Career Resource Center

How to write a resume that actually works

Resume writing is a combination of art and science.  Your resume needs to look visually appealing to capture the attention of hiring decision-makers while also convincing them to bring you in for an interview.  To do this, you need your resume to accomplish three things:

  • To capture a hiring decision-maker’s attention, your resume can’t look like every other resume they’ve seen.  I’m not telling you to go wild, but don’t create another boring black & white resume.  Add a splash of color and spruce up your formatting with some nice section breaks and borders.
  • Make your resume easy to read.  After reading 100 resumes, a hiring decision-maker doesn’t want to look at size 9 Courier font; nor do they want to wade through lengthy paragraphs or decipher staggered bullet points.  Keep your formatting simple and your font a size normal humans can read without going blind.
  • Write something that people will actually want to read.  Do you want to read the same sentence five times about how you collaborated with team members – NO, I don’t either – and, neither does an employer.  Instead, give them something fresh on every line.  Don’t add responsibilities simply for the sake of doing so.  Focus on things you cared about and they will too.

Now let’s dive deeper into these three rules:

The formatting of your resume should complement and showcase your content – not the other way around.  This simply means that you don’t want someone to spend more time trying to ignore the color of your resume or figure out how your sections go together than actually reading the resume.  To do this, use neutral colors throughout your resume, don’t use multiple columns, and make sure each section is clearly delineated by some sort of horizontal line and a bit of white space.

To make your resume easier to read, use a font like Arial or Calibri.  These fonts look nice, don’t take up too much space, and don’t distract or tire the eye.  Use short sentences where you can.  Use bullet points instead of paragraphs.  If you’re going to use bullet points, don’t make your bullet points more than lines long.  Put the most important content at the top of each section and at the front of each sentence.  Don’t use a big word when a small word will work.

When writing your resume, write it so anyone can read it and understand what you’ve done throughout your career.  The smartest, most accomplished, most talented professional isn’t going to get hired if no one can understand what that person’s done.  Try to remember that the person who first reads your resume – and decides whether to throw it in the trash or move it up the line – probably works in HR and doesn’t have a clue about the technical aspects of your job.  The best way to clearly explain a complicated task in an understandable format is to show what the purpose of the task is.  For example, if you’re a programmer who uses C++ and JavaScript, don’t just say you program with C++, explain what you’ve built with the language.

This rule of explaining what you’ve done goes for every skill you include in your resume.  Rather than just listing a skill like “Interpersonal Communication” on the resume, explain how you used your interpersonal communication skills.  For example:

  • Captured additional sales leads by using exceptional interpersonal communication skills to build relationships with these leads


  • Developed clear and concise treatment plans for patients, then used strong communication skills to articulate those plans to patients

Need to figure out what skills to include in your resume, check out this article: Indeed – Resume Skills

Doing this with your skills will not only showcase to employers why you’re qualified for their position by explaining what roles you can take on; it will also increase their trust that you actually have those skills.  After all, can you build relationships without strong interpersonal communication skills?  Can you clearly explain things if you’re a bad communicator?

If you’re still not sure how to write a great resume, let an expert writer help by submitting your resume for a free critique with Resume Writing Group or The Resume Writing Expert.


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