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"A resume is not designed to get a job, it’s to land an interview"

Job Seeker's Toolbox



In this section:

Attention-Getting Resumes

Chronological and Functional Resumes

Cover Letters

Pre-Employment Testing

Interviewing Skills

Interview Accommodations


Attention-Getting Resumes

A Winning "Personal Ad"

One of the most important job search tools is the resume because it’s the vehicle by which a job seeker can communicate information that employers would want to know regarding the person’s qualifications for a job. It’s helpful to think of the resume as a "personal advertisement" – a tool for marketing a person’s abilities to employers.

The most important point about resumes is this: a resume is not designed to get a job, it’s to land an interview. It is very unlikely that an employer would hire a person based solely on information contained in their resume. The resume is therefore best used with one goal in mind—to capture the interest of the reader sufficiently to invite the job seeker to come in for an interview.

Resume Formats

There are two widely used formats for a resume, as well as formats that combine features of each. Following is a description of each format, suggestions for what information should be included, and recommendations for the appropriate use of each version.

Chronological Resume

A chronological resume lists the job seeker’s work experience in the order in which it happened beginning with the most recent job. If the person’s work history has been steady -- with no big gaps -- this is the usually the best format to use. This format does not work as well for job seekers who:

Functional Resume

A functional resume rearranges employment history into sections that highlight areas of skill and accomplishment versus progressive work history. This is usually the best format to use if:

For people with disabilities who may want to take advantage of the benefits of a functional resume, they must make it easy for employers to visualize the applicant’s overall work history and link accomplishment statements to it. It’s best NEVER to omit at least a bare-bones chronological listing of work experience in the functional resume.

The functional resume might be thought of as a "problem-solving" format; it gives a person the latitude to "make sense" of their work history and match up skills and accomplishments that might not be obvious to the employer in a traditional chronological format.

What should go on a resume?

The most important point to remember is that a resume is not a life history; it should contain just the important highlights of a person’s qualifications for a specific career or job. Here are the basic elements of a resume and suggestions for how to handle each component, based on what employers typically like to see on resumes.

Personal Vital Statistics

The most important information on the resume should be located right at the top: the job seeker’s name, address, phone number, and e-mail address (if applicable). Tip: don’t MYSTIFY the reader about your gender. If it isn’t readily apparent by your name whether you are a male or female, consider adding "Mr." or "Ms." in front of your name to be helpful. Many employers will appreciate not having to guess.

Statement of Career Objective

Perhaps the most common mistake of resume writers is leaving out their JOB OBJECTIVE! Many employers will make a decision whether to discard a resume or read further just based on the objective statement, so it’s vital to have a strong objective statement, that captures the reader’s attention! The best approach is to state in one or two sentences:

It’s best to avoid vague or "canned" statements, for example:
"Seeking a position with a progressive computer software company that will provide me an opportunity for advancement."

A better way to state it would be:
"Seeking a computer software sales position utilizing my education in computer programming, and my 5 years of proven expertise as a top-producer in selling business software applications to Fortune 500 companies".


How this information is presented depends on the job seeker’s level of education, the length of time that’s passed since it was completed, and how it’s relevant to the target job. If a person has just graduated, they should put the education right under the objective; otherwise it can be placed after work history, toward the end of the resume.

List dates that each degree or certificate was received, but not dates attended. Many people take a little longer than average to complete education programs, for a variety of reasons. The length of time it took to complete a program may raise questions in the employer’s mind about the person’s capabilities, so it’s usually best to just list completion dates, and not dates of enrollment.


Work Experience

Work experience should not be just about past jobs a person held – it should focus on how the applicant performed in past jobs -- which is a predictor of how they might perform in a future job. A few things to keep in mind:

Military Experience

Military experience may, or may not be relevant, but it is often viewed favorably by employers. When listing military experience, include:

Skills & Abilities

It may be worthwhile to dedicate a special section to skills and abilities to highlight relevant skills that would be valuable to the employer, but which aren’t readily apparent from other information on the resume. For example:


Participation in athletic competition may reflect valuable skills and traits so may be included to round out the picture of a person’s total qualifications. Listing athletics may also remove an employer’s fear about a person’s visible disability – if he or she can compete in sports then perhaps they can also take on the physical demands of the job. On the other hand, if the athletic experience was gained as part of a disability-related organization (such as Special Olympics), then it’s possible that mention of it may alert the reader to the job seeker’s disability, and may screen out the person based on prejudice or misinformation.

Community Activities

A person’s community activities may reflect positive attributes that an employer will consider valuable. For example, holding a leadership position in a well-known civic group could show that a person is willing to help other people, and has proven abilities in valuable skills such as fund-raising, teambuilding, and communications.

Caution: some people will make judgments based on the type of activities in which a person is involved. If an activity is related to a religious organization, a disability services agency, or to a political cause or party, it may provide a reason for a person to discriminate against the applicant, and thus screen them out of consideration for a job.

Honors and Awards

Awards for professional accomplishments, academic achievement, and community service are often viewed as good indicators of person’s character, abilities, and level of commitment. List honor awards in the order of relevance to the target job, and include a brief description explaining each award, when it was received, and who awarded it to you.


Most employers will request references before deciding to hire a person, but there are several options for providing references:

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This information was developed in partnership with the EmployABILITY program of the City of Los Angeles Community Development Department, created in collaboration with the Los Angeles City Workforce Investment Board, to create career empowerment for persons with disabilities.

Employability Partnership       Workforce Investment Board       Work Source California Building Business and Careers