Academic journal article Bulletin of the Association for Business Communication

Resume Content and Format - Do the Authorities Agree?

Academic journal article Bulletin of the Association for Business Communication

Resume Content and Format - Do the Authorities Agree?

Article excerpt

Getting a job is an involved process. One part of the process is the preparation of a resume. Even though the resume's primary function is simply to obtain an interview for the writer, it is a major instrument which aids in determining who will get the job.

According to Weinstein (1993), AT&T and IBM receive over 1 million resumes a year, and Johnson & Johnson gets 300,000. During the peak recruiting period of November through April, many large companies receive an average of 1,000 resumes per week. Weinstein also found that 45 seconds is the average time it takes employers to read a standard resume. With these numbers, students have to do an exceptional job of creating their resumes so that their documents will get noticed.

In order to produce an effective resume, it is important for students to know exactly what information should be included (and should not be included) and what it should look like.


A review of literature was conducted to determine what information should and should not be included on a resume and the importance of the overall appearance of the resume. A study reported in the Delta Pi Epsilon Journal (Ober & Wunsch, 1991) was used to determine which business communication textbooks to use in the study. Seven of the books listed in the article (those which included a section on resume writing) were used for the study (Brantley & Miller, 1994; Harcourt, Krizan, & Merrier, 1991; Himstreet, Baty, & Lehman, 1993; Lesikar, 1991; Locker, 1992; Thill & Bovee, 1991; Wolf & Wolf, 1994). The Bonner (1992) and Ober (1992) books were also included because the researchers were using them in their classes. A total of nine books was reviewed.

An article by Harcourt, Krizan, and Gordon (1989) divided resume content information into three categories: essential, optional, and should be omitted. Using this study as a foundation, the resume information from the textbooks was tabulated.

For the purposes of this study, the researchers developed a list of all items specifically mentioned in the nine textbooks and then categorized those items as to whether the authors specified the information as essential, optional, or to be omitted. The items on this list were then grouped in ten broad sections for tabulation (identification, formal training, academic achievements, college activities, work experience, references, personal information, personal initiative, high school, and miscellaneous).

To compare agreement among the textbooks, the items were also categorized according to how many times the nine books agreed on the items in the 10 sections: all agreed (9 out of 9 textbooks), a majority agreed (5-8 out of 9), less than half agreed (3-4 out of 9), and very few agreed (0-2 out of 9).


The first resume section reviewed was the identification section, which included name, address, and telephone number. All authors specifically mentioned these items and, of course, agreed that this was essential information, as seen in Table 1.

Table 1

                Textbooks Citing the Item (N = 9)
Items              9       5-8      3-4     0-2

Name               X
Address            X
Phone number       X

Formal training was the next category reviewed. This section included all training acquired through formal postsecondary institutions. According to Table 2, listing one's college major on the resume was the only item that all nine textbooks agreed upon. The majority agreed that the degree received, date of graduation, and college name should be included. Less than half recommended that the college address, years attended, minor, and courses taken in college should be given. Very few stated that students should list equipment knowledge; foreign language competencies; licenses and certifications; computer keyboarding skill; computer languages; cooperative education, internships, or study abroad; and summer school taken for extra credit outside major and/or extra coursework that allowed for early graduation. …

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