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Norwegian Musings and Polish Thoughts

How to Write a Resume, Part I


Cascade Head -- Original Oil Painting by Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art

Writing a resume doesn't have to be a moanfully dreadful task, but it will take work and thought. Regardless of whether you are writing it for a specifically art-related event or for a job in general, the resume's central purpose is to tell a lot about you in a minimum of space.

People reviewing the resumes generally have a stack of them to wade through -- think English teachers over the weekend with student essays on What I Did This Summer -- and you want to make sure that yours doesn't get overlooked or set to the side because it is unattractive or difficult to read.

First and foremost, make sure that your name and contact information are prominently displayed on each page, generally at the top. Sounds obvious, doesn't it? It is amazing what people leave off, especially on the second page (if you are running more than a second page, then you are either an academic presenting a Curriculum Vitae, not a resume, or you are being remarkably long-winded -- surely you can shorten the story and get to the punchline).

On resumes I prepare, I like to head the page with the person's name in a larger size -- around 18-24 points depending on the font -- large enough so that it stands out, but not so grand that it shouts. This is the place to put titles or descriptions as well -- Steve Henderson -- Fine Artist, or Steve Henderson -- ASMA Signature Member -- anything pertinent that draws the eye and defines who and what you are.

As a personal preference, I generally place a line under the name, and below that line list as much and as varied of contact information that I can supply -- some people contact exclusively by e-mail; others prefer phone; still others write; if I have no way of knowing the preferences of the selection committee, I give them everything I have.

An important caveat: when you list phone numbers, make sure that A) you have some form of answering service in case you are unable to take the call and B) no child or inarticulate grunting person will be answering that phone. With e-mail, get a new address specific to professionalism if your existing one sounds puerile or tacky, i.e., HotMamaEasyRider@yougochick.com.

Regarding what font you use, start by taking a deep breath before you peruse the options at your disposal. Always keeping  in mind that a good resume presents a lot of information in a minimum of space and is easy to read and understand, skip over the Olde English Script, beautiful as it is, and give the chiseled Egyptian hieroglyphics a toss.

Choose a maximum of two fonts: one for headings and titles, the other for text. It's fine to get by with one, differentiating your headings and titles from the text by putting the former in bold and a larger type, but if you do opt for two distinct fonts, make sure that they are reasonably different; I like a sans serif like Arial or Franklin Gothic for my headers, and Times New Roman is my perennial favorite for text. More than two fonts starts to be too many ingredients for potato soup; it's possible, but it can be vaguely irritating to the reader.

And remember this: there is no Resume Police, and you are no longer writing essays for Mrs. Polansky, your uptight, anal English teacher (why are they always English teachers?) who marked you down if your margin spaces weren't just so and if you used that horrible phrase, "the fact that . . ."

Your purpose in writing the resume is not to get an A out of Mrs. Polansky's class but to stand out in the stack -- so rules are soft, but the primary unbreakable one is to make sure that everything you do contributes to your resume being easy to read and understand. If you can, say, creatively and clearly incorporate a number of fonts, by all means do so, but the difference they make in clarity and efficiency is probably minimal at best. You can spend your time more wisely by finessing what you actually say -- your skills, background, experience, strengths, and abilities. 

Next week -- Part II -- What to Put in Your Resume
 








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