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Tips on Writing a Better Resume

Your resume is the first impression that many employers get of you. Particularly if you are applying for a job online, which more and more people are, your resume is the only thing an employer has to judge your fit for a job before any initial interviews.
At the very least, make sure that your one page resume fits the following basic criteria:

– Accurate contact information

– Clear career objective

Education and work history

– Skills relevant to the career you want

Ok, have you got all of the basics? Great. Now, you look just like everyone else, and your resume probably won’t pop out to a potential employer as anything special. The job market is fierce. You need to set yourself apart, and show future employers that you are the best person for the job. Your resume can be the first step in doing that.

The Importance of the Objective

Make your objective unique. Use powerful words that show you know what you are talking about. Get to the point, and eliminate any non essential phrases or information that don’t help your career case. Bits of information on resumes do not need to be in complete sentences. You can even use lists or bullet points. When an employer scans a resume, he or she is looking for relevant words and phrases that not only match the job description, but also tell at a glance whether or not you could do the job.

Writing and Formatting Your Resume

Your resume is not your doctoral thesis on Shakespearean sonnets. Write in clear and plain English.

Here a good example of plain English on a resume:

Bulky Phrase Better Iteration
Effected the solution of Solved
Engaged in the operation of Operated
Offered assistance in the facilitation   of Helped facilitate

Don’t be afraid to highlight  your accomplishments, as long as the information is truthful. You can even make your resume more noticeable by using eye catching fonts and designs. But don’t go overboard, unless the job you applying for is “Las Vegas Stage Show Set Designer.”

Do not use “I” in your resume. You can save this for your interview. Just use the past simple verb, with no pronoun. We already know whose resume we’re looking at.


I used clear and frequent communication to quantify my client’s administrative needs.

Communicated frequently with clients to assess administrative needs.

One thing often missing in many resumes is the practice of parallel construction. If you haven’t thought about grammar since grade school, here’s a reminder. Parallel construction uses phrases that parallel each other (going in the same direction, like parallel lines).

Bad example:

She got up, brushing her teeth and made the bed.

We’d never say or write this, because the verbs are in different tenses. We all know this instinctively, even if we don’t remember the grammar rules.

Good example:

She got up, brushed her teeth, and made the bed.

Excellent, all of the verbs are in the past simple tense.

It’s not that employers are checking your resume for correct grammar. It’s just that incorrect grammar makes you sound stupid.

On a resume, parallel construction would look like this:

Developed office communication procedures, facilitated team meetings, and assessed overall employee satisfaction.

Here’s another great piece of resume advice:

Describe your past work experience in terms of the job you now want to have. I’m not suggesting you lie. If you were an Ice Cream Scooper last summer, you can’t say you were a Food Science Engineer.

Instead, pick the things you’ve already done in a previous job, and put them in relation to the jobs you’re applying for.

Some good examples include:

Before Resume:
Accounting / Recordkeeping
Computer Skills
After Resume:
Management of A/R and A/P Accounts
Computerized Accounting Applications
Departmental Administration / Recordkeeping

Importance of a Unique Resume

Finally, take the time to modify your resume for each position you’re applying for. See what skills will best fit each one, and perhaps highlight or give more “face time” to these. It only takes a few minutes of word processing, and you can even save different versions of your resumes to use for different applications. For example, I have one resume for teaching, one for writing and editing, and another for the hospitality industry. Most of the content is the same, but I’ve cut or added jobs, skills and phrases to make each one the most marketable in each specific field. And don’t forget to update your resume frequently to include new positions or skills learned. If you do this on a regular basis it won’t be such a big task next time you start looking for a new job.

My friends and colleagues frequently ask me to proofread their resumes, since I have experience in editing and academic writing. Find a wordsmith in your group of friends, or someone at work or in class who has experience with writing and editing, and ask them to have a look at your resume as well.

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