The Art of the Resume

When you apply for a job, it is rare indeed to get the chance to make a personal appearance and spend some quality time with a prospective employer. Instead, the job seeker is forced to send a stand-in and to hope that the stand-in makes a good impression and presents a convincing case. That stand-in is just a piece of paper, the resume, and we ask a great deal of it.

The resume must market the candidate so effectively that a hiring manager, who generally will not give it more than 20 seconds of review, plucks this resume from what may be a very large pile and judges it worthy of further consideration.

With such a heavy burden, the resume needs all the help it can get. To give it that help, several areas need careful attention.

You need a resume that suits you and sells you.


Formatting issues cover a multitude of sins, from the obvious need to avoid spelling and grammar errors to the selection of an appropriate document format for electronic delivery. Should everything be in chronological order? Should it be arranged by function? Somewhere in between? How long should it be?

Your best resume must suit and sell you

Many people resort to using templates included with programs like Microsoft Word and leave it at that, but a template used by the multitudes is hardly the way to make a resume stand out. With some extra care and a dose of creativity, however, there are many ways to make a resume really pull its weight.


Many employers, especially large companies, are relying more and more on automated screening of resumes in order to deal with the overload of applicants. The most common strategy is to screen for keywords. Resumes that fail this test will disappear into the void, never getting in front of an actual person. At the same time, if you overload your resume awkwardly with keywords, you will make a negative impression on the people with hiring responsibilities. Hence the importance of excellent writing in the resume.


When all is said and done, content is still king. Almost all resumes divide their content into education and experience, but that is just the beginning. A great resume can call attention to strengths, minimize weaknesses and, above all, speak to the employer about things that are meaningful to the employer and that address the specific job opening.

More, or Less?

Applicants can add all sorts of extras to a resume, from mission statements to lists of references. Some make it personal, adding hobbies and family information. Some, of course, take the opposite approach and leave gaping holes in their stories. Many of these additions do more harm than good, but where you draw depends

on the specific employment situation.

In the end, resumes exist in the context of a specific person and a specific job, and they must be custom made in order to succeed. One size definitely does not fit all.

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