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While many career professionals hire a professional resume writer, many more attempt to draft their resume themselves. People who write a lot for business usually have more success in putting together a sharp, focused presentation; however, anyone can learn the basic steps to resume presentation.

There are three major differences between a "strong" resume and an "o.k." resume:

1. Format and Presentation Determine Whether the Resume is Read

The average resume is scanned, not read, for only 8-15 seconds. It creates a strong impression to the reader from the first glance. It is similar to the impression you make in the interview when you first greet the interviewer. Make sure your resume is wearing a "business suit" and not jeans and flip-flops!

Choose a format that suits your business goal. If you are seeking a job in your field and have experience, use a chronological resume. This resume starts with your most recent job and works backward. Conversely, if you are seeking a new type of work, you may want to consider the functional/combination resume. This style groups your skills from several jobs together and includes a short chronological work history at the end.

Other ways to insure that your format and presentation get noticed:

  • No errors: use spell check and also have someone review for missing or misused words
  • Consistent format and use of capitalization and punctuation throughout
  • Lots of white space to accent strong parts of the resume
  • No more than 2 fonts
  • Include your name and address, a phone and email address
  • Laser printed on quality white or cream resume paper

2. Accomplishments Tell What You've Done; Responsibilities Tell What You Were Supposed to Have Done

Not all accomplishments have to be big, but they have to show that you got results as you carried out your responsibilities. Often, they are something you are proud of that you've done. Or, they can simply quantify what you have done on a daily basis. Many of your routine activities can be quantified and written as an accomplishment that shows your experience and knowledge and that you’ve HELPED the company!

Here are some things to consider when naming accomplishments. Quantify when possible. Did you:

  • Save the company any money? How much and how?
  • Help improve sales? How much?
  • Improve productivity and efficiency?
  • Implement any new systems or processes?
  • Help launch any new products or services?
  • Achieve more with (same or fewer) resources?
  • Resolve a major problem with little investment?
  • Participate in any technical/operational improvements?
  • Exceed accepted standards for quality or quantity?
  • Identify the need for a program, plan or service?
  • Prepare any original reports, studies or documents?
  • Serve on any committees? What was the outcome?
  • Get elected to any boards, teams or task forces?
  • Get sent to any training classes?
  • Resolve customer problems?
  • Get rated outstanding in performance reviews?

3. Avoid Many Common Errors in Resume Writing

Many job seekers either don't know or don't understand the many items which do not belong in a resume. They include the following:

  • Do not use "I", "me" or "my" statements; use the telegraphic method and drop the pronoun to make it more active. Instead of "I wrote the 40-page employee manual", say "Wrote the 40-page employee manual"
  • Avoid the use of the words "responsible for" and "duties included"
  • Do not include personal information, such as age, health, ethnicity, marriage and family status. Employers will throw your resume out if it has such information because they could someday be accused of hiring bias
  • No photographs unless you are a model or actor
  • Do not explain your reasons for leaving your previous jobs or why you have employment gaps
  • Don't send along extra papers such as letters of recommendation, certificates or samples of your work. They clutter up your presentation and are too premature. Use in the interview if appropriate
  • Never include past or expected salary information
  • Do not include a list of professional references
Certified in all three areas of the job search—Certified Interview Coach (CIC), Job & Career Transition Coach (JCTC), and Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW)—Linda Matias is qualified to assist you in your career transition, whether it be a complete career makeover, interview preparation, or resume assistance. You can contact Linda directly at or visit her website for additional career advice and to view resume samples.