How To Write A Better Resume

By Ann Baehr
CPRW and President of Best Resumes of New York

There are as many opinions on the subject of resumes as there are job seekers! Some of the more popular opinions are centered on the use of objectives, summaries, profiles, title headings, keywords, reference statements, personal interests, salary history, dates, graphics, fonts, and of course, the length of the resume. One thing is certain – the resume should sell a candidate’s strengths and qualifications, and answer a hiring manager’s question, “How can you solve my problem?” It should also have full contact information, be organized, and provide specific information that a hiring manager needs to decide whether or not a candidate is well suited for a position. At the very least, it should list relevant experience and achievements.

Purpose of a Resume

A resume is a personal marketing document that communicates your career objective and value to a hiring company. A strong resume is carefully planned and developed (not quickly typed up) in an appropriate format (style) designed to showcase your experience and accomplishments in direct relation to a specific position.

Basic Resume Formatting Rules

  • Bold and enlarge your name at the top.
  • Keep the sections lined up and consistent.
  • Use an Arial or Times New Roman font (or similar).
  • Font size shouldn’t be smaller than 11pt or larger than 12pt, except for your Name and Headings.
  • Do not include pronouns such as “I,” company street addresses, salary, or reasons for leaving.
  • Two-page Resume: be sure to fill the second page at least halfway down the page.
  • Place “Continued” at the bottom of page one, and your name and “Page 2″ at the top of page two.
  • Use graphics sparingly unless you are in a creative field. It is safe to use a border and shading.
  • Leave out personal data, photos, and unrelated hobbies, unless you are an actor/actress or model.
  • If you spell out the state in your address, such as New York, spell out the states for your job.
  • Proof, proof, and proof again!

Common Mistakes: Do’s and Don’ts

  • Needs an Objective or Title Heading (make it clear to the reader what Bposition you are seeking. If you’re unsure, consider career counseling or purchase/rent a book on career choices)
  • Could use a Summary or Profile statement (show your career overview)
  • Objective is weak, cliché, unclear, or vague (State what you can do for the employer; not only what you want from them)
  • Resume does not support Objective (be sure to make a connection)
  • Lacks accomplishments / career achievements (sell it, don’t tell it!)
  • Lacks industry-specific terminology / Keywords (“speak” the reader’s language)
  • Jobs are not in the proper order
  • Sentences are too choppy-five words per bullet (expand; make it interesting)
  • Wording is weak; statements are too simple (use action verbs and a thesaurus)
  • Same information repeated too many times
  • Too many typos and grammatical errors (read it backwards; have a friend proof-read it!)
  • Unrelated jobs go back too far in years (keep it to 7-10 years in most cases)
  • Includes too much unrelated information (stay on track; keep the position in mind)
  • Does not include enough related information (show how well rounded you are)
  • Uses pronouns – “I, He, She, His, Her” (not necessary or is understood)
  • Style is outdated looking (headings are underlined and followed by colons “:”, the word “duties” is used, and uses “responsibilities:” as subheadings)
  • Second page is too short – only a third down or less (condense/combine)
  • Second page does not include your name (what if the second page is misplaced?)
  • Too much or not enough white space (looks empty, inexperienced)
  • Uses the full address for employers (list only the town and state)
  • Uses full employment dates such as 12/11/01 (list only the month and year)
  • Lists reason for leaving or explains situation (if you must, save it for the letter)
  • Includes a Professional References Available Upon Request statement at the bottom of the resume (not wrong, but not necessary. Remember, this is not an option. If the employer wants references, they will ask for them)
  • Includes a cover letter / salary information on the resume (use separate sheets)
  • Includes unrelated personal interests and hobbies such as “enjoy reading, long walks, music, travel, knitting, and puzzles” (include interests ONLY if it is related to your career Objective)
  • Includes personal information such as married, homeowner, two children (Leave off. It is unrelated to the position, and risks possible discrimination)

Ann Baehr is a CPRW and President of Best Resumes of New York. Notable credentials include her former role as Second Vice President of NRWA and contribution to 25+ resume and cover letter sample books. To learn more visit