Creating a Winning Resume

Creating an effective resume will significantly increase your opportunities to interview in person for the jobs for which you are applying. You need to develop compelling content, and then format it so it is pleasing to the eye and easy to read.

Your resume is your marketing brochure. You want it to be unique, and you want it showcase the brand of YOU. Therefore, don't take a template that a thousand other people are using and simply fill in the blanks. Be sure to put your own stamp on it.

It is perfectly acceptable to view resume samples in books or online and use any ideas that make sense for you. As you review a variety of resume styles, you will gain a clearer vision of how you want your resume to appear. If a technique or format resonates with you, feel free to incorporate it into your own resume. As you review samples, note three important components:

- header information, use of borders, bold, fonts and sizes
Summary statement
- how skills and accomplishments are showcased up front
Job accomplishment statements
- note the use of bullets and action verbs

Before you start writing

Determine your job search objective prior to writing the resume. If you write your resume without having a clear objective in mind, it will likely come across as unfocused to those who read it. Take the time before you start your resume to really think about your job search strategy.

Think of your resume as a marketing tool. Think of yourself as a product, potential employers as your customers, and your resume as a brochure about you. Before you write the brochure, gain a clear understanding of the product. What are your features and benefits? What makes you unique? What skills and attributes will your customer get if they "buy" your brand? You need to convey your brand essence in your resume.

Understand the purpose of the resume is to obtain an interview, not a job offer. Congratulations if you do get a job offer based solely on submitting a resume. Generally, the job applicant needs to pass through a series of hurdles. The purpose of your resume is to generate enough interest in you to influence an employer to contact you. Therefore, be brief, interesting and compelling; don't attempt to outline your whole life story.

Constructing your winning resume

What to include: Your resume should lead with a summary of qualifications and/or skills, followed by college education and work experience. You may also have one or two other sections, such as volunteer work, leadership roles, recognition awards, and activities.

What not to include: Do not include an objective statement or a personal statement. Don't include personal information (height, age, marital status). Don't list your references or say  "references available upon request". Do not use the word "I."

Lead with a strong summary statement. Employers are flooded with hundreds of resumes, which they initially review in a matter of seconds, not minutes. Therefore, it is critical to lead with a strong summary of why you are worthy of their further consideration. Think of this in terms of an attention-grabbing newspaper headline. Write a concise summary that addresses the needs of the employer and conveys the most significant skills, attributes, experience and accomplishments that you will bring to them.

Put more emphasis on skills and accomplishments than job duties. In your previous roles - school, volunteer, paid employment - what are you particularly proud of? What were you recognized for? What did you do that resulted in the organization serving more clients, saving money, winning awards, or generating goodwill in the community? Whenever possible, try to describe your previous jobs or volunteer assignments in terms of the outcomes and positive impacts, rather than state the obvious. For example, people reviewing your resume will know that if you worked at Subway, you "made sandwiches."

Use bulleted phrases to describe what you've accomplished. In the body of your resume, use bullets with tightly worded phrases rather than lengthy sentences and paragraphs. Resumes don't need to have complete sentences or details about everything you've ever done. Resumes are read quickly. A bulleted format makes it easier for someone to quickly scan your resume and understand what you've accomplished in each of your previous jobs.

Bring your accomplishments to life using action words. It is important to describe your skills and accomplishments using action words. To communicate what you accomplished in your previous roles, use bulleted phrases that begin with action verbs like; prepared, developed, implemented, and created. Use present-tense verbs for current roles, and the past tense for previous jobs.

Quantify your accomplishments. Whenever possible, describe the impact of the things you've accomplished. It's great to be able to boast that you created a new training program, but now, you need to answer the question, "so what?" By training employees, did it result in increased revenue, lower expenses, fewer lawsuits, or higher customer satisfaction ratings? Numbers, dollars, and percentages bring credibility to your assertions. Here are some examples:

* Developed new workflow process that decreased operating costs by 10%
* Created new line of products that resulted in $20,000 sales increase
* Implemented new method of resolving customer complaints; customer satisfaction ratings increased from 83% to 89% in three months.

Be positive and relevant. Leave off negatives and irrelevant points. If there are some job duties that don't support your job search objective or aren't important to the job you are applying for, leave them off your resume. Focus on the skills and accomplishments that do support your objective and are relevant to the employer's needs.

Format your resume so it looks good and is easy to read. Use fonts that are pleasing to the eye and large enough to be easily read. Experiment with using two different fonts that complement each other. Use bold, underlining, borders, and italics sparingly. Be consistent throughout. For example, if you use bold for one job title or a 12-point Arial for a section header, use the same style for similar information throughout. Using short phrases will ensure plenty of white space.

Other considerations

How long should my resume be? How much space do you need to summarize your qualifications but not bore your reader to tears? For a college student or recent graduate, shoot for a one-page resume. Again, remember this is not an essay about everything you've done. If you have extensive work experience, including internships, relevant to what you are applying for, or several community volunteer roles to talk about, a two-page resume is appropriate.

Proofread! Then, proofread it again. Read it out loud. Ask for feedback from somebody else. Since you are so close to your situation, you might not see an error that someone else can clearly see. Another person also might help you more clearly articulate all your accomplishments.

Create different versions of your resume. You will definitely want to tailor your resume for specific job postings, but be sure to save the original. When you see job postings for openings that interest you, carefully review what the employer is looking for, paying close attention to the key words used to describe the position and the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to do the job. Use the key words listed in these ads to match them to the bullet points in your resume. Oftentimes, resumes get loaded into a database, then searched by key words. Unless you have the right language, your resume may not even get viewed by human eyes.

Go to Resume Starters

Did you know?

85% of alumni live in Maine
with the other 15% representing
every other state and 14 countries.


Follow Alumni 

Thomas College. Beyond Education.