Ten Tips to a Better Résumé

By Shel Horowitz, director, Accurate Writing & More

If you insist on writing your own résumé, in spite of our advice to have it done professionally, here are ten tips to help you write a résumé that works:

1] Think like an employer. If you were receiving a stack of résumés for the opening you'd like to apply for, what characteristics would you want in an employee? These same characteristics should be highlighted on your résumé.

2] Know your strengths and weaknesses. Highlight the former, downplay the latter. Find the way to express each accomplishment and job description in the way that makes you look the best.

3] Resist the temptation to copy someone else's résumé! You and your friend or co-worker are not the same person. There may be reasons why one item was stressed and another left out that had nothing to do with you. A format that makes sense for someone else may be a big mistake for you.

4] Use the format that fits your own history and goals. If you've worked in three positions for five years each and have no gaps, the traditional chronological résumé is perfect for you. If your work history is less straightforward, a format that emphasizes skills or accomplishments may work better. And if you're just out of school, your work experience may be less important than the details of your education.

5] Is one résumé enough? If you have multiple interests and careers, it may make sense to do several versions, rather than trying to cram it all into one unwieldy document.

6] Include the right categories. Many résumés are better off without an objective, for instance--but there are some situations in which an objective is essential. If awards, volunteer work, travel, or unusual interests help you appear qualified for the job, you may need to include them. But if your accomplishments at work are very strong, these extra categories may deflect attention away from your greatest strengths.

7] Always tell the truth. You may leave out information that hurts your chances, but anything on your résumé should be true -- and you should be able to document all or most of it. Even aside from the ethical issues, this is simply good practical advice: if a potential employer checks your information and discovers a lie, do you think you're going to be offered a job? And more and more companies do check. In fact, if you're not sure of any figures, it's better to estimate too low than too high.

8] Use an appropriate design. Your résumé should look good on the page, be easy to read, and bring the eye to the most important points. Stay away from wedding invitation typefaces or hot pink neon paper! And remember that as people age, they're less willing to put up with tiny print. So get a sense of the ages and abilities of the people most likely to read your résumé.

9] Check it carefully. Run the spelling checker. Inspect the grammar and syntax of every sentence. Read the résumé aloud to make sure you didn't miss a few words. And get some friends to look it over too.

10] Have your résumé reviewed by a professional! It's very hard to be objective about your own résumé. A professional résumé writer can see very quickly if there are major problems or omissions that you hadn't noticed. With his or her knowledge of the job market and current résumé trends, a few minutes' review by a professional could be the difference between success and failure.

Please Note: We offer this service at a cost of just $50 (up to two pages; additional pages, $25 each), and that fee is applicable toward a full consultation. Click here to begin your critique. You'll get a blank e-message with the subject "ResumeCritque". Include your resume as a Microsoft Word file or RTF file, or fax it to 617-249-0153. Please include a credit card number and expiration date.

For affordable, expert help writing your own résumés and cover letters, please click here.

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