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10 Résumé Writing Tips

by Bob Wilson

It is important that you always have an updated résumé. You may never know when you’ll need it. But also, it can provide an opportunity to review your progress and create an occasion to think about the way you work. 

However, professional service firms and corporations are inundated with hundreds of résumés on a regular basis. Therefore it is important that a résumé create a strong, clear impression at first glance. It has been estimated that each résumé receives only 20 to 30 seconds of scrutiny when received! Your value as a potential candidate must be very clear from a cursory glance.

Here are 10 tips for creating a standout résumé:

1.    There are two common types of résumés: the chronological and the functional. I strongly advise career transition coaching candidates to follow the chronological format, as it offers professionals the clearest opportunity to present their experience and accomplishments. Quite frankly, the functional format may be viewed somewhat suspiciously by human resources and hiring partners, as it is often used to bridge prior gaps in employment. 

2.    A well-conceived and well-written résumé represents a truthful setting forth of your accomplishments and your professional value proposition. The key word here is truthful. No fiction, just the verifiable facts.  resume-writing tips

3.    Given the 30-second rule, I strongly suggest that every résumé contain a brief (three- or four-sentence) overview at the top. Think of it as a thumbnail positioning or branding statement.  This “qualification statement” will quickly position your accomplishments and expertise, which will enhance your chances of surviving the 30-second scan. 

4.    Accomplishments are much more important than your responsibilities. For example, which sounds more impressive: enumerating the fact that one “…was responsible for drafting a discovery motion…” or that you “…successfully argued a discovery motion… that convinced the DOJ to abandon…”?

5.     Using action verbs will vitalize the active voice and give more energy to one’s accomplishments. It also helps define your core value.Remember that the purpose of the résumé is to survive initial scrutiny and get you invited to a face-to-face interview. 

6.    I strongly urge that articles (a, an, the…) and speaking in the first-person (I, me, my…) be avoided. Doing so sharpens the focus of the document and argues more powerfully on your behalf as an accomplished professional. 

7.     When we write a résumé for career transition clients, we utilize the formula “S”, “A”, “R”, which is an acronym for Situation, Actions and Results. Virtually every accomplishment can be expressed using this approach and helps to better express outcomes. 

8.    Along those same lines, quantify results as much as possible. For example, include accomplishment statements like:

Saved clients more than $10 million in legal fees and minimized the probability of fee write offs for the firm.

The language is spare and focused and the “$” sign will capture the eye of any reader who quickly scans the résumé.  

9.    Do not neglect to scan all of your social networking sites (LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, and Twitter) to ensure that they do not contain any potentially embarrassing material and that they are harmonized with your résumé. Employers increasingly search the Internet to locate information about potential candidates.

10.  Proofread – Proofread – Proofread. Check both your résumé as well as your transmittal letters. Always look over your work before sending it out.

Remember that the résumé is not the sole key component of a successful job search. You must also master solid networking, interviewing and campaign management skills to underpin a successful search.  The great résumé will only make you a candidate for an interview – the rest is up to you!  

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Comments  6

  • Tami 31 May

    I would add Pinterest to the list of social sites to be cognizant of -- many people don't realize there is not a privacy function to Pinterest, and if you use your real and/or full name, you are easy to find!

    No biggie if you are only pinning recipes and fashion, but there are a lot of other categories out there which could be potentially damaging.

    Thanks for the resume tips!
  • Thomas Wharton 14 Jun

    While I agree that the best format for someone in transition is chronological, I believe any subjective sentences or paragraphs at the top are not advised. This is where key words need to be.  Key words that will help the reader to gain a better understanding of what you can do for their company.  Given that most readers may give your resume 10 to 15 seconds for review, they need to know very quickly what your areas of expertise are.


    Medical Management / Health Systems Management / Managed Care

    Utilization Managementw Quality Management w Case and Disease Management w Provider Education w Presentations

  • nashir 18 Jun

    Awesome resume writing tips.
  • Bob Wilson 18 Jun

    Thanks for your comments...  I particularly appreciate the comment about Pinterest.  That site is very flexible and can certainly give "your brand" much wider distribution.  Well worth looking at, along with LinkedIn and Twitter.

    I still suggest that Facebook is best reserved for personal file sharing and the like. 
  • Jill Van Nostran 19 Jun

    Great post, Bob. I especially agree regarding #10 - to proofread. Feels like there isn't much of that anymore.

    I don't entirely agree, though, with your comment ^^ that Facebook is best reserved for personal sharing. While, yes, the bulk of what is shared on Facebook is personal, the lines separating one's personal and professional brands are blurring more and more. In fact, I'm not sure there is a line any more. I think one of the best ways to develop deeper relationships with those in your professional life is to get to know them on a more personal level. Networks like Facebook are great for that.

    But you and Tami are right - regardless of the social network, people should be cognizant of their online activity. As the June 18 blog post here suggests, social networking has a lot of power to help (or hurt) one's brand!
  • Janet Steward 26 Jun

    Hello Bob,

    The 10 tips mentioned by you are very important while writing a resume. The goal of writing resume is to map your qualities and abilities according to the need of applied job position in such a way that you are considered as a appropriate candidate over other thousands of applicants by your potential employers.Today, Social Media is a buzz word . So marketing your resume on social sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook can help you to create good online social reputation.

    Also, Bob I would like to share some more resume writing tips that you can visit at http://www.aroj.com/resume-writing.html
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