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The Keys to Writing a Great Resume

Updated on July 28, 2011

Having a good resume is the first step to getting an interview!

In this job market, it is imperative to have a well put together resume, and it is beneficial to format it to stand out from the millions of others currently circulating around the country. As a recruiter, I see a multitude of common mistakes and blunders daily. Here are the keys to writing a great resume for those seeking new employment:

1.) It doesn't have to be all on one page. This is a common myth, and it is just that – a myth. While resumes should definitely be formatted and written strategically such that it is as short and easy to read as possible, if experience warrants a longer resume, don’t leave important pieces out. Generally resumes should be no longer than two full pages. Three gets to be too much.

2.) Format: There are many different types of resume formats that are fine to use. The main point to keep in mind is to use whatever format you feel looks the most organized, professional, and highlights your history and strengths the best. Most often, the following format is used:


Company X Jan. 2002 - Present

Executive Assistant

· Scheduled travel for executives as needed

· Prepared for meetings and events

3.) Contact Info: This should go at the top of your resume, always. You would be astonished at how many resumes I read that are missing crucial information like a phone number or email address. This is a no brainer. Make your name a larger font than the rest of your verbiage. This calls out to you as an individual.

4.) Objective: This is not a must have, but if written correctly, it can point to your goals and highlight your ability to organize a common thought or aspiration. If you have an objective, put it first, at the top of your page, under your name and contact information.

5.) Education: Education should come next in order of your page. Put the most recent education credentials first. If you don’t have a college degree, put your high school diploma or GED. If you went to college, but never graduated, unless you are still currently attending, leave this off. Employers don’t want to see that you started something but never finished. It doesn’t look good for your drive and determination. If you are in progress of a degree or certificate, indicate that – “Bachelors of Science – In Progress.” Add an estimated completion date. If you have any relevant continuing education that would pertain to the job you are seeking, add this too.

6.) Employment: “Professional Experience” is a great subtitle for this one, instead of Employment. Start with the most recent job first. Always include dates of employment. Months are usually needed as well, if you can remember. Recruiters look for gaps in employment, so just using years can pose questions. Depending on the relevance of each position, it is usually best to leave off experience too far in your past. The serving job you had ten years ago doesn’t need to be on your resume when you have ten years of project management experience past it. On the other hand, if you are applying for a real estate job, and back ten years ago you were a real estate coordinator, but ended up in marketing the rest of your career, it would be a good idea to add the real estate job. Use your discretion; just remember you are trying to highlight the most pertinent information to help you get a specific job, while keeping it short and sweet at the same time.

As far as the bullet points you add after your position and company name, you want to pick the top 5-8 points that describe what you do or did, best. Don’t go much beyond 8 bullet points. Chances are, if you drag this out, it won’t get read, and the person reading your resume will feel you don’t know how to organize your thoughts. If you have too many bullets, read them over and try to combine 2 or 3. You’ll be surprised at how many are similar and can be reworded to be combined into one point. Pay close attention to grammar and past tense, here. If you are talking about your current position, use words like “schedules travel” and “prepares documents.” Speak of yourself in the 3rd person. If you are describing a past position, use words like “scheduled travel,” and “prepared paperwork.” Keep this consistent throughout the resume.

7.) Skills & Proficiencies: A lot of people forget this part. This is the chance for you to speak to your technical skills, personal skills, or anything else that would be beneficial in your background. Add all technical skills and all systems proficiencies here. Even if you aren’t a “techie,” don’t forget the basics “proficient in Microsoft applications.” This shows you can use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. These programs are used pretty consistently throughout the workforce, especially in an office setting. Even if you are applying for a landscaping job, don’t leave this out. If you have used any other special systems at any time in your career or history, add these here. Systems usage always looks good, even if it isn’t necessary for the job. Other skills that are helpful to add are thinks like communication, personable skills, organizational skills, etc.

8.) Use a thesaurus! Instead of saying “great communication skills” and “great with computers,” use different adjectives and say something like “exceptional communication skills” and “computer savvy.” Don’t use the same words over and over – even “skills.”

9.) Make sure everything is easy on the eye. Check for consistent formatting and spacing. Use the same font, and check for consistent usage of bolds and italics. It’s ok to use these things, and often makes a resume’s look more appealing, just make sure you are using them consistently – bold all employers and italicize all positions, for example. Don’t switch it up. Same with fonts – you can use two, just make sure it makes sense and looks appealing.

10.) Don’t lie on your resume. Employers can check degrees, and can check employers and dates of employment. If you get caught lying, you will not only be disqualified as an applicant for that particular job, but you can also count yourself out of ever getting a job with that company. Embellishing is another story. Everyone exaggerates their skills to a certain extent on their resume. This is ok, as long as it is done the right way. Don’t say you’re proficient with a software database if you aren’t. You may have to use this if you get hired, and you’d be expected to know what you were doing. However, if you aren’t the best at writing, but you can “get by,” it is ok to say “good verbal and written communication skills.”

11.)Add a special touch if you’d like. If you’re good with graphic design, add a touch of that to your resume. Find a new way/space for your contact info – I’ve seen some people put it down the side of the resume. Find something to stand out, IF you feel confident doing so. If you are a basic resume writer, with basic Word skills, skip the fancy stuff. Some people add a special “Professional Summary” and put it in a pretty shadowed box – another idea for adding a different touch.

12.)Double check your work. Proofread and use Spell-check! Make sure you don’t have a SINGLE misspelled word. This can be a deal breaker for a candidate. Don’t let this be you!

Just remember this is to showcase you and your talents! When you look at your resume, does it make you proud? This is a summary of your career and skills. Be honest, but don’t be shy! Remember to keep things short and sweet, to stick to the facts, and to skip the “fluff.” Longer and more bullet points doesn't always mean better! Best of luck :)


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    • cashmere profile image

      cashmere 6 years ago from India

      Totally agree with Point number 10! You get caught out one way or the other. Just be yourself and don't try to pass false data