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How to Make a Resume

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Remember, your resume is your selling tool that you will be using to land an interview. You need to make sure that it is polished and professional. Good luck in your job hunt!
Remember, your resume is your selling tool that you will be using to land an interview. You need to make sure that it is polished and professional. Good luck in your job hunt!
===Further Reading===
<li><a href="https://templates.office.com/en-us/Resumes-and-Cover-Letters">Office.com</a> offers free resume and cover letter templates
<li><a href="https://www.themuse.com/advice/43-resume-tips-that-will-help-you-get-hired">TheMuse</a> 43 resume tips
<li><a href="http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/">Penelope Trunk</a> personal blog offering career advice
<li><a href="http://www.danpink.com/books/drive/">Drive</a> Daniel H. Pink book about what motivates workers
<li><a href="https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1591843170/">Purple Cow</a> Seth Godin book covering how to be remarkable
<li><a href="http://www.calculators.org/savings/wage-conversion.php">Calculators.org</a> offers an interactive tool to convert salaries and wages across different periods of time
<li><a href="http://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation/">Kalzumeus</a> offers an in-depth guide to salary negotiations
<li><a href="http://www.linkedin.com/">LinkedIn</a> career-focused social network

Revision as of 04:57, 26 September 2016

How to Write a Resume that Shines

  1. What is the Purpose of Your Resume? Understanding the Function
  2. How to Create a Resume that is Easy to Read
  3. Decide How to Present Your Qualifications
  4. Create a Master List for Your Resume
  5. Resume Length and Content Standards
  6. How to Customize Your Resume
  7. Editing, Revising, and Getting Feedback
  8. 10 Resume Killers to Avoid
  9. Some Final Words of Inspiration
  10. Citations


Are you faced with the challenge of putting together a resume that will impress any prospective employer? Maybe you’ve already put together a resume and you don’t know why you haven’t heard back from any prospective employers. Don’t take it personally; they don’t even know you. It may be your resume that is the problem.

The truth of the matter is that most resumes don’t even get read within the 20 seconds that a potential employer takes to scan the resume and decide if it goes in the “keep” pile or the “discard” pile. Your resume must shine during that moment. You must be articulate and consistent. By investing time in the process of making a resume, you will see the response rate of your job search increase.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae? What’s the Difference…

First, it’s important to understand what these two terms mean. Most of us have heard of a resume. It’s standard practice in the U.S. to have a resume for jobs that are career-orientated; however, the curriculum vitae can be a point of confusion for some. What is the difference? If there is a difference, when is it appropriate to use one instead of the other?

Typically, a resume is not as long or involved as Curriculum Vitae (CV). When we look at the Latin origins of the word—the course of one’s life or career—a lengthier presentation is essentially implied.

A resume is a brief summary of your skills, experience, and education. A CV is more detailed, presenting your educational background, awards, honors, publications, and affiliations in detail.

Normally, a CV is used in the U.S. for academic jobs or fellowships and grants. You may also need a CV for a job that is scientifically related or considered a research position. When applying for a job in Europe and other parts of the world, you may want to check to see what the norm. In many cases, a CV may be preferred over a resume.

For our purposes today, we will focus on the standards for resume writing.

What is the Purpose of Your Resume? Understanding the Function

Before you do anything, let’s do an exercise. Sit down and take a moment to envision what the perfect job for you would be. Keep these things in mind:

  • What type of job are you looking for? This could be anything, but later we will discuss the importance of writing your resume with keywords and descriptive titles that reflect the job that you are applying to. So be very specific in the position that you desire.
  • What type of company do you see yourself working at? Is it big or small, public or private? .
  • How will you use the skills that you have acquired in your past at your dream job? .

Now your resume has a starting point that you can brainstorm from. Once you have a vision of what you are going after, you can then write your resume for that position, as well as omit information that doesn’t apply. It’s important to tailor your resume to the job that you are going after. Too many times, a resume is developed as a blanket resume, but attract the attention that it needs for the specific position that you are applying to. We don't live in a one-size-fits all world, and neither should your resume.

