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Resume Writing Basics
By Pat Kendall, NCRW
Does your resume do a good job of "selling" your qualifications? Is it up to today's standards? In this highly competitive job market, your resume has to do more than simply outline your work history – it has to function as a personal marketing tool.

We know that the average employer spends only 15-30 seconds reviewing it, so how do we get their attention? Listed below are some specific tips that will get your resume successfully through the screening process and make it more appealing to potential employers.
5 Steps for Success


One of the easiest ways to improve your resume is to summarize your qualifications at the top of the page. This keyword-based profile should position you for your desired job and focus on your job target's "core competencies" and critical keywords. When this summary is done right, your resume will not only be keyword optimized, but it will "sell" you more effectively to the human reader.

If you have a diverse background, you'll benefit by preparing different versions of your resume – each one aimed toward a different job target. Most employers prefer to hire specialists, not "jacks-of-all-trades," so edit your resume accordingly. When deciding whether a particular item should be included, ask yourself: "Is this information relevant? Does it verify or support my ability to contribute to an employer's operation?" If not, take it out. (More about keywords and targeting)


Since you only have a few moments to get potential employers' attention, the sequence of your information is critical. For example, if you have recently earned a college degree, your "Education" section should be placed near the top of the page. If your education is less impressive than your experience, place it at the bottom. If you have limited experience, you may want to include volunteer work or other activities that demonstrate organizational ability, leadership qualities, and other transferable job skills.


Your resume should prominently highlight achievements and awards related to your career or recent academic performance. Employers are naturally attracted to high achievers (i.e., those who are willing to "go the extra mile"), so don't hesitate to describe your accomplishments or involvement in special projects. If there was ever a time to toot your own horn, this is it!

Resume Strategy

Deciding which type of resume is best for you can be a difficult task. These are the basics:

The CHRONOLOGICAL RESUME is the standard, traditional format. It focuses primarily on employment history and presents your work experience in reverse chronological order. This type of resume is ideal if your job listings are impressive, your employment history is linear, and your current position is directly related to your career path. Because of their straightforward nature, chronological resumes are typically favored by recruiters and hiring managers.

FUNCTIONAL RESUMES focus on transferable skills and de-emphasize individual positions, job duties and employment dates. Functional styles are frequently used by job seekers who have "holes" in their work history or want to make a career change. Their use should be carefully weighed, though, as some employers consider them "less credible" than traditional resumes with a blow-by-blow employment history.

For many, the best approach is a COMBINATION RESUME with a functional summary and a chronological work history. This strategy is advantageous for most job seekers – and if done properly, allows employers to quickly see how your background qualifies you for the position. A combination resume also provides additional flexibility if you have multiple objectives, as the summary can be rewritten and "slanted" toward the skills you want to emphasize.

Resume Production

Resume writing is similar to other forms of writing: it requires proper planning, editing, rewriting, proofreading and more editing. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts! After you've completed the writing and editing, double-check all data, run it through a spelling checker and make sure the format is consistent. The next step is design and layout – and whether you like it or not, appearance does count! To ensure optimum readability, the resume should be expertly typeset in a professional, distinctive format. Employers see multitudes of mediocre looking resumes – and even worse, over-embellished presentations that look like they were designed by amateur graphic artists. You want your resume to stand out, but it needs to look professional.

Bottom line: Take the time to do it right or hire someone who can.

In a Nut Shell...

Aim for a specific job target and be selective about the information you provide.

Include a power-packed "Qualification's Brief" at the top of the page. Summarize your key selling points so that employers can quickly see what you have to offer.

Make sure your resume actively sells your qualifications by focusing on relevant accomplishments and results.
Emphasize specific experience (and contributions) that support your job target.
Include plenty of active verbs (managed, coordinated, planned, implemented, directed, initiated, conducted, completed, recommended, etc.). But don't get carried away – use simple, straightforward language.
Strategically organize resume categories so that the most relevant, most impressive information is listed near the top of the page.
Demonstrate transferable skills throughout your resume: verbal and written communication, organization, leadership, planning, aptitude for learning, adaptability, creativity, resourcefulness and problem solving.
Keep the resume to one or two pages (unless you're an executive or work in a technical profession.

In short, your resume should be a strategically organized "personal brochure" that summarizes your experience and highlights your achievements. It should present your skills, capabilities and strengths in the best possible light, without resorting to overstatement or exaggeration. Your resume gives you one chance to make a first impression. What are you saying about yourself?



Pat Kendall, NCRW
©2015, Pat Kendall
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