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Tips on Writing Readable Resumes for Everyone


Objective or Summary
Clarify dates
Bullets, not paragraphs
Explain the gaps
No more one-page resumes
Entry Level

As your main goal with your resume is to get the job you want, you should write your resume in that fashion. Focus less on what you have done if it is not relevant. If you are changing careers, which is often difficult, only focus on the areas of your past that have relevance to your future.  Also, look for those tasks and accomplishments in your previous positions, including volunteer work and civic activities that you can relate to what you want to do.


Objective or Summary

  • The philosophy is changing with respect to objective statements.  Many resume experts are saying it is not necessary to have an objective on your resume.  Instead, you should have a summary of your accomplishments or a highlight of the skills you bring to the table.
  • However, if you feel like you need an objective on your resume, it should identify what you want to do with clear and precise wording.

    • A position as a human resources generalist with an opportunity for management.

    • A position as a controller for a software company.

  • Refrain from being vague, lofty or ambiguous.

    • To work for a firm where my technical, managerial and leadership skills will have an immediate impact on the firm.

  • Whether you are using a summary statement or an objective, you must be clear so the reader can ascertain what it is you have done or want to do. This helps identify whether or not you are a fit for the position.


Bullets, not paragraphs

  • Long paragraphs are nothing but clutter on a resume. If writing a summary or objective, keep it to two sentences at the most.

  • Paragraphs make it difficult to see the main ideas or key points on a resume. Lots of white space is good.


Clarify dates

  • Put the month and the year. Do not omit months unless you were at a position for longer than 5 years, and if it is not your current job.

  • Companies want to know exact dates, ie May 1998 to June 1999.

  • Just putting the years on a resume looks deceiving to the trained resume reader, and we are going to ask you the exact dates of employment anyway so you may as well put it on there.

  • For example, 1998 - 1999: what does this mean? It could be December 1998 to January 1999 (2 months), yet it could be almost 2 years. Be honest with your potential employers.



Put your education at the end of your resume, unless you are fresh out of school and you are applying for an entry-level position, or if the position is in academics (in which case the emphasis is on your education).

You might list coursework that is relevant to the position you want.  This includes relevant training and development.
For instance, Marketing, Supply Chain Management, Solution Selling, Java Programming, etc


Explain the Gaps

There will undoubtedly be gaps in many peoples' resumes. These gaps must be explained at some point or other. In some instances, however, it may be appropriate to explain it in a cover letter. The bottom line is, that it must be in writing.

  • If gaps are less than 2 months, there is no need to explain on the resume.

  • Longer gaps must have an explanation. Whether you had heart surgery or were unemployed might make a difference.

  • If you were unemployed, that must be explained as well.

  • As long as you are honest with the reader of the resume, you have nothing to worry about.

  • Don't cover up the gaps by omitting the months of employment, you'll have to explain it eventually, and then you look like a liar.

  • If you are worried no one will look at your resume because you have gaps, you will definitely get passed-over if they are not explained.

  • You do not need to fill in the gaps with places of employment if they are not relevant to your career objectives. However, you will need to explain why you were not employed in your area. Again, it may be best to explain the gaps in a cover letter.


No more one-page resumes

  • The idea of the one-page resume is history.

  • You should only have a one-page resume if you are right out of school, or you have a short work history. In fact, if you have limited work history, it might be best to limit your resume to one page.

  • What has replaced the one-page resume is the skill's list. The more skills/qualifications you possess, the longer it should be, as long as it is not more than one page.  You do not want 3 pages listing your accomplishments either.  That might be overkill.

  • You might not get to your work history until the second page.

  • They used to say that employers look at resumes as if they were passing a billboard on the interstate. This is no longer true, especially since the market for talent is extremely competitive. Therefore, a list of highlights, skills, accomplishments and/or qualifications will give an employer an indication of your skills before he/she goes through the entire resume.

  • This is like a table of contents for the resume; it encourages the reader to continue.

  • If your resume exceeds three pages, it is imperative that you have a qualification highlights section. Again, because employers must go through so many resumes, it is very easy to skip over unreadable ones.

  • Your first page might contain the following

    • Contact information
    • Brief objective/career goals
    • Two-line summary
    • List of qualifications/skills

  • Also, you should have a separate section for your other skills. This may include any technical or computer, management, customer service, analytical and other business skills relevant to the opportunity you want.


Entry Level Resumes

  • Entry level typically refers to 0 to 5 years of experience.
  • If you fall in this category, you are fresh on the market, or you hate your current job and you are not really experienced etc., the same general rules apply with some exceptions.
  • You can put your education at either the beginning or the end.  This all depends on how you wish to emphasize it.  I am still in favor of putting it at the end, unless you have no work exeperience.  Also, do not put your high school or any activities related to high school on your resume; leave that to your year book.
  • Some people do not put objectives because they believe no one reads them.  I read them.  I am looking for how you communicate what you want to do.  You should probably have a few versions of your resume: one without your objective that may be a more generic version of your skills that you use for job fairs etc., and one that is focused towards the type of job or career you desire.
  • Here is where I contradict my "no more one page resumes" rule.  Entry level resumes should not exceed one page.  If your experience is limited, you should not need a lot of space.


Please send your comments to Marc.