Resume Rx

  • Don't be vague, and be sure to customize your resume for each employer: Any time you try to do a "one size fits all" approach (by agency, computer, or just passing a resume around an organization courtesy of a friend) you lose the all-important opportunity to craft the resume to fit a particular position.
  • Don't be long-winded: Be brief and keep it to one (preferably) or two pages unless you want a job in academia, research, or the arts.
  • Truth or Consequences: Don't fudge over dates or titles on your resume to hide the fact that you have been unemployed, that you switched jobs too frequently or that you held low-level positions. If a prospective employer conducts a background check and discovers that you lied, you can kiss the job good-bye.
  • Students and recent grads: Put your education up top and include relevant courses.
  • Find out which skills the employer is seeking and be sure to showcase them: If you're short on actual job experience, include a HIGHLIGHTS or SKILLS SUMMARY section to "editorialize" about yourself a little.
  • Be clear about what you want: If you intend to be both a full-time student and a full-time employee, for instance, this might be a turnoff for some employers.
  • Use verb phrases: "conceived campaign for student elections", "created online student newspaper", "initiated weekly meetings for minority students", "lead charity drive" -- not sentences; this is not an essay or an obituary you're writing.
  • Use dates to show when you did things: Not just the vague "one year".
  • NEVER overlook spelling errors or typos: That's a one-way trip to the circular file. Check and recheck. Typos and spelling errors usually occur when you try to do something at the last minute. So leave enough time!
  • For new grads without much work experience: have an "EXPERIENCE" section rather than one called "EMPLOYMENT," because you can include internships, class projects and independent study under the former, but not the latter.
  • Tailor the objective to a given position or leave it out altogether: Objectives are helpful when you're trying to show the relationship between your skills and a particular position, but they merely annoy when they say inane things like "a challenging position suited to my education and skills." What position? What skills? Resume readers will give yours, on average, seven seconds; don't make them cranky with filler.
  • We had a resume entry from a poet. Poets don't write resumes, they write and rewrite poems, enter contests, and try to sell them. Try not to be flowery.