Creating a Purposeful Resume

Let’s say that you are currently a programmer for a large public company such as Wal-Mart, and you are applying for a job to Amazon and a smaller company that sells retail clothing. Both resumes should look slightly different even though you are applying to be a programmer at each place. Amazon may focus more on the types of programs that you enjoy using and your experience with eCommerce, while the other might focus on your ability to create and track programs on the retail end. Nevertheless, you are qualified for both, but the angle that you create will be pivotal to consideration for both jobs.

You will need to research what your potential employer is looking for. There are certain keywords or buzzwords that may be industry specific and shows that you have a working knowledge of the profession.

As you develop your resume to a specific job, it is important to do your research. The Internet can be a great resource for searching for examples of public resumes, but keep in mind that not all of these are ideal. Get a good book at the library or gather your information from authorities on resume development, too. You could get some good ideas by looking at colleague’s resumes—you could also pick up some bad practices.

After doing a little research, you should have a better idea of what your potential employer will be looking for. As we said earlier, you don’t want to create a “one-size-fits-all” resume, but there are some types of professional behavior that really stand out in general:

  • Listening skills
  • Good communication
  • Working well with a group (team player)
  • Highly motivated
  • Reliable
  • Confident
  • Efficient
  • Goal setting
  • Organizational skills
  • Following directions

How to Create a Resume that is Easy to Read

This is also referred to as scan-ability or readability by some professionals, meaning you want to create a resume that someone can look at in a glance and tell what it is about. This is different from a “scannable” resume, which usually refers to a resume that can be scanned by computers and sent to appropriate potential employers and agencies.

Our main objectives are to:

  • Make it concise.
  • Keep the tone positive and interesting.
  • Create a presentation that is easy to read.

The Concise Resume

If there are any mandatory elements to a resume, it would probably be to keep it brief and concise. Avoid having to offer an explanation about what you are writing, but also remember that you can be more explicit when you land the interview. Keep it crisp and to the point. Keep away from appearing too wordy, stuffy or formal. At the same time, don’t come across as conversational or informal. Find a place that you are comfortable with in between these two extremes.

Most people choose to eliminate any first or second person pronouns. If necessary, third person is used. But the evolution of resumes has dictated that no matter how you choose to write it, maintain the same person and the same verb tenses. Action verbs are best to use when you write your resume, so make sure that the verb tense is consistent, too.

A Positive and Interesting Resume

It’s as simple as the basic principles behind the Law of Success in Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich, written in 1937 and still applies today. The words that you choose to use and your attitude say a lot about your business approach and success. You don’t want to focus on any of the things that you don’t like or weaknesses that you’ve noticed in yourself or in your industry. Pointing out negativity usually garners a negative response.

The Easy-to-Read Resume

How you choose to present your resume will determine how easy it is to read. Stay away from gimmicks and tricks that would make your resume “jump out” at someone. Generally, recruiters aren’t looking for anything that is unusual in the presentation. Stick with what is trusted. Anything that might be considered adventurous in the format, risks a negative reaction during the screening process.

Stick with the trusted standards in resume development. Even if you have a job that requires artistic expression or creativity, this can easily be displayed in your portfolio--for now, focus on simplicity.

Things that could deter the reader from the actual content of the resume include unusual fonts, printing on colored paper or low quality paper, and inconsistent formatting.


The fonts that you choose are in a resume. You don’t want to pick a font that your potential employer’s computer may not be able to read. Otherwise, your resume could turn up unreadable with a bunch of odd symbols and white space.

If you are trying to get hired by a place that is traditional in their approach, pick a font with serif (fonts with detailed strokes at the end such as Times New Roman). If the company is more modern, you may want to choose a sans serif font such as Arial, which is also known for being easier to read on the computer screen. You can avoid problems with fonts and printing altogether by converting your resume to a PDF when you send it.


