My resume is for technical positions (I’m an engineer) so it may differ from the standard form for more touchy-feely types. Also, I haven’t really worked on the resume or had any reason to send it out for the past few years, so I may be “out of style” with what’s hip and cool, but whatever; I like the format that I use and don’t really intend to change it, regardless.
I list secondary (college) degrees and professional training first, then a brief bulleted listing of specific skills that I know are of interest to particular employers (specificially, skill with CAD/structural modeling/engineering analysis codes, as well as programming skills and operating system experience), followed by a listing of positions each listing three or four major responsibilities or accomplishments. I used to try to keep this all to one page, but it’s leaked over to two, so I went ahead and spaced it out to even out the whitespace and mostly fill the second page, which also makes it look uncluttered. (Plus, I figure the earlier positions are less relevent to prospective employers.)
Owning to the unstable industries I’ve worked in previously I have had a series of jobs every year or two and thus consolidate everything under one title, even if my title may have changed a couple of times. If you’ve had several positions over a span of multiple years, you’ll want to list out each position seperately. Hit the highlights, but don’t go into too much detail, as it becomes repetative and the interviewer probably has several candidates and only a limited amount of time to devote to reading each one. Once you get to the interview stage, you’ll presumably get a better feel for what specific experience the interviewer is looking for and you can emphasize those points at that time.
I don’t provide any information prior to college; starting out I listed various jobs I had in school (which were technical, but not strictly in my field); since then, I just list post-graduate jobs. I don’t bother with biographical information, and there’s just a line at the bottom stating “References by request.” They’ll no doubt indicate to you what they expect in terms of references, but be prepared for three professional, three personal. The professional references are more important (who the hell is going to give a bad personal reference?) but make sure they all know to expect a call and what you type of job you’re interviewing for.
I use plain white heavy bond paper, but I do print a watermark of a couple of gears, sufficiently faint that it doesn’t reproduce in faxes, but dark enough to be seen. I think it’s gotten my resume a second glance on a number of occasions–interviewers have frequently mentioned it–but obviously it’s not a deciding factor for anyone.
Although most interviewers I’ve talked to clearly haven’t read the cover letter (and many HR people say they just rip them off and toss them) I’d still attach one; it shows that you made an effort to address this job in particular rather than just shotgunning a resume out to all and sundry. Keep it short, and I wouldn’t reiterate information that is going to be on your resume anyway, except in passing; three or four paragraphs and the minimal research to say something positive about your interest in the job is appropriate. Remember to keep something in reserve for your post-interview followup letter so you can tell them how you’d be a good fit because of your blah-blah-blah being in concert with their fwingdoogle. A followup isn’t going to make the difference if you’re not in the top selection, but if there are several equal candidates it may very well put you over the top, especially if you can express an understanding of what the interviewer wanted or remind them how you fit a particular need.
Good luck to you in your job hunt,