Resume Magic – What Makes a Great Resume – Part I

There are lots of resources on the Internet for making a resume with tips and templates galore.  Out of all that, what is the most important?  We’ll I’ve talked with some search pros and we’ve put together these suggestions for creating resume magic.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get all of these tips in one post, here is part I – stay tuned for the remainder.

Let’s start with why you’re doing this at all.  What is the purpose of your resume?  Is it simply a written version of your career history?  Is it your opportunity to tell others your goals and aspirations?  Is it a chance to detail everything you know and highlight your incredible mastery and technical expertise?  Well, yes … and no.

The purpose of your resume is to be your personal brochure and sales pitch indicating why someone should hire you.  With a resume you’re not trying to meet your needs, you’re trying to meet the needs of the recruiter and hiring manager.  You are attempting to show them that you are the perfect candidate for the job they are trying to fill.

Your resume is a paper representation of you.  It should be a personal statement that reflects your technical skills, competencies, expertise, involvement, awards and accomplishments.   While templates and sample resumes are great for giving you ideas, your resume needs to be distinctly you, not a template.  As you expand your brand, make sure that your cover letter, reference page, thank you letters etc. all have the same look and feel.  They need to consistently support your brand.

Here are some guidelines to remember:

  • Choose the format that is best for you – Chronological vs. Functional (we absolutely prefer chronological).  Use your career progression to support that you know what you know.
  •  Lead with your strengths. Start with a summary of why you are the best candidate. Add your accomplishments to support those statements. Show your career history as proof of your success and list your education as the foundation for it all.
  •  Be concise and keep it to no more than two pages – and one page is better.  Remember, if you are lucky a recruiter will read the first half of the first page.  If you haven’t caught their attention by then you are not going to get that job.  If they have to wade through 4 pages of jobs, references and citations you have no hope.
  • Customize each resume based on the position and/or company you are applying to.  Research the company and tailor the resume to fit what they are looking for.
  •  Be industry specific, but here’s where some balance is needed.  You should include industry buzz words so that companies who use computers to scan and evaluate resumes will find the keywords they are looking for.  But, don’t include so much jargon that others can’t understand what you are talking about.
  •  Be truthful – enough said.
  •  Make it look good.  Use a bright white paper and clean, simple font.  Make sure you have sufficient white space so it doesn’t look cluttered.  Use formatting to make it easy to read and to highlight the most important parts.
  •  Make it perfect.  Use multiple proofreaders.  Your spelling, grammar, and punctuation need to be perfect.  Your formatting (bold, underline, italics, centering, line spacing, etc.) needs to be consistent. Your margins should match.  Take the time to do it right.

A great resume won’t get you the job, but a bad resume will keep you from it.  Stay tuned for some more tips and a focus on accomplishments, the real key to success.


2 Comments on “Resume Magic – What Makes a Great Resume – Part I”

  1. […] history and education (include what is on your resume – these two things should match – see Resume Magic I and Resume Magic […]

  2. […] for Resume or Cover Letter (and I encourage you do that) you’ll find lots of good information. Resume Magic Parts I & II and The Second Most Important Bullet in Your Gun are great starting points. But for the […]


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