Also, make sure that you make the font size somewhere around 10-12 pt. Any smaller will make the resume seem like you were trying to cram as much in as you possibly could in there and also make it harder for the employer to read (risking an automatic trip to the garbage bin). Any larger is really unnecessary.

Inconsistent Formatting

Try to stick with one type of font in your resume. A general rule of thumb is to keep your headlines in a sans serif font and your content in a serif font. Don’t be too generous with your use of italics and bolds. You want to make sure that you are using them to make a point. In most cases, assume that your reader is intelligent enough to understand the importance of what you are saying.

Helpful Reminder

You’d be surprised how many people forget to leave their contact information in an obvious place. List it clearly at the top with your name, address, city and state, zip code, phone number, email, and website if you have one.

"I find some in the bottom of the résumé or not in the cover letter," says Diane Borhani, head of U.S. campus recruiting at Deloitte & Touche, in a recent interview with Forbes magazine. "It's too much work to search, so we go on to the next résumé."

Decide How to Present Your Qualifications

You have a few different choices concerning how you will present your experience and qualifications on your resume. The approach that you take will depend upon your recent experience and the type of job that you are applying for. First we’ll go in-depth into the two main types of resumes that are commonly used: chronological and functional. Then we’ll talk about some variations on those two types including targeted, hybrid, and mini resumes.

Chronological Resumes

A chronological resume is also referred to as a reverse chronological resume because you list your most recent experience first. The location of where you acquired your skills and how will be highlighted. Most employers are used to receiving this type of resume. It allows them to quickly scan the prospect’s progression in a certain career field and to see if there are any gaps. A chronological resume usually includes the last 10 to 15 years of work history.

When a Chronological Resume Works Well

  • The name of the company that you worked for is well recognized in the industry.
  • You are applying to a field that is very traditional in its approach.
  • Your job titles and past job experience is solid and impressive.
  • You are planning on staying in the same career choice.

When Not to Use the Chronological Resume Style

  • You have a work history with big gaps of time in it and it appears sporadic and random.
  • Your places of employment change frequently.
  • You don’t have any direct experience in the present field that you are applying.

Functional Resume

A functional resume is also referred to as an experience resume because it focuses more on the experience and skills that you have, rather than your most recent job history. The bulk of the content in your resume will fall under specific capabilities in order to show relevance in the career field that the applicant is applying to. The chronological resume only briefly highlights these areas and concentrates on a timeline and growth during that time.

This type of resume is seldomly expected by employers unless it requires a very specific set of skills, but it works well for people that are seeking a job in a new field.

When a Functional Resume Works Well

  • Your employer only needs a quick overview of your accomplishments instead of a full length resume.
  • You want to highlight job experience that is from a long time ago.
  • You have taken a leave of absence from your chosen career field due to raising children or an illness.
  • You have a sporadic work history.

When Not to Use the Functional Resume Style

  • Your accomplishments are unclear.
  • You have a consistent and recent work history in the industry that you are applying to.
  • You are applying to a traditional company.

Alternative Resume Options

Combination Resume

If you find that your resume would benefit from a little bit of chronological order and a little bit of functional explanation, you may want to organize the resume in a hybrid version of the two known as a combination resume. Typically, this resume is used when the skills that are being sought-after, need to be elaborated on clearly. First the experience and skills that pertain to the job will be listed, and then the chronological employment history. There is one caveat with this type of resume because it can be a challenge to not repeat the same information in the chronological section.

Targeted Resume

This is a custom-made resume for the job that you are applying for. Essentially, you want to tweak every resume that you put out for the job that you are applying for, but there are some cases where it is well worth the concentrated effort. This is especially true if you feel like you are a perfect match for the job and want to make sure that you target the aspects that make you most qualified for the position. Many times this will resemble a functional resume.

