How To Make A Good Resume From A Bad One

What does your resume say about who you are? An overview of how to fix a poor resume that hasn't been getting you anywhere fast.


The three biggest mistakes that most people make when preparing their resume for a job search are (1) lack of good organization, (2) excessive wordiness, and (3) poor presentation. This brief overview will show you how to analyze your current resume and make the necessary corrections that will allow you to outshine the competition.


A prospective employer shouldn't have to peruse your bio with a thick magnifying glass in order to learn crucial information about whether your education and skill level would be a solid match for his or her company. Each category should stand out and allow for a quick read-through. Accordingly, you want a summary of your background and qualifications that can be neatly confined to one page.

At the top of the page and centered should be your name, address, phone number, and email address. If you have a website with content that is pertinent to the position for which you are applying, go ahead and list that as well. For instance, perhaps you are a photographer or artist and have an online portfolio of your work. Or perhaps you are applying for a job as a writer and have excerpts posted from different publications. Interestingly, this is the one section of a resume that prospective employees invariably forget to proofread. Why? Because they're so used to the repetition of supplying this information that they assume they could do it in their sleep. I can't tell you, though, how many resumes I've received wherein the person misspelled his or her own name or transposed numbers in the address or phone!

The next item in your resume, entered at the left-hand margin, should be your area of expertise. This can either be shown as "Specialization: Graphic Arts" or as a mini-summation of your talents which will encourage the reader to drop down to the next section in order to learn how you acquired these skills and/or expert knowledge.

The third section is devoted to your actual work experience. This can be categorized in one of two ways. The most common is a chronological listing, starting with your current or most recent position. If you've been in the job market for a long time, those experiences which were in the distant past (i.e. your first job after high school or college) can gradually be dropped off with the passage of years. If you're a newcomer and your resume is a bit light, don't forget that volunteer activities can count as experience, especially if they allowed you to demonstrate leadership, coordination, mentoring or participation in fundraising. The second format, especially if you have diversified experiences, is to separate them by headers such as "Writing, Publishing, Teaching" and list the specifics under each one. This is also an effective approach if you are applying for a variety of different positions because it enables you to move these elements around and put the one that is most relevant to a particular job in the top slot.

The next section of your resume is your educational information; specifically, your degree, major, and name of school. This is also where you will list any professional, fraternal or scholastic organizations you belong to.


Never mistake a resume as a forum to be chatty and conversational. You're not writing a letter here. You're advancing a written profile of who you are. Hopefully this door-opener will be of sufficient interest that you will be invited to come in and show them who you are in person.

What an interviewer is going to look for in your background experience is a brief summation of job duties as well as demonstrated results. You wouldn't write, for instance, "My next job was at Black & Green which is a construction company that builds single family homes and apartments and where I was put in charge of the typing pool and did other office manager type things like deal with all the vendors and purchase orders and sometimes when it was really busy I was also asked"¦." Following the title of "Office Manager, Black & Green Construction," you would identify your duties as: "Supervised pool of 15 typists, initiated and monitored vendor contracts, etc." If you can show results or innovations, even better! For instance, "Implemented employee incentive program which cut absenteeism by 20% in first 6 months."

The assumption will be made by most employers that each time you left a job it was to go to a job that offered more money, more responsibility or better benefits. Thus, it's not necessary to delineate these reasons in your resume. It's also taboo to cite reasons that either cast aspersions on your former employer(s) (i.e., "My boss was a real jerk") or on you, (i.e., "I got bored out of my mind.")


Remember back in high school when you figured out that a neatly typed term paper was sure to get a better grade than a handwritten one on binder paper with the holes ripped out? The reason it garnered a better grade was twofold: (1) it looked as if the student put more work into the paper and (2) it was easier for the teacher to read. The same holds true with resumes. This is, after all, the very first impression that you are going to make on someone. Would you show up at a first meeting wearing a stained T-shirt and old jeans? Of course not! So why should you send your resume off to represent you in anything less than its best look?

Your resume should be typed in an easy to read font. The most popular are Courier, Times New Roman, Bookman or Palatino. Yes, yes, I know there are lots of wonderfully creative fonts like Mistral, Sydnie, Rage Italic and Braggadocio that you've been dying to use but this isn't the time to do it. Nor is it the time to pick out an exotic font color like Tangerine or Lime Green and add lots of eye-popping graphics to pep things up a bit. Basic black, please. Your font size should also be 12 point. Anything less than that will make the reviewer start squinting. The more they squint, the less they will like you and probably not call you for an interview.

It's also recommended that you (1) not include a photograph unless one has been specifically asked for and (2) not include supplemental materials unless they have been requested as part of the application package.

The type of paper you use also says a lot about you. Invest in a nice batch of high quality paper in cream, ivory, pale blue or pale grey, along with matching envelopes.

Before you put it in that envelope, though, solicit a second or even third pair of eyes to proofread for you. This will ensure that the resume that is going out the door will guarantee that you will subsequently be invited in the door and offered the job of your dreams.

© High Speed Ventures 2011