Mike’s Top Eleven Tips for a Fantastic Resume

September 13, 2010

By Mike Faber

Here’s when I learned that the world is a much smaller place than it used to be! After posting a notice that I’d be happy to do free resume “makeovers” on LinkedIn, I was deluged with resumes; some from my hometown of Denver, others from India and everywhere in between. In the continuing effort to keep my personal sanity and be of service to everyone, I’ve condensed the “top ten” most frequent resume makeover tips that have come up in the last couple of weeks. In addition to my own study, this represents input from a nationally-renowned resume expert (she asked me not to use her name) along with the most up-to-date resume style tips.

  1. Objectives are out; professional summaries and profiles are in. Tell your prospective employer the key characteristics of you that they will value most. “A detail-oriented network engineer with more than ten years of direct systems analysis oversight.” Give them reasons to see solutions to their current challenges in you!
  2. The last decade of professional experience is enough to list. Give the greatest weight to your most recent work and accomplishments. If you’ve been in the workforce for more than fifteen years or so, include at the bottom of your detailed work experience a heading that says “Past Relevant Professional Experience” and list company names and title(s) only.
  3. Run, do not walk, to the nearest bookstore and purchase a copy of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. This is the bible of writing form and grammar, and it should be stapled to the forearm of everyone who has to communicate in English via the written word. I have seen a maddening number of grammatical and syntax errors in years of resume review.
  4. You and your high-school sweetheart know that you were a State record high-jumper. Your future employer (unless you’re applying for a job as a track coach) doesn’t want to know and doesn’t care. Resumes are judged in seconds, not minutes, and every inch of information counts. Don’t waste your writing (and their reading) time on data that doesn’t matter.
  5. See the above four recommendations? They’re presented in bullet point form. Like it or not, we’re a “short attention span” society and we want information fed to us in easy, bite-size pieces. Limit your bullet points to three per job, and define them in the format in bullet point number six.
  6. List your result first and then tell your employer how you did it. The old-style resume might say “Conducted clinical trials on monkeys over four years that proved a direct link between smoking and cancer.” Bad news for the monkeys; bad news for you. Here’s an approach that puts the result of your work first. “Proved a direct link between smoking and cancer by leading a team of researchers and doctoral candidates.”
  7. Accepted practice for resumes is 12 point font, either Times Roman or Arial style. Your resume is no place to “get cute” to attract attention. In the “olden” days, resumes crossed my desk on pink, blue, green, orange and even purple paper. I understood the need to get noticed, but those invariably ended up in the trash bin.
  8. Education goes near the end of your resume, not at the top. Employers hire for practical experience and results, so make sure those two take center stage.
  9. One misspelling dooms the entire body of work. Proofread your own resume and have several people proofread it again. After it’s been proofread by friends and family, hire a coach or an English teacher or a librarian to proofread it again.
  10. If you’ve seen my picture on the Internet, you know I have no hair. I pulled it out, strand by strand, every time I read the phrase “References available upon request.” Same goes for “Proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel.” These phrases are now officially equivalent to “Have a pulse.” Your resume is your place to brag about what you do best, not to confirm your basic skills.
  11. Math was never a strong suit for me, so here’s a bonus tip to make it a “Top Eleven.” Your resume doesn’t have to be created each time you apply for a job, but you do need to customize it for each position. If the job posting says “Looking for a financial professional with 10+ years of experience” your Professional Profile should reflect that you meet that criteria. By the way, “10+” years could mean eleven years, or forty-two. Don’t “age” yourself unnecessarily.

A few other resources that you have at your disposal are free on the Internet. Check out http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/wdc/291196665.html for an excellent article on resume do’s and don’ts. I’m a coach; of course I’ll tell you the money you invest for a resume/business/job coach is priceless. I’m biased, so don’t take my word for it. Ask friends, co-workers and colleagues in groups on LinkedIn for recommendations on who to talk to. If you’d like to speak with me about your resume (and cover letters) feel free to email me at info@mikefaber.com to set up time for a coaching session.

I hope you’ve found these tips and advice useful. Tough economies never last, but tough people do. We don’t say it enough to ourselves, so I’ll say it to you. I am proud of you for persevering and believing that good things come to those who make them happen.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Naomi Price September 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Great advice, Mike! Thank you for taking the time to donate your valuable time to people who need your help in times like these!

Mary Schreiber September 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm

I love #9…one misspelling dooms the entire body of work. To that I would add other basic rules, like using an “s” to identify a plural, not apostrophe “s,” and using commas and periods correctly. If you can’t remember to put a period at the end of the sentence, I may not agree with that “detail-oriented” statement in your summary.

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