Ten Keys to a Dynamite Resume
by Robert Belcher
Employers prefer crisp-looking resumes that get to the point, and our Resume Templates provide examples of how to improve both the style and the substance of a resume. And to further help you construct a better, more powerful resume; here are ten overall considerations in regard to your résumé’s content and presentation:
1. Position Title and Job Description
Provide your job title, plus a detailed explanation of your duties and accomplishments. Since job titles are often misleading or their function may vary from one employer to another, your resume should tell the reader exactly what you’ve done.
2. Clarity of Dates and Place
If you’re a mid- to late-career candidate, you can save space by lumping early-career jobs together and summarizing your functions. Similarly, if there is a place in your work history where you have worked several consecutive temporary or project jobs, you can save space by lumping these together and briefly summarizing your functions. Generally speaking, be careful to document your work history accurately. Same goes for your educational credentials. Be accurate and honest. Misrepresenting your degree is unethical, and could result in consequences that are embarrassing—or worse.
Be proactive and don’t leave the reader guessing where and when you were employed, or where and when you earned your degree. Use “City, State” for locations. Dates should be placed on the right side of the page, and make sure the beginning and ending dates (month/year format is preferred) are clear and without gaps. If there is a gap in employment or even if your employment tenure was less than three years, you should include a stated reason. The reason should be briefly stated as “Reason for Leaving” and is often located as the line(s) directly under the line(s) containing job title, employer name, location, and dates of employment. The “Reason for Leaving” may also be listed as the first bullet of the job description. Examples:
Reason for Leaving: Relocated in conjunction with spouse’s promotion and relocation by his/her employer.
Reason for Leaving: Took an extended leave of absence for full-time care of a family member.
Reason for Leaving: Recruited to a better opportunity for professional growth, development, and work/life balance.
Reason for Leaving: Resigned in order to complete my final year of full-time school attendance and earn my degree.
Reason for Leaving: Laid off with other professionals due to an acquisition of employer. Corporate office was downsized.
Provide the reader with relevant detail about your past and present employers, such as the nature of the business (type of product or service), size and physical location.
Quantify your job duties, reporting relationships and achievements with actual numbers. Specify some of the more technical, or involved aspects of your past work or training, especially if you’ve performed tasks of any complexity, or significance. By the way, when using actual numbers, the rule of thumb is to write out numerals one through nine – numerical format for 10 and higher.
Give appropriate attention to jobs or educational credentials according to their length, or importance to the reader. The hiring managers reading your resume are primarily looking for your most recent and relevant experience. For example, if you wish to be considered for an accounting position, don’t write one paragraph describing your current accounting job, followed by three paragraphs about your summer job as a lifeguard.
Confine your information to that which is job-related or clearly demonstrates a pattern of success. Concentrate only on subject matter that addresses the needs of the employer.
The “general” rule is: one page for early-career (entry level to 6-7 years); two pages for mid-career candidates. In some limited exceptions, a 3-page resume is acceptable and makes sense. Still, shoot for one or two pages. If you write more than two pages, it may send a signal to the reader that you can’t organize your thoughts, or you’re trying too hard to make a good impression. If your content is strong, you most often won’t need more than two pages.
8. Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation
Create an error-free document that’s representative of an educated person. If you’re unsure about the correctness of your writing (or if English is your second language), consult a more experienced writer or editor.
Organize your thoughts in a clear, concise manner. When describing your job, use present tense for your “present” or current job, and past tense for “past” or previous jobs. And it’s fine to use brief phrases rather than full sentences. No resume ever won a Nobel Prize for literature; however, a fragmented or long-winded resume will virtually assure you of a place at the back of the line.
Be sure to select a conventional style of font, such as Times Roman or Arial, and a point size between 10 and 12. Choose a neutral background or stationery—nothing too fancy or unusual in size, color or border. Add interest and clarity by using bullets, indents and varying font styles (such as bold and italic letters for particular emphasis / highlighting, but don’t overdo it). Avoid using unconventional fonts or adding photos or graphics. If your resume is too distracting and takes too much effort to read, it may end up in the trash, even if you have terrific skills.
Finally, I suggest you write several drafts, and allow yourself time to review your work and proofread for errors. If you have a professional associate whose opinion you trust, by all means, consider what he or she has to say. A simple critique can make the difference between an interview and a rejection.