Resume Writing Tips

I'm Cliff Madell, Senior Employment Marketing Consultant for the Resume Center.  For 20 years I've been a professional resume writer.  I see dozens of clients each week that pay $79-$240 for a resume consultation, resume writing, and printing. 

In the consultation I educate my clients about resumes.  I explain that there's no magic to getting the job interviews they want, just a great resume.  A great resume follows some simple but crucial guidelines. 

  1. Determine who is reading your resume
  2. Write what the reader wants to hear
  3. Make your resume easy to read
  4. Write a resume with substance & depth

1. Determine who is reading your resume

Who is reading your resume?  A human resources manager? A department manager?  A headhunter?  That reader - we'll call him or her a Manager - knows the type of person they're looking for before they read the deck of resumes in front of them.  That Manager is looking for someone with certain experience, certain skills, and certain training.

Your resume is not the only resume on their desk, it's 1 of 50 or 1 of 100.  The better the position and the better the company you are applying to, the more resumes your resume will be competing against.  Remember, the Manager is looking for a specific type of person.  They're not going to interview 50 candidates.  They will interview 4-5 candidates,   You want to be one of those 4-5 candidates. 

That Manager knows the type of person they're looking for.  If you don't write what they're looking for, your resume will be tossed out.  If you write exactly what the Manager wants to hear you will be one of the 4-5 interviewed.

2. Write what the reader wants to hear

It's like when you were in school.  You told the teacher what they wanted to hear and you received an A grade.  If you didn't tell the teacher what they wanted to hear, another classmate would and they would get the A. 

When most people write their resume (90%+) they are not thinking about what the Manager is looking for, they're thinking about themselves.  They write their autobiography.  The Manager is not interested in your life story.  He or she is not looking for a friend, a spouse, or an interesting person.  The Manager is looking for someone that demonstrates they can best do the job available.

The Manager wants to hear what they want to hear.  I am not advocating that we write fiction.  This resume has to be honest, but it also has to focus on the part of your background that is relevant to what the Manager is looking for.

If the Manager reading your resume is thinking "big deal, there's nothing here that I need", they will read 1/3 of the page and toss it.  If that Manager while reading the resume is thinking "wow... this person is doing exactly what I need,"  you've got the interview.  It should not be a coincidence that the Manager is finding what they are looking for.  Your resume needs to tell him or her  exactly what they want to hear!

3.  Make your resume easy to read

Too many resumes are written in the traditional paragraph format that is not easy to read.  The Manager has 50-100 resumes and they will not read the paragraphs.  They'll scan 1-2 lines of each paragraph and probably will not find what they are looking for because they didn't spend the time reading it.

Writing your resume in a bulleted format will enable the Manager to scan your resume. 
  • Bulleted job descriptions are 3 times faster to read than the long paragraph format. 
  • In 20 seconds they can read a bullet formated resume. 
  • It would take 60-90 seconds to read a paragraph format. 
It's well documented that employers spend only 20 seconds on the initial reading of a resume.

4. Write a resume with substance & depth.

Making your resume easy to read doesn't mean simplifying your job descriptions down to 2-3 lines like on many resumes.  If you summarize your jobs down to 2-3 lines the Manager will think you are lazy and don't do much on the job.  On the other hand, if you give 8-12 bullets describing your recent jobs the Manager will think that you really take on significant responsibilities and are a good employee.  The bullet format enables you to say a lot and still be easy to read, as opposed to the paragraph format where the more you say the less is read.  Bulleting is a win-win technique.  It enables you to say a lot about your jobs and it is still easy to read. 


It's time to start writing.  If  you order the 1-2-3 Resumes package, put the printouts of the resumes in front of you.  Highlight the format styles, categories, and particular bullets you want to use.   Notice how the 1-2-3 Resumes examples address the key points: 1) write what the Manager wants to hear about you; 2) make the resume easy to read; and 3) provide substance and depth to areas of your background in which the Manager is interested.

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