference between being stuck at your current job and getting an interview to land the job of your dreams.