Mini Resume

This is a short summary of your career highlights and qualifications. These work well at networking events and for the freelancer that meets a prospect unexpectedly and needs something right away.

Create a Master Guide for Your Resume

A Master Guide will serve as a quick reference point so that you can customize your resume to each job position in a short amount of time. Imagine how quick it will be to write or update a new resume when you have all of your starting and end dates in one document. Have you ever been through all of your paycheck stubs trying to figure out the exact date that will match with what your past employer will tell the recruiter? Problem solved with a Master List.

There are certain accomplishments and skills that might work better for different positions. For example, if you are asked to take on a project that will require that you are self-disciplined and good at managing your own time, it may be a good time to talk about the job that you had where you were the lone person in the office for the nightshift. But if you are required to present excellent teamwork skills, you may not want to emphasize this as much as the time that you led a full team of employees to meet budget and deadline.

Not only will this help showcase different areas of expertise, but it will also act as a way to trigger memories of things that are hard to recollect if you didn't have this reference sheet. It could also be useful for other things such as applying for scholarships, grants, and future promotions. This is the place that you include absolutely everything that you can think of. That includes those jobs where you didn’t stay long or short internships that you hardly ever list in your resume. If you’ve ever had a job or an accreditation that you think you’ll never talk about again, still list it here.

Make sure that the list is always handy because you will want to add minor details as time goes by. Even if it seems unimportant at the time, you may end up using it later on. As time goes by, you may need to draw from a different set of skills if you find yourself in the job market again. It is also helpful to create a Table of Contents or list things in categories for easy reference.

Once you have completed your list, proofread and spellcheck it just like you would a resume that you are presenting to a potential employer. That way you will have any future resumes ready to go with a copy and paste function. You can also use this list to take along with you to the interview in case you think of anything that you would like to provide more detail in person. A thorough Master List could be anywhere from 4 to 20 pages long.

Resume Length and Content Standards

Resume length is talked about a lot. It used to be standard to try to keep your resume at one 8x10 page. Other standards suggest that you should have one page per every 10 years of experience. Remember that the average resume receives about two minutes of attention. No matter what, you should keep it as brief and as concise as possible and save elaborations for the interview.


If you just graduated from college, keep it at one page's length. It will also help to list various academic accomplishments, including participation in the school newspaper, student government, and any awards such as dean’s list or graduating cum laude.

If you aren’t fresh out of school, listing your educational experience will be on a case by case basis. It really depends on how long that you’ve been in the workforce and how long you’ve been working in the chosen field. If you do list your educational experience, list the most recent degree first and abbreviate. You may also include relevant scholarships and awards.


The time to show your references is not at the resume stage. If the interview is successful, you will be asked for references. Most potential employers assume that you have references and will ask for them if they are interested. If you didn't have references, you probably wouldn't be eligible for the job.


A standard resume usually includes an objective section that acts as an introduction to the rest of the resume. This focuses mainly on the applicants needs and desires, and for that reason, it isn't a recommended practice. Instead, it's a good idea to focus your efforts on how you could benefit the organization.

Take a look at the following two objectives:

  • Seeking an entry level position in accounting with room for growth.
  • Senior Accountant with over 10 years experience in managing a monthly income of over $50,000 is seeking long term employment with an innovative company.

The first section talks all about your needs and what you want without suggesting to the employer the benefits that their company will get when they hire you. The second one let's the reader know in the first sentence of the resume what you have to offer.

Contact Information

We already touched on this earlier, but it’s important to mention that you should avoid using any email or website names that would suggest irresponsibility. You should probably apply for a new email if the only one that you have is PartyOn420@email.com.

Dates of Employment

You definitely want to include any major sections of employment in your resume, and at the same time, you want to avoid appearing flighty or undependable by listing jobs that you only held for brief periods of time.

