To help you construct a better, more powerful resumé, here are ten overall considerations in regard to your resume’s content and presentation:
Position title and job description. Provide your title, plus a detailed explanation of your daily activities and measurable results. Since job titles are often misleading or their function may vary from one company to another, your resume should tell the reader exactly what you’ve done. (Titles such as account manager, business analyst, and internal consultant are especially vague.)
Clarity of dates and place. Document your work history accurately. Don’t leave the reader guessing where you were employed, or for how long. If you’ve had overlapping jobs, find a way to pull them apart on paper, or eliminate mentioning one, to avoid confusion.
Detail. Specify some of the more technical, or involved aspects of your past work or education. Have you performed tasks of any complexity, or significance? If so, don’t be shy; give a one or two sentence description.
Proportion. Give appropriate attention to jobs or educational credentials according to their length, or importance to the reader. For example, if you wish to be considered for a position at a bank, don’t write one paragraph describing your current job as a loan officer, followed by three paragraphs about your high school summer job as a lifeguard.
Relevancy. Confine your curriculum vitae to that which is job-related or clearly demonstrates a pattern of success. For example, nobody really cares that your hobby is spear fishing, or that you weigh 137 pounds, or that you belong to an activist youth group. Concentrate on the subject matter that addresses the needs of the employer.
Explicitness. Leave nothing to the imagination. Don’t assume the resumé reader knows, for example, that the University of Indiana you attended is in western Pennsylvania, or that an “M.M.” is a Master of Music degree, or that your current employer, U.S. Computer Systems, Inc., supplies the fast-food industry with order-taker headsets.
Length. Fill up only a page or two. If you write more than two pages, it sends 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 won’t need more than two pages.
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Create an error-free document that is representative of an educated person. If you’re unsure about the correctness of your writing (or if English is your second language), consult a professional writer or copy editor. At the very least, use a spell-check program if you have access to a word processor, and always proofread what you’ve written.
Readability. Organize your thoughts in a clear, concise manner. Avoid writing in a style that’s either fragmented or long-winded. No resumé ever won a Nobel Prize for literature; however, an unreadable resume will virtually assure you of starting at the back of the line.
Overall appearance and presentation. Select the proper visual format, type style, and stationery. Resume readers have become used to a customary and predictable format. If you deviate too much, or your resume takes too much effort to read, it’ll probably end up in the trash, even if you have a terrific background.
Resumé writing can be tricky, especially if you haven’t done it before. I suggest you write several drafts, and allow yourself the time to proofread for errors and ruminate over what you’ve written. Practice, after all, makes perfect. If you have a professional associate whose opinion you trust, by all means, listen to what he or she has to say. A simple critique can save you a great deal of time and money.
I worked with a candidate recently who had the most beautifully written resumé I’ve ever seen. When I asked him about it, he said that he sharpened his skills by writing and rewriting his wife’s resumé. After he got the hang of it, he worked on his own — and kept revising it on a monthly basis.