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Seven Tips for a Better Resume

By Tracy Bumpus, CPRW, JCTC

One of the most key elements of success in a job search is the resume. The resume is the primary marketing document that sells the product ‚ the skills and experience of the job seeker. To be effective, a resume must grab the attention of the reader in 35-45 seconds, the average amount of time a reader spends reviewing a resume. A good resume will extend that attention span to over a minute. A successful resume will prompt the reader to contact the job seeker. In effect, the success of the job search revolves around the effectiveness of the first step ‚ the resume.

No one knows your background and experience better than you. Most people can get the basics of what they did and when they did it down on paper in a sensible fashion. What most people who write their own resumes have difficulty with is making that sell to the reader. Here are seven tips to help you make your resume sell.

1. Select the best organizational format.

Most resumes are written in chronological (reverse time order) format, but that does not mean that the chronological choice is best for you. If you are making a career change or have extremely broad, related skills sets, a combination format may be best. The combination is evenly balanced between skill set description, achievements, and employment history.

2. Make absolutely sure your document is error free.

Here at, we write resumes all the time but we never proofread our own work. We actually have an independent proofreader who checks our work before we finalize. Why? Because after we have worked with a document several hours, we simply no longer see our mistakes. We "see" what we were thinking, not what is actually on the page. Find a friend who has strong grammar skills to check your work. Do not rely on the spell checker.

3. Find a balance between wordiness and lack of detail.

Employers need to see details about your work history and experience, but they don't need to know everything. The fact that you were Den Leader in your Cub Scout troop is irrelevant. Keep information germane to the goal of attaining an interview. Eliminate information that is not related and will not have direct impact on winning the interview.

4. Do not use personal pronouns.

"I", "me", "my", "mine", "our" are never included in a resume. Resumes are written in first person (silent), past tense. Example: Instead of "I supervised 4 office workers," use "Supervised 4 office workers." Fragment sentences are perfectly acceptable on a resume as long as the meaning is conveyed.

5. Think "accomplishments" rather than "job duties".

What made you stand out from the crowd? How did you come up with a way to do things better, more efficiently, or for less cost? What won honors for you? Information such as this will be what makes you grab attention and put your resume on the top of the stack.

6. Keep it positive.

Reason for leaving a job, setbacks, failed initiatives, etc. do not have a place on a resume. Employers are seeking people who can contribute, have a positive attitude, are enthusiastic, and have successfully performed similar job skills in the past. Concentrate on communicating these issues and avoid any detracting information.

7. Be Prepared

Remember, resumes do not get jobs ‚ people get jobs. Resumes get interviews. Most first time job interviews are conducted via telephone rather than in person as they used to be. Make sure you are prepared for that telephone call when it arrives. And make sure you have a resume that will make the phone ring!


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