Ten Tips for Effective Resumes That Get Read

Fast and volume.  Two words that describe how resumes are sent by applicants and received by potential employers.  It has never been easier to distribute a resume to potential employers or receive resumes from potential employees. Because of speed and volume, it is key that your resume get the attention of the recipient and communicate who you are — very quickly.

Someone said that you have about 30 seconds to create interest with the reader of a resume. Once that interest is sparked, the resume must communicate how your skills and experience match the requirements of the job you’re applying for.

Here are ten tips that will help in making sure that your resume is read. Yes, many of theses tips are common sense. But, you have focused so closely on this summary of your experience, that you lose the objectivity of a person reading it for the first time.

1.  Consider the resume recipient a targeted audience.

A resume is a communications vehicle — just like a brochure, Web site or any other way of reaching an audience.  Consider the reader a target audience. Determine the messages that you want them receive after reading your resume. How do you want to be perceived?

What action do you want them to take?  (I know, that’s obvious!)

2.  Make it easy to read…Format, typeface, bolding, spacing, etc.

This is the most important element of your resume. It has to be easy to read and the recipient will initially look at it very quickly and then determine if it is worth a more in-depth reading. Always remember, you send out a number of resumes and the audience receives hundreds or more, so they do not have the time and energy to read each one thoroughly.

Use a format that allows the reader to see what skills and experience that you have to offer. Typeface should either be Times Roman or Arial in 12 pt. or 14 pt. (headers). Remember, that newspapers use Times Roman, for readability. Use of bolding and

Italics can also make your resume easier to read and give the document some “energy.”

3.   Summarize your skills. What do you have to offer a potential employer?

What skills have you developed in your career thus far?  Develop 5 or more bullets that summarize what you bring to a potential employer. A portion of the list can be customized to meet the needs of a particular job.

If you’re just starting out in your career, be sure to list skills you developed from such things as an internship during college, a summer job, part-time employment, being a reporter or editor of a school newspaper — wherever you had to communicate in writing or verbally.

Following the list of skills, should be your work experience that support how you got your skills, where you worked, what you did and when you did it.

With the ease of being able to edit and revise your resume, take advantage of these tools and customize your resume — if needed. Take the qualifications listed for the job you’re applying for and match your skills and experience to them. For example, if you’re applying for a position in Public Relations, focus the listing of your skills on what is needed to be effective in that position.

4.   Structure your resume in a logical manner

Here’s the order of subjects that I would recommend that you follow on your resume:

1.  Masthead  – At the top, containing your name, address, phone number and e-mail


2.   A condensed list of your skills ( 5 or more bullets)

3.  Your experience – Company, location, title, dates you worked there  and  a

summary of what you did at each job

4.  Education

5.  Professional Organizations & Awards

Here’s the rationale for this order.  Your education is important, but not important enough to list first.  What you want to list first is the skills that you have to offer a potential employer, based upon your experience to date. If you’re just starting on your career, list relevant experience you gained at internships, during summer jobs or at  part-time jobs.

5.  Career Objective & References — forget both!

Your hobbies? — Maybe

Don’t bother with a bland, generalized  job or career objective. Normally these are written in such a general manner that they don’t provide much insight about you. This type of information could be covered in your cover letter or during an initial interview.

Also, don’t mention in your resumes that you’ll provide references.  Of course you will. References are a given when you get to the place in the interview process where the employer wants to offer you the job.

List your hobbies and interests?   Generally, no. If any of these relate well to the company or job for  which your applying, then list them.  Otherwise, you may list an activity the hiring manager responds to negatively. For example, saying that you play golf to someone who really dislikes golf, creates a negative feeling.  Use common sense.

6.   Functional approach?  No, no, no!  You try it…

There was a trend a few years ago where it was suggested that people summarize their work experience and accomplishments and then later in the resume list the companies where they did it, in what function and when. The person reading the resume has jump back and forth between sections of the resume, trying to figure out what you did, where and when!

As a recruiter, I can tell you it’s very time-consuming and a tiring process — not something you want to do to make it easier for the reader to evaluate your work experience. All you have to do is try this with someone else’s resume and you’ll see what I mean.

7.   Length of your resume?  1-3 pages.

For junior or entry level, one page is just fine. As you gain experience and become more senior, two to three pages in length is good. No more than that. Remember, the resume should create interest and you have to do that quickly.

Generally, I don’t think a senior professional should have a one-page resume or that a junior level communicator should take up three pages.

How long to make sure resume has always been a matter of opinion. Two pages work well, but don’t think you have to force everything into one page.  Just don’t make the mistake of stretching it out to make it look like you did more than you actually did.. That’s a place where you might get tripped up. Another application of common sense should be used here.

8.  Age a factor because you went back to college?

You may be a professional who has gone to college later in life. In the real business world, I’d recommend that you  delete the date of your graduation from college.  Of course, Recruiters and Human Resource people can figure out your age.   Age discrimination is what I call a “silent discriminator.”  No one can legally talk about it.  It’s an unfortunate game.

9.  Errors on your resume? Shame on you!

Have a someone who knows you review your resume for errors and for content.  Some people will toss your resume aside and not consider you if they come upon an error. This may seem obvious, but you are working with a document that you as the author have seen many times. You may have overlooked an error that you made many times.

10.  Sending your resume…

Create your resume using a format that can be sent and received electronically. Generally, Microsoft  “Word” is the best because most people use it. Never send your resume as part of an e-mail message. Employers and recruiters keep large files of resumes and sending it as an attachment makes sure that your resume arrived the way that you sent it.


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