Some sound advice on resume writing…

Posted by cpoblog on October 10, 2011 in For the candidate... |

Sound advice on resume writing from Susan Lewis Paciga, a freelance writer/editor.

If you haven’t looked for a job in the last ten years or so, you will certainly find that things have changed. Even that venerable hiring tool, the resume, has undergone a transformation. Many people are still carrying around myths and false information regarding resumes and looking for a job.


• Paper Matters.

Truth: The great majority of your resumes will be emailed. If you want to get a slightly nicer stock for the ones that will be mailed, that’s fine, but not seriously important. Stick with whites, maybe tans. Having it on bright blue paper is not going to get you a job.

• Be fancy, use crazy fonts, put designs all over the paper to stick out.

Truth: Unless you’re in graphic design, don’t. Even then, be careful. You’re better off using an easy-to-read font (like this one—Ariel 12) and bulleting your points to be clear. In fact, email your resume to yourself. See how it stands up to being emailed. Sometimes what looks great in Word gets messed up when sent as an attachment. Make sure your resume is as clear when sent as an attachment as when it’s sitting in front of you.

Another point: save your resume as yourname.doc. Too many people save it as myresume2009 or something generic. If you save it as SharonSmith.doc (or whatever your name is), it will make it easier for the recipient to find you again. The easier you make it on the recipient, the easier it will be for him/her to contact you for an interview.

• List every single duty you have ever done in a job. The more, the better.

Truth: The fact is that what employers are looking for now are accomplishments. It’s taken for granted that everyone now has computer skills and can run a copy machine. What employers want to know is what you can do for them. List accomplishments—saving the company time or saving the company money makes them happy. Implementing new programs, coming up with new ideas, anything along those lines is what you want to emphasize.

• Stay at home moms better hang it up. They’ve got no experience.

Truth: Stay at home moms and women who have left the workplace for awhile have not been staying at home eating bonbons. Look at what you have done—organized a play group, volunteered at a church or organization, headed up a committee. Look at the skills needed to be successful at home: organization, time management. Emphasize this. Maybe you’ve helped your husband in his business. Look at what you’ve been doing; you may be pleasantly surprised.

• Go ahead and embellish your accomplishments. They expect it and won’t check anyway.

Truth: Yes, they will. If you attended university for three years, but didn’t graduate, don’t say that you did. You can absolutely list that you ATTENDED a college and even list a couple of relevant courses, but don’t lie. In the same vein, if you were a secretary, don’t call yourself vice-president in charge of administrative duties. Use the title you actually had. They will check. They may even check after you’ve been hired, and if the lie is grievous enough (like faking a degree), you’ll be fired. Companies are getting more and more careful about this sort of thing as they’ve been embarrassed when the truth has come out in high profile cases. They’ll check. Don’t lie.

• People are so used to texting and email, they don’t care about grammar.

Truth: Your resume is, first and foremost, a marketing tool. If you have misspelled words (absolutely inexcusable with word processing tools like Spellcheck) or really bad grammatical errors, employers will absolutely notice and they won’t even call you. After all, if you can’t even be careful on the marketing tool you are using to try to get hired, why in the world would they think you would be careful at the job they’re thinking of hiring you to do?

• When it comes to resumes, one size fits all.

Truth: Back in the early Pliocene era, say the 70s, when many of us first started looking for jobs, we would type up the resume or maybe hire someone to do that, go to a printer and pay to have 50—100 resumes printed off for us. Yes, on beautiful, heavy stock. Then we’d type up cover letters (on additional blank matching stock we’d purchased), slip the resume and cover letters into the envelopes and pray.

In the Computer Age, there is no excuse for not customizing your resume towards the job you are applying for. You should emphasize the accomplishments and experience that complement the position you are applying for. For instance, I have one resume that emphasizes all the writing and editing positions I have held. Another one emphasizes my teaching experience. Another one my sales and training experience. The one I use depends on the position. And if another position I think I’d like opens up that calls for a different skill set than the ones I’ve mentioned that I think I have, I’ll revamp the resume accordingly.

Another word about different kinds of resumes: There are two basic kinds, the functional resume and the skill-based resume. If you have a lot of experience in the field in which you are applying, use the functional one that emphasizes your accomplishments and experience. However, if you are just starting out in the workplace or have been out for awhile, use the skill based one. This is a resume that emphasizes the skills you have (like time management, oral communications, time management, problem solving) through real world experience.


• Be sure to have current contact information on your resume at the top where it can be seen quickly. This may seem like a “duh” point, but you’d be amazed at the number of people who don’t put a phone number or email address or their resumes. If they have to hunt you down, chances are they’ll go on to the next prospect.

• Speaking of email addresses: Get one solely for job hunting purposes. This way a response from an employer doesn’t get lost in the funny videos Aunt Fanny sends you. Also, get a professional sounding address. may be lots of fun for you and the folks at, but it’s not going to impress a prospective employer. or (or hotmail, Verizon, yahoo) works much better.

• DON’T GIVE UP. There are jobs out there. Treat your job hunt as a job. Keep records of who has received your resumes and follow up when possible. Drop an email to a hot prospect to say, “Sent my resume on (date) and hope to hear from you soon.

There are all kinds of sites on the internet to help you put together an effective resume. Consider, too, going to a resume specialist to write your resume. Once you have the initial one (be sure to get it in electronic form as well as paper), you can change it to emphasize the important points and update it as needed. It could be money worth spending. ~ ~ Susan Lewis Paciga, a freelance writer/editor.

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