License and Accreditation


If these are relevant to your job, include them. This includes seminars, workshops, and even memberships to professional groups. Make sure that the information is current and any certificates are still valid. Don’t forget to check your Master List for any other details that you may have left out that would be relevant to the position that you are applying.

How to Customize Your Resume

Now is the time to get out your Master Guide and start customizing your resume. The effort that you make to customize your resume for each potential job should increase your call back rate for interviews significantly. As you customize your resume, it’s important to think about what skills are valuable to this job, but don’t stop there. This isn’t the time to list off how great you are at things. It’s the time to list off how you can benefit the company with your acquired skills.

Research the Company First

Go online and search for any information that you can find concerning the potential employer. This includes anything and everything that you can dig up. Study the team of employees if they’ve posted their officers and executives on their website. Look for press releases. Check LinkedIn, twitter, Google+, and Facebook for company pages or employees that work there.

The more information that you can gather, the bigger advantage it will be to you when you write your resume for the position. Look for keywords and vocabulary that you can adjust in your resume so that it will complement the company philosophies and mission that you are applying for a job at.

How Hiring You Will Benefit the Company

This does not discount all the great skills that you have to offer to a potential employer, but it does help enhance your selling points. It’s a well-known fact that in advertising, you can list all the great things about your product or service, but if you don’t tell how it will benefit the prospect, it won’t sell as well. When you can identify how you would be an asset to the potential employer, you are selling yourself successfully and writing an engaging resume.

Your resume works much like an advertisement, only this time the product that you are selling is you. To illustrate this point, let’s consider the example of a Legal Secretary that is applying to a higher-paying job as an Executive Secretary. She is highly qualified for the position with typing skills at 85 wpm and 99% accuracy.

On her resume, she lists the following skill:

  • Types 85 wpm accurately

Short and to the point, which should be good in most cases for a resume, but consider the following statement instead:

  • Types 85 wpm, eliminating the need for additional staff to perform typing needs.
  • Level of accuracy (99%) reduces the time spent on extensive proofreading by another attorneys.

Which do you think will attract more attention? When you list the experience in terms of achievement, you show how your success at a previous job could benefit the potential employer, rather than making a list of duties that you performed day in and day out. If you can illustrate with a concrete idea exactly why that skill could be useful, your resume will be stronger.

  • Types 85 wpm with accuracy, which resulted in cutting the proofreading budget by 15 hours per month at $150 per hour for attorney proofreading fees, saving the company over $25,000 annually.

As you can see, with very little extra effort, you can customize your resume for each job that you apply. These minimal efforts will help you land the first interview.

Editing, Revising, and Getting Feedback

There’s nothing worse than a resume that boasts excellent communication skills that is riddled with typos or grammatical errors. Proofread your essay more than once. Write up a rough draft, revise it and customize it, and then look at it again in a couple of days--and then again. Depending on your financial means, you may want to pay a professional resume writer to evaluate it for you. If not, get a trusted friend or colleague to review it for you.

The further removed the individual is from a personal relationship with you, the better. They will be able to give you feedback more effectively. Ask them to be candid about their overall impression. Did they feel that the style reflected a positive tone and presentation? Was it engaging? Would they want to know more about you after reading it?

Listen to the constructive criticism and work with it to amend the resume with any suggestions that are valid. A second person will be able to point out places where you may have made assumptions in your communication and help you make it clearer.

If you have a doubt about a certain way that you’ve worded something, you may want to sit on it and come back to it tomorrow, but don’t just let it go. You want to make the language as precise as possible. Get your word count down to a minimum, while still not taking away from the communication of the idea.

Lastly, make sure that you follow all of the instructions that were given to you in the job description. Read over the instructions one more time and then proofread your resume to make sure that everything is supplied that is asked of you. If they ask for communication through email, don’t call. If they state that they will need three weeks to review all of the resumes before you will hear from them, don’t check in with them before then. Be respectful and show that you are capable of following directions.

