Fifteen Ways to Create a Better Entry-level Resume

You need to have an attention-grabbing resume that is easy to read and straight to the point.

Your impression starts the minute the oral board encounters something related to you. One of the key things you can do to be able to make a positive impression is to have a powerful, attention-grabbing resume that is short, easy to read, and straight to the point.

Many of us probably cringe at the thought of having to provide a resume, or update a resume for an upcoming interview or application process. Producing and keeping your resume updated doesn't have to be that difficult or stressful. A properly prepared resume can distinguish you from other candidates as well as showcase the knowledge, skills, and abilities that make you the best fit for the position.

Basic Resume Tips:

1. Keep it to one page -- unless you are competing for a chief officer position (and you have over 10 years of specific experience to the field that you're applying for) -- you don't have that much that can't be squeezed onto one page. If it can't fit on one page, it probably isn't important enough or relevant enough to be on there. When I took my captain's oral interview, I had a one-page resume. It was tough to squeeze everything on there (and have to leave things out), but I made it work. I received a 100 percent score on my oral interview, so I guess a one-page resume didn't hurt me.

2. A 12-point font size is suggested for text. I've seen ones that are in nine-point and 10-point font (as well as 18-point font). Twelve-point font size is standard for text -- anything smaller and people are going to strain their eyes, anything larger is going to be obnoxious. Usually the people reviewing your resume are not just fresh out of college. They usually have some experience behind their belts and with experience comes declining eye site. How are you going to keep someone's attention if they have to strain to read your writing?

3. Keep it short, sweet, to the point, and leave plenty of open space to distinguish between things you want to stand out. If you're writing more than two to three lines of text in a row, it is going to read like a paragraph. People reviewing resumes usually don't have time to read novels - they want one to two lines that are separated by open space, maybe accented with bullets or other objects, and pleasing to the eyes. Think about it, if you hand out an updated resume when you walk into the room. If you write paragraphs, there is the tendency they will not see key points (because all the words blend together after a while) and that they will miss things. Even if they had the time to review the one you turned in with your application, they usually don't have more than a minute or two to read it - that is why it is important to be short and sweet, making things stick out and be noticeable.

4. Make sure you keep it from being boring -- many resumes are plain, difficult to read, and will put the reader to sleep. Use type sets such as uppercase, sentence case, bold, underline, italics, in addition to just the plain old regular computer print. Alternating type sets will help the reader distinguish and pick out certain things about you and what you have to offer, while also ensuring that certain things about you are highlighted.

5. If you're not updating your resume at least once a month, you're probably not doing as much as you can to prepare yourself to become a firefighter. Updates can include additional education or training, another relevant certificate, more hours of community service/volunteer time, etc.

6. If you are going to bring a resume to the interview (updated resume or initial resume), I would suggest bringing at least seven resumes with you. I had an entry-level interview once with seven oral board members. Talk about intimidating. Most oral boards usually only have three to five members on them, but how would you feel if you only had five resumes and there were six people in front of you? What are you going to do now? Only pass out five of them and leave one person in the cold? How do you think that person is going to score you? I bet you would be embarrassed and it would potentially make you so nervous that you screwed up that you would not do as well as you should.

This content continues onto the next page...