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How to Write a Great Resume: 10 Tips

by John Nicholson, Resumes That Jump
Originally published: Jan 12, 2009

Tip #1. Start strong

Donít jump directly into your chronological work experience. Start instead with a compelling title and summary that gives context and makes employers want to read on. Include a quick list of career highlights and key skills if appropriate. Just out of school or changing careers? Start with an objective.

Tip #2. Use appropriate structure

Chronological resumes group your work experience by job. Functional resumes group your work experience by skill. Hybrid resumes blend the two. Use a chronological or hybrid approach. Yes, functional resumes can help conceal employment or skills gaps, but recruiters know this so they often backfire.

Tip #3. Include necessary components

Before thinking about the substance of your resume, make sure it has all of the basics: phone number and email; company names, locations, titles, and dates of employment; and school names and degrees.

Tip #4. Say enough but not too much

Some people donít provide enough detail about their experience. Most people give too much, going on and on about job details that put readers to sleep. Fact: Hiring managers will spend less time reading your resume than youíd like. Unless your resume is concise and crisp, theyíll miss your best stuff.

Tip #5. Use action verbs

Employers want action-oriented worker who get things done. So start your bullets and sentences with a diverse set of powerful verbs. Unless itís a current job, all your verbs should be past tense.

Tip #6. Focus on achievements

Most resumes are laundry lists of everyday job duties. Boring! Cover your core responsibilities quickly and move onto unique accomplishments that show passion, initiative, and leadership. This is critical!

Tip #7. Quantify your experience

Add credibility and uniqueness by quantifying your work experience with dollar figures, percentages, and comparisons. Understand what metrics are important in your industry (everyone values saving money and saving time) and integrate hard numbers into your responsibilities and achievements.

Tip #8. Avoid typos and errors

Typos and other errors are the fastest ticket to the recycling bins of busy hiring managers. Triple-check that your resume has no misspellings and that it uses proper, consistent capitalization and punctuation.

Tip #9. Write like a marketer

Your resume is competing for attention in a crowded space Ė itís like an advertisement for you. So write like a marketer. Use concise, punchy language. Speak to the needs of your audience and emphasize what differentiates you from the competition.

Tip #10. Use effective formatting

Your resume doesnít need to be fancy, but it does need to look professional and be easy to scan. Use the right mix of white space, indents, bullets, and fonts to get there. Stick to 1 or 2 pages unless youíre an executive. And donít cheat by using a small font or small margins Ė that just makes things worse.