10 Resume Killers to Avoid

The competition for jobs can be high—especially today. If you find yourself among stiff competition, go back over this list to watch out for common resume killers that the average job seeker fails to consider.

  1. Avoid making any demands of your employer in the resume. Now is not the time to tell your potential employer what you want from them. Save it for the negotiations once you are offered the job.
  2. Stay away from the resume bloat. If you are tempted to over-inflate your college degree or experience, this will send a red flag out to the employer, especially if you seem over-qualified. More than likely, the qualification will be checked. If it comes back as false or exaggerated, you may be out of the running. This could also come back to haunt you years later and be grounds for termination and possible legal action in some states.
  3. Don’t use language that would imply that you could be hard to work with or stubborn. While it is good to adhere to a moral code or work ethic, you also don’t want to make a statement about standing your ground in your decisions. It could come across as stubborn or close-minded, especially if you are seeking a managerial position.
  4. Don’t waste space on your resume by providing references. It is assumed that you will provide references if you are applying to the job. The same goes for talking about the job that you held in high school at an ice cream shop 15 years ago.
  5. Another common space waster is mentioning to the employer that you are available. Why else would you be applying?
  6. Leave out the photo unless your appearance is important to the hiring process, such as a modeling job.
  7. On the same note, you don’t need to mention any other factors that have to do with appearances, race, religion, sex, or age. They are not a factor in the hiring package, and it should not be leveraged or mentioned either. In some cases, you may have to mention your country of origin due to the hiring process if you are applying for a job internationally.
  8. Avoid listing weaknesses. Even though you are likely to be asked about any weak areas in the interview, there is no need to draw attention to it now.
  9. Never use all capital letters in your resume. If you need to add emphasis, use bolds or italics. Capitalization comes across as very unprofessional and in some cases may even be considered rude, as if you are shouting.
  10. Save all copies of your resume. You don’t want to have to refer to a resume that you customized and not know what is in it because you can’t find the copy. Always back up all versions of your Master List and subsequent resumes. There are many places online that will allow you to share, edit, and retrieve documents such as Google Docs or Dropbox.

Some Final Words of Inspiration

If you are applying for a job that you found in the newspaper, online, or even through word of mouth, the competition is bound to be tough in today’s economy. That’s why we created this manual, so that you could give your resume that “Wow!” factor that will make your resume stand out. Here are a few final tips to consider before you turn the resume in for review to the potential employer.
  • Sure, you want to stand out, but that doesn’t mean putting your resume on fluorescent green paper in the shape of the company’s product. That is the kind of “Wow!” factor that might get you noticed for all the wrong reasons.
  • Pick good keywords for your resume, especially if you found the job online. If you applied through an online recruitment center that requires you to submit a scannable resume, the first person to read it will be their computer system that is set to search out certain resumes that use the type of keywords and vocabulary that is pertinent to the job. The rest are filed away or discarded. You can try to weave this into your content organically, but it is also acceptable to list a keyword section seperately in your resume.
  • The Objective section at the top of a resume may seem passé, but it can be helpful to include at times. Make it short. Don’t talk about what you want or your goals, instead talk about what you have to offer.
  • Other than the attached PDF resume and cover letter, now is not the time to include a bunch of attachments and samples. If you fell that it is necessary, communicate to the employer that you will be happy to provide samples of your work upon request.
  • Some job descriptions will want to know what your salary history is. You can include this in your job history.
  • Make sure that your hobbies and interests are cherry picked to show your compatibility with the company. If you are applying to a “green” company, you may want to talk more about your love for hiking than your (beloved) collection of comic books.
  • If you are sending the resume directly to the company, you might want to send one version to the HR and one to the manager of the department that you are applying to. Sometimes an HR will dismiss a resume based on something trivial and unrelated to the position while someone within the department that you could be working with would see your resume as a gem.

Remember, your resume is your selling tool that you will be using to land an interview. You need to make sure that it is polished and professional. Good luck in your job hunt!

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