|Resume How To's|
Your resume is the first, and often only, chance to make a positive initial impression on a potential employer. Use these tips to make the most of yours!
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One Page or Two?
If you have less than 10 years of work experience your resume should always be one page, no more. When you've got more than 10 years of experience under your belt, your resume can progress to two pages long, but never more than that.
Your resume should never have references or anything else attached to it. Save all of that for other documents. Just one, simple, clearly written page does the trick.
Where does your education go? Where do you list your skills? Does the order matter?
The proper way to do a political resume is as follows: Your name and contact info at the top. Next comes your political work experience (that can include paid, volunteer or internships). Towards the bottom you list your education (unless you're still in school, in which case you can put it at the top). And at the very bottom you list any skills or activities that are worth mentioning for professional reasons.
Your contact info at the top should always have the following information: Name, Current Address, Cell Phone & Email Address. Make sure to use an appropriate email address. Email addresses like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org are unprofessional. If necessary, create a separate email account for professional correspondence - something like email@example.com.
Make sure that your cell phone and address listed are current. The address listed on your resume should be the place where you sleep and live.
While resume objectives were used frequently in the past, they are uncommon today. For most people, an objective is simply redundant and takes up valuable space that could be better spent on an accomplishment bullet point elsewhere on your resume.
Some people prefer to write their resume chronologically, and some people prefer to put their most pertinent information at the top and work backwards. Either is fine, and perhaps depends on where you are in your career and what kind of job you’re applying for.
If you’re applying for a job that requires a lot of fundraising experience, but most of your fundraising experience was 2-3 years ago, you may want to write your resume with those experiences first and work backwards on content.
Otherwise, chronologically is the best rule to go by. Most employers like to see your career path and how you've gotten to where you are at.
People have a tendency to simply list their tasks on their resume, and not their accomplishments, what they learned, or what they were exposed to. If you were a field organizer, you should specify in your resume how many volunteers you recruited, how many doors you knocked on, and how well you did in your area – do not simply list the fact that you phone-banked, canvassed and recruited volunteers.
Use numbers and percentages to stand out amongst other people who had your same job. If you can write that you increased turnout 2% from the last election in your county that shows you were a rockstar field organizer.
Unless you are currently in school, or have just graduated in the past month or two, your education should always be listed after you work experience. In politics, we care more about your political experience than where you got your degree.
When listing education we only need to know a few things: College/University attended, Graduation year, Major(s), and possibly any study abroad experiences if the job you’re applying to makes that pertinent. No need for GPA, relevant courses or extra curricular activities.
Having a section at the bottom of your resume where you list any skills you have can be quite important. Skills include knowledge of tangible things like LexisNexis, political toolsets like Aristotle, Blue State Digital, Catalist, NGP, Salsa Labs and VAN, or knowing HTML. Skills do not include general things like "organizational skills" or "strategic thinking" - those you show within your resume in your experience.
You don’t need to list Microsoft Word, Powerpoint or Excel – everyone knows how to use Word. The only time you should list something like this is if you have expert knowledge of Excel and are applying for a job that has this requirement.
Also, don’t list things like "Research skills" or "Organizational Skills" – that doesn’t really tell employers anything specific, and everyone says they have organizational skills.
NEVER LIE. Political professionals have extensive personal and professional networks, so assume that before you even get an interview that someone will call around and check references. If your title was not GOTV Director for the Candidate X campaign in 2010, don't say it was. Employers will find out, and your resume will be chucked in the garbage can.
When writing or updating your resume, edit it. And edit it again. And one more time.
Every week employers see dozens of resumes whose authors proclaim they're "very attentive to detael." When an employer receives a large number of resumes, those with misspellings and grammar errors are usually the first ones to be tossed aside.
Use spell check, but don't rely on it exclusively. Have a friend, or five, look it over to make sure it makes sense and is clearly written. If you're applying for a job where you should stress your ability to do fundraising, go back to your resume and edit it to make sure that your experience raising money is highlighted throughout your resume.
A few general rules on formatting resumes:
Naming Your Resume
There is only one way to name your resume - 'Your Name Resume' - that can be 'Joe Smith Resume' or Smith, Joe Resume' but that's it.
Many professionals have two or more resumes that are geared to different types of "political" work. For example, you might have a "Campaign" resume and an "Advocacy" resume. That is all fine - but make sure it says "Joe Smith Resume' before you send it over.
Never cut-and-paste the text of your resume in to the body of an email. Send your resume as a separate document attached to the email.
Make sure your resume is saved as a Microsoft Word or PDF file. Keep in mind that a PDF can guarantee that the person opening your resume sees the same thing that you see on your screen, unlike some versions of Word.