A document that details your past job and academic experiences, and tells a prospective employer a little bit about you. Usually, these fall into the hands of the Human Resources department of a company, where it is scanned for key words. If such are found (or not found), the Resume makes its merry way to the circular file. If you're lucky and the key words (or absence of) match the employer's needs, you might get called for an interview.

Since I read resumes as part of my job now, I've started to realize that quite a few bright people miss out on good jobs because they have no clue about how to put their vitae together. So here are my seven lucky tips for getting that resume underneath the door far enough to stick your foot in after it:

  1. Don't keep it simple, stupid!
    Some people think that merely listing their job and educational history will constitute a solid resume. This isn't the case. If you say that you have an MBA from Harvard University and worked as an investment banker on Wall Street for several years, but don't say exactly what you did, the bean counter reading your resume probably won't be too moved. Now, if you take credit for holding the positions of 20,000 investors during a market slump, you'll look good. Always point out what you actually did, not just what you were.

  2. Avoid stating the obvious.
    Some people might read the advice in point 1 and write: "WEB DESIGNER. Designed Web pages." Well, no shit. Don't be redundant like that: it just makes you look like an idiot. Which leads us to another key point:

  3. Be specific: almost anally so.
    This is especially important if you're in tech-related fields. As Tarantoga has noted, most HR goons scan stacks of resumes for certain keywords. If the IT department needs an SQL person and you've simply written "database experience" on your resume, you'll be waysided. Even if the HR person knows what SQL is, they won't want to take the time to call you and ask you about it when twenty other people have explicitly put "SQL experience" down. Make sure you list absolutely everything you know about such areas, down to the most minute details if possible.

  4. Embellish to your heart's content.
    Building on that last point, you want to load your resume with areas that you're good at. So if you can write enough HTML to get around E2, say you have "extensive HTML experience." If you've ever so much as touched Adobe Photoshop before, claim to be really good at it. Then, if it turns out they actually need someone who's really good at it, you can bunker down with the manual for a weekend and be an expert on Monday morning.

  5. One page is good: two solid pages are better.
    Some people claim that a resume has to be just one page. In reality, a resume should be as long as you can make it without constantly repeating yourself or writing it in 20-point font. If you can make your resume four pages long, and it's still concise, then you have an excellent resume.

  6. Sweat the small stuff, because it's not small stuff.
    Don't be afraid to mention that you ran cross country in college, or directed the choir at church, or became an M-noder. That all fleshes out who you are, and makes you look like a more interesting person. Seriously.

  7. Be creative.
    I got a resume once from an old lady who ran an Irish cultural society. She printed it on paper that was embossed with a green Celtic pattern. I didn't have anything for her to do at the time, but I still think of how pretty her resume was, and whether or not I could find something for her. There are many employers out there who think like me, and who constantly remember the witty, well-designed, and outlandish resumes they've gotten. Make yours memorable, too.

In 2016, the résumé has evolved a bit. Most job seekers have a LinkedIn profile which serves as a Curriculum vitae and gives a detailed work history. There’s no need for the résumé to cover the same ground. What, then, is the résumé’s purpose?

The résumé is now a unique, private document between you and a prospective employer. You’ll typically craft (or at least tweak) the résumé for each opportunity, making your experience and expertise match the job requirements as closely as you can. No longer will one boilerplate document go out to 50 jobs, or at least, if it does, it will likely go in 50 paper shredders or computer desktop delete bins.

Your prospective employer will likely be looking at an electronic stack of résumés that were cued up for her by the Human Resources department. She’ll have maybe 20 minutes to go through twice that many résumés. So you’ll get about 20 seconds to impress. That means the lead section must be a very strong 'profile' that sets out who you are, what you want, and what your primary selling points are. It has to be a concise, confident paragraph or two that will hopefully buy you another 20 or 30 seconds of eyeball time, or at least, triage into the "read again later" bucket.

Below that will be a kind of work history, which can be chronological or functional. This section needs to briefly tell the prospective employer who you worked for, who you reported to, and what you did … but the main goal is to provide a series of bullets that make her want to learn more. Each bullet needs to start with a strong action word, and give a meaningful accomplishment from your time in the role. It needs to be a one-line version of a "success story" that you'll be able to tell more fully in an in-person interview. And it had best relate directly to one or more requirements from the job posting.

A concrete example may help. If I was applying for a social media role, I might want to highlight for my time at e2. It might look like this:


A short description of e2 would go here, if such a thing were possible.

Prosemonger, 1999-2004, 2008-2011, 2016-present

  • Published (a quantity should go here) concise, extensively hyperlinked articles for a worldwide audience. Many received wide acclaim, such as (small set of best nodes here, with reputation and/or cool counts).
  • Collaborated actively in an open writer's forum to give and receive feedback.

Editor-in-Chief, 2004-2007

  • Led a global staff of (a quantity should go here) volunteer administrators with diverse interests and personalities.
  • Mentored new and returning site members on etiquette, standards, and style.
  • Moderated open discussion threads to enforce site standards.
  • Curated content with a kind but firm hand, overseeing the addition of (a quantity should go here) entries to the everything2 community database.
  • Negotiated with authors or their representatives over fair use, when necessary. Took action to uphold external copyright as required.

I didn’t do any of those things all by myself, except for the line that’s specifically about my own content. I’d make that clear in an interview. But I have those skills, and the résumé needs to sell them, not to bog down in qualifications. Note the attempt to provide specific measurements where appropriate. That’s a key way you can show that you did the things you claim, and that those things have a real weight to them.

Note the action words. In my first try at the catbox bullet I wrote "Participated actively in an open writer's forum..." but "participated" was too passive. I cudgeled my brain until it spat out "Collaborated" as a superior synonym.

To review, the modern résumé is a customized sales tool that matches your skills and abilities to the role being offered with a confident and vibrant tone. Done well, it will serve to get you out of the slush pile and into an interview ... about which we shall learn more anon.

Re*sume" (?), v. t. [imp & p. p. Resumed (?);p. pr. & vb. n. Resuming.] [L. resumere, resumptum; pref. re- re- + sumere to take: cf. F. r'esumer. See Assume, Redeem.]


To take back.

The sun, like this, from which our sight we have, Gazed on too long, resumes the light he gave. Denham.

Perhaps God will resume the blessing he has bestowed ere he attains the age of manhood. Sir W. Scott.


To enter upon, or take up again.

Reason resumed her place, and Passion fled. Dryden.


To begin again; to recommence, as something which has been interrupted; as, to resume an argument or discourse.


© Webster 1913.

Re`su"mé" (?), n. [F. See Resume.]

A summing up; a condensed statement; an abridgment or brief recapitulation.

The excellent little résumé thereof in Dr. Landsborough's book. C. Kingsley.


© Webster 1913.

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