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What parts of a resume are most important for administrative work?

I was hired after doing a work study, but have a friend who isn't finding employment. He isn't sure what to add to his resume, or if certain sections should come first. #college #job-search #hiring

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Subject: Career question for you

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Kim’s Answer

Hi Tia!
Your friend is lucky to have you trying to help him out.


The top one third of a resume should have the reader "hooked." Education goes at the bottom: everyone has one these days, and it does not prove that you can actually "do" anything. Lead it off with a summary of qualifications. Write this section last, after writing the work history. It will be easier that way. It needs to be strong.


In writing the work history, try to prove that what you say is true. As an example, if you say you are good at math, it is stronger if you say that you tutor math students.


For an administrative assistant, the resume needs to reflect professionalism. It needs to be perfect. No typos, nice format, but don't go overboard with fancy fonts, etc. The free website, gotresumebuilder.com is an excellent tool. It will let you add/delete/rearrange/re-name sections, among other things.


The resume should let the reader know what you have done, what skills you bring with you, and the type of employee you will be. You cannot just say "computer proficient," as that does not tell them anything. If you created a spreadsheet to track inventory and generate re-orders, say so!
Also pay attention to any hints in the job description. For example, if it calls for good attendance, and you have previously received a good attendance award, say so in the summary "recognized for outstanding attendance."


oh, and please use bullets rather than paragraphs. It is much easier to read!


Best of luck to you and your friend!
Kim

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Stuart’s Answer

There are some guidelines to writing resumes, and a lot of freedom within those guidelines to present your information in the way that makes the most sense for 1) you and 2) the audience you're trying to reach. Here's one important rule: Relevance is key. What you say, how you say it, and WHERE you say it are all dependent on what's relevant to the position you're applying for and who your potential employer is. To be able to determine what's relevant, you need another important rule: Know your audience.


There aren't many hard and fast rules regarding what sections should go in what order. If your education is most relevant to the job you're aiming for, then that should go early on. If past work experience is relevant, then that should go earlier. And so on. If BOTH are relevant, I'd say that past work history takes precedence and should go first. As Ms. Igleheart said, you need to demonstrate what you've actually done. If your friend has experience doing administrative work, he should go into that in detail early on.


When I'm lecturing on resume writing in my class, I fold a sheet of paper over and show the top half. That's the space in which you have to say something compelling enough to get someone to keep reading. Remember that HR folks are generally going to be staring down a stack of resumes, and they're not going to spend an hour perusing each one. Your friend has to quickly create an impression. So he needs to ask himself what his strongest qualifications are for administrative work. Whether it's education, work experience, or skills, THAT'S what needs to appear early on.


I agree that a summary of qualifications should appear right away; right after contact information. I'd skip the Objective Statement in this case (though not always). Most people write very generic Objective Statements, meaning that they aren't saying anything, and they're pushing more compelling information further down the page, where it may never get read at all. "To contribute to an organization that will allow me to grow as a professional" doesn't tell them anything about you. More importantly, it doesn't tell them anything about what you can do FOR THEM.


I'd start with the job description personally. Look at the wording it uses. And then look for examples of that in your own background. Your friend needs to describe his past experiences in ways that are easily translated. If he helped to organize a school club, for instance, he needs to describe that experience in terms that sound like the job description. He needs to be specific and detailed. And he needs to speak to the benefit of his work to the organization.


Take restaurant work for an example. If you were describing that on a resume and you were trying to get administrative work, you'd want to emphasize things like customer service, multitasking, working under time constraints, etc. Those are translatable skills, equally applicable in an office environment.


One other thing I'd think about with first-time resume writers: Think about your experiences from an employer's perspective. If your friend uses Twitter and Facebook, for instance, those things may just be fun activities for him; but for an employer, that's social media outreach. It may be a skill set that current employees lack. Likewise, think about things like foreign languages. In my class, I constantly have to convince students that speaking a foreign language is a skill. It's difficult for them to parse that sometimes, because English was the skill they actually concentrated on learning; but, again, think of it from the employer's standpoint. What do you offer that could benefit them?


That's far from everything, but your friend needs to remember that resume writing is a process; a never-ending process. The best resumes are customized for each individual job listing. So your friend doesn't need to worry about writing "the perfect resume" right now. He needs to make incremental improvements.


Good luck to him. He's already fortunate to have you helping him out.

Thank you comment icon Hello Stuart, I'm also in the process of writing a resume, and I read many good points that I've never known before. For example, a lot of the times I had been putting my education first and my experiences and skills last. I also want to ask, does a resume need to be limited to one page only? If so, what are some tips on condensing your information? Thank you in advance. Anudari
Thank you comment icon Hi Anudari, I've answered your question in a separate response below. The comments section is limited to 800 characters, and it turns out I had too much to say. Have a look below. Thanks. Stuart Bowen
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Ken’s Answer

Here are some hints:


https://www.themuse.com/tags/resume


Best of luck!

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Stuart’s Answer

Hi Anudari,


Great question you asked in the comments section. And the answer is no, it doesn't need to be limited to one page. For most people, a two-page resume seems pretty reasonable. (If you're a PhD with pages and pages of publications and presentations, then your CV or curriculum vitae could easily run into the double digits for page count.)


More important than the page count, though, is the quality of the content. To me, the most helpful thing about a page count isn't an arbitrary magic number, but the emphasis it puts on really refining and distilling the information you include. If I write a resume that's two and a half pages, for instance, that arbitrary rule about two pages makes me go back and carefully reevaluate what I've written. Maybe I don't need that sentence. Maybe it's time to stop including that experience from college. And so on.


What I hopefully get at the end of that process is two pages of clear, concise, and (most importantly) directly relevant detail about my qualifications. So I'd encourage you, if you're going to "edit down" to a specific page count, to do so by carefully reviewing what you've written. Not by messing about with font sizes, margin widths, and other "tricks" like that.


If you've done that, though, and you feel strongly that what you have in terms of content is strong, then there are some formatting things you can do. They'll largely still come in the form of editing though. One of the things I do when I'm helping students with resumes is to look for any paragraph or line of text where there are just a few words on a line. If you can edit out a few words elsewhere in the paragraph, it will consolidate those few words and buy you an extra line on your resume. It sounds like a small thing, but if you can do that enough, your two-and-a-quarter-page resume becomes two solid pages. Visually it looks better, and you're not asking an HR rep to leaf through more than they really needed to. Remember, it's on YOU to get them to read your resume. Not on them to get through it all.


Remember what I said about getting as much relevant information to the reader as soon as possible? (The top half of page one) Another trick to help with that is your contact information. People tend to put their names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails all on separate lines. So immediately you've chewed up four or five lines of prime real estate, pushing your actual qualifications further away from where they're likely to be noticed. A better strategy is to make your contact information one line, with information separated in some way:


Name
Address | Phone number | Email address


So that's all the salient information on two lines. In fact, you might even skip your address all together. I've heard that suggested by HR reps as well. After all, it's 2016. You'll submit a resume electronically. An interested employer will contact you electronically. And the rejection notice, if it doesn't work out, will come electronically as well. So your mailing address is sort of needless at this point.


To summarize: 1) Edit for content. Make sure that what you have is the most distilled, concentrated version of your qualifications for that position. 2) Edit for formatting. "Pull" your information as far toward the top as you can.


Does that make sense?

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