How to Write a Resume

Learn how to write a resume. More specifically, learn what you should include on a resume and what you should not include on a resume. Keep reading to find the answers to the most common resume questions.

For this particular blog entry, I decided to ask my friend Jeffrey Spencer for help. Now a business consultant in Tokyo, Japan with his own firm INTER+SECTIONS, Jeffrey has had a long and colorful career in the corporate world, having held top positions with international corporations and household names such as Barclaycard, JP Morgan Chase, Pepsi Co., CitiBank, and Snapple. In short, Jeffrey has done it all…or at least almost all.

How to Write a Resume

Jeffrey now focuses on sharing the knowledge and expertise he has with others, and works with individuals and companies to build brands and brand awareness. So who better to ask about the do’s and don’ts of resume writing and how to write a resume? Nobody. After all, your resume is your brand. So, learn how to write a resume and build your personal brand. 

I chose some of the most commonly asked resume writing questions and turned to Mr. Spencer for his answers. Here is what he had to say:

Q:  How long should my resume be?

A: One of the great debates of all time.  I could write a page on this, but to keep it concise, keep it to one, or two pages at maximum. The only exception would be, if you’re changing industries and need to include the old and new relevance for  the new industry.  In this case it may be “OK” to have a 3rd page, but these are very rare.

The fact is, there are so many more places to add “stuff” or color to your profile, for example: Linkedin, your personal website, or a blog. Don’t burden your resume with this extra “stuff”.

There are no hard and fast rules dictating how to write a resume, but there are trends.  Over the last couple of years, the trend has been shorter resumes. If you have just graduated or have a few years experience, keep it to one page.  Ten years or more of work experience, two pages are acceptable.  But remember, a recruiter will spend an average of 7-10 seconds on a resume.

What’s more important than the length is the relevance of your resume and experience to the job you’re applying for.

Q: Which resume format should I use – Chronological or Functional?

A: Chronological resumes are the most common and should be used most often. Start with your most recent experience at the top and end with your earliest work experience.

The only caveat here, if most of your recent experience is not relevant to the job you’re applying for, you may lose the recruiter.  However, you could concisely address that in your cover letter.

So, When should you use a functional resume?

  1. Career transition: A career move into a new industry means that it’s more important for you to highlight your relevant, transferable skills than the chronology of your work history.
  2. Employment gaps: A functional resume is a great way to zero in on relevant achievements, which can help deflect some questionable gaps in your work history.
  3. Lack of experience. If you lack enough work history to fill out a chronological resume, then functional is the way to go. For recent grads that are new to the work force, it would be better grouping the skills they learned from relevant volunteer experience, internships, and other extracurricular activities

Q:  Are there any “keywords” or “buzzwords” that I should include on my resume?

A: Not surprisingly, the words most recruiters and hiring managers want to see fall in the “objective” category of words vs. “subjective.”  Words that count include:

Achieved

Ideas

Improved

Generated

Launched

Created

Revenue

Profit

Under budget

Influenced

Negotiated

Won

Increased

Decreased

Led

Resolved

Trained

Global

World-wide

Promoted

Collaborated

Exceeded

Simplified

Advanced

Insights

Strengthened

Segmented

Drove

Diversity

Listened

Communication

Flawless execution

Volunteered

Mentored

Q: Are there any “keywords” or “Buzzwords” I should not use on my resume?

A. These speak for themselves, if you use any of these words, you don’t deserve to get the job!!!   If you want to learn how to write a resume properly, use some of these words. 

Best of breed

Go-getter

Think outside of the box

Synergy

Go-to-person

Thought leadership

Value added

Results driven

Team player

Bottom line

Hard worker

Strategic thinker

Dynamic

Self-motivated

Detail oriented

Proactively

Track record

Q: What’s the real purpose of a resume?

A:  To get you into the candidate pool.

Q: What shouldn’t I include on my resume?

A: Hey dummy, don’t include:

  • Your Picture
  • Career Objective (this has been replaced by a professional or career summary)
  • Your picture (I can’t say this enough!)
  • Your hobbies (I don’t care that you play the piano)
  • “References upon request”
  • Don’t write in the 1st or 3rd person
  • No personal stuff except your contact information
  • An unprofessional email address,  and lose the aol and hotmail address unless you’re 65 or older (This is a joke…. but really, I mean it!)
  • All irrelevant work information for the job you are applying for
  • Did I mention not to include your picture?
  • Outdated fonts like Times New Roman and serif fonts.  Instead use san-serif fonts like Arial (I’m typing with Arial… I hope it shows up on your screen as Arial too!)
  • No salary information

Q: What should I include on my resume?

A:  Hey smart guy, include:

  • Results
  • Metrics
  • Contact information
  • Key words from job posting and/or job description
  • Accomplishments and Achievements
  • Results
  • Education
  • Career/industry awards, recognition, advanced training
  • That you speak ENGLISH! (If you are a non-native speaker, of course.)
  • Have an overarching career narrative throughout the resume – tell a story of success
  • A career summary
  • A gmail email address
  • Results, oh and Metrics (Yes, I know I said that already.)

Q: What’s the worst resume mistake?

A:  Two answers:

  • Lying
  • Typos

Q:  Should I have more than one version of my resume?

A:  In a short answer, YES, if possible.  Tilt the narrative to the job you are applying for (but remember, don’t lie).  Use the keywords in a particular job description.  Play up or play down relevant/not relevant information depending on the job you are applying for.  You don’t need a different resume for every job, but absolutely for every industry.  

Spend quality time reading the job description, the employer’s website, use LinkedIn to find key personnel, and focus on the language and words they use.  Focus on what that company values and amend your resume accordingly.

Q:  Is that all?

A:  For today, yes! 

If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask me in an email or comment below. I hope this helped you learn how to write a resume.

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Comments
  • Richard Skinner
    Reply

    Very helpful. Thanks for sharing this valuable material.

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