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10 Tips for an Interview Winning Resume

January 12, 2012

The following list is intended to provide general guidelines to help you make your résumé more competitive.  It is not an exhaustive list, but merely some of the most common areas that do-it-yourself resume writers often overlook.

1.       First Impression – Design and Aesthetics

Do:  Design it to look like the marketing document that is.  Use tasteful color and industry appropriate graphic design.  Ensure clean, uncluttered, unique design with proper use of white space.

Don’t: Use a Microsoft Word template.  It looks exactly like thousands of other resumes and shows lack of individuality.

2.       Format and Presentation of Content

Do: Ensure value proposition is easily noticed in a 10 second visual scan.  Strategically minimize problem areas.  Limit the length to no more than 2 pages.

Don’t: Draw attention to problem areas by trying to explain them away.

3.       Focus on a Specific Position

Do: Target your resume to a particular position and industry.  Choose keywords and skills that are specific to the target role.

Don’t: Try to use a “jack-of-all-trades” resume that attempts to target multiple positions (customer service, administrative, and human resources all at once).  These rarely get results.

 4.       Personal Branding

Do: Clearly communicate what you offer that is uniquely you, and support this claim with endorsements and track record specifics.

Don’t: Use a resume that is so generic that it could be used by anyone in that career by just changing names and employment dates.

 5.       Value Proposition

Do: Include a high-impact Professional Profile that summarizes value to employer and communicates your target position.  List specifics like years of experience in field, special certifications and key technical qualifications.

Don’t: Use a cliché “Objective” statement that addresses your needs, not the employer’s.

 6.       Accomplishments

Do: Ensure results achieved are listed as bulleted action statements that quantify business impact of results.  Older Accomplishments can be listed in a separate section at the top so they are noticed quickly.

Don’t: Fail to list any accomplishments at all, bury the best ones on page two, or fail to quantify the results.

 7.       Experience

Do: Include a brief description of company, “snapshot” of accountabilities, short job description, and key contributions.  List experience in reverse chronological order.

Don’t: Include work experience that is irrelevant to target position, or that is more than 15 years old (unless that’s the only experience relevant to your target job).

8.       Education

Do: Include only degrees earned, GPA if higher than 3.0, and major if relevant.  Current enrollments may be listed with “candidate” and anticipated graduation date.

Don’t: Draw attention to lack of degree by including high school, or “selected college coursework.”  Use professional development section instead (if applicable), or just leave education off altogether.

 9.       Professional Associations

Do: Describe active involvement in groups related to the company’s industry or your profession.  Board membership and conference speaking engagements show a level of thought leadership and volunteerism that is valuable.

Don’t: Include membership in irrelevant groups that draw attention to political, religious, or other protected affiliations that are irrelevant to target job.

10.   Proofreading

Do: Ensure your resume is 100% free of grammar, spelling and typing errors, and formatting inconsistencies.

Don’t: Neglect to have a second pair of eyes review it.  There are things that a word processor’s spelling and grammar checker will miss, such as misuse of words.  Ask an educated friend, colleague, or professional resume writer to review it.

What about you?  

How does your resume hold up to these standards?

Are there any points here you’ve never heard before?

17 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2012 12:03 PM

    Great advice Karleen! What are the pro’s or con’s of including your picture on your resume? Do you recommend it? Why or Why Not?

    • January 12, 2012 12:33 PM

      Great question! I never say never, but I will say that there are very few circumstances when I would recommend it. It opens you up for discrimination due to age or race, or even attractiveness. Also, employers can usually see your picture on LinkedIn, so it takes up space on your resume that could be used for something that adds more value to your personal brand.

      The exceptions to this are:
      1) If you live in a country like Mexico or India where a picture on a resume or CV is customary and expected. Each country has different customs regarding resumes – my recommendations tend to reflect the American customs.
      2) If you are in a career where your face will be part of the company’s product or brand image. For example, in the entertainment industry, modeling, or even public speaking or public relations, your physical appearance is an important part of your personal brand. In these cases, always use professional pictures that are appropriate for your particular field.

  2. January 12, 2012 12:09 PM

    Fantastic, Karleen. You hit every question I had, nailed it! I’m going to share this with my peeps!

  3. Michaelina permalink
    January 12, 2012 12:12 PM

    This was excellent. I’ve learned quite a bit just following your blog here.

  4. January 12, 2012 12:37 PM

    Great article, that’s really going to help me out, thanks.

  5. January 12, 2012 1:01 PM

    Thoroughly enjoyed this! Especially since I’m in the midst of applying for jobs – this is a great checklist for fixing up my resume! Thank you 🙂

  6. January 12, 2012 1:05 PM


    This is like a “Career Branding Starter Kit.” I hope people are paying attention, because this is a terrific start with the resume to then branch out to online presence, etc.

    How am I doing? I give myself a C. Glad we have connected — I look forward to moving toward an A with your guidance!

    Great post, Karleen,

    P.S. Thank you for participating in January Jig — You’re really giving the crowd FABULOUS!! 🙂

  7. January 12, 2012 1:13 PM

    Hi Karleen,
    Awesome tips! You did a beautiful job outlining the do’s and don’ts and made it relevant to today’s labor force. Quick question. You recommended not using Microsoft Word for a resume template. How do you suggest formatting a resume?

    • January 12, 2012 1:52 PM

      Sherrie, I do use Word for resumes, just not one of the templates that Microsoft includes as part of the software package. I do my own formatting in Word to create a unique look. Each person’s background and target is different, so each resume necessarily has some formatting differences. There is no “one-size-fits-all.”

      Thanks for your comments and question!

  8. January 12, 2012 3:04 PM

    Great post. It’s time to think about. I’m still using my old cv, formatted in Word 5 for Dos. So I’ll reimagine it, visually, but also conceptually. In particular I feel we shall communicate what we do and not what we have done. Plus we shall consider what we produce everyday on the net. what do you think? Thanks for your post it really move my mind on.

  9. January 12, 2012 3:47 PM

    Amazing! I have so many friends job searching, I’m going to share this right now.

  10. January 12, 2012 5:28 PM

    Awesome post, Karleen! Thank you! Off to share it.. 🙂

  11. January 12, 2012 7:28 PM

    This is one of the best summaries I have seen . Thanks so much, Karleen. We will be sure to pass it along. as well as your contact information.

  12. Cachet B. Prescott permalink
    January 12, 2012 9:37 PM

    Such good information! I love the Do’s and Don’ts format. Your point on personal branding is especially important in this day and age because it’s an employer’s market. They have the upper hand and can be as picky as they want to be when it comes to job prospects. Now, job seekers create and sell their brand in order to even stand a chance. Thanks for the breakdown.

  13. January 13, 2012 4:40 AM

    Great article. I wonder what you think about mobile landing pages and QR codes?

  14. jamelcel permalink
    January 15, 2012 5:36 PM

    Great advice I learned a lot reading your blog…..This is wonderful I need to update my old resume now….Thanks

  15. January 16, 2012 2:25 PM

    As a person who served as a military officer and as a manager in two federal agencies, I can honestly say that I have significant experience hiring employees. I have seen some great resumes, and I have seen some really awful ones as well. The points made in this post are not only relevant, they are most definitely requirements if you want a resume that will succeed at landing you an interview.

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