6 principles to use when writing your resume

By Scot Herrick | Resume Tips

Jan 31

There is an incredible amount of noise about writing your resume. Hundreds of rules, contradictory advice, many different formats – and no sense of what it takes to get the interview.

Often, it is really overwhelming. So we give up. We take something chronological, slap it together, describe what we do on our jobs (responsibilities), and then throw that resume at a bunch of job boards.

And, by the way, lose. Because writing a resume that way is asking, if not begging, to get your resume thrown into the nearest (digital) trash can.

Why don’t we spend a few minutes going over the approach, process, philosophy – whatever – you should use when writing your resume. Use these guidelines and get a much better resume out there. One that gives you a shot at getting you the interview.

Follow one philosophy towards making an effective resume

My philosophy towards resumes is simple: there is only one job for the resume and that is getting the interview. Not the offer. Not the face-to-face interview. Just moving you to the next step in the job search process.

There are corollaries to this:

Now, you may think that approach is crazy because you like some other pundit’s approach. That’s fine.

The point is this: pick an approach. Use it. See if it works. (Mine does)

An effective resume has a consistent structure

For example, when you get to the section for your Professional Experience, follow the same format for every position you’ve had.

Have your title first, then the company name, then the dates employed. Beneath that line, have one line of context around what the company does and, perhaps, your role in it.

Then below that, list bullet points for the business results you achieved working in that position.

Rinse. Repeat.

And, by the way, when I say consistent structure, that includes your font. Use the exact same font for the entire resume — a sans serif is preferred. Regular, bold, italics — all the same font family. This blog post, for example, is done in the Open Sans font family.

Use action verbs to start all results and summaries

Action verbs are the bomb. Using them sets you up to have a great bullet point about your results.

It even helps you get rid of passive language on your resume (the bane of my writing existence…).

Include 10-15 years experience on the resume and ignore the rest

Depending on your age, of course. If you haven’t been in the workforce for ten years yet, put it all in.

For those in the workforce for longer than ten years, look for a logical place to cut off the positions included in your resume. Consider accomplishments, though. If the biggest accomplishment you did was 11-years ago, make sure that you don’t cut it just because I said “ten years.” If job skills are the currency of resumes, accomplishments are the proof.

Always put in your college education and degree

I once got dinged in a background check because I simply said my college and “B. S. Business Management”. But I didn’t say I actually GOT the degree, just what the degree was.

Fortunately, they came back and asked if I got the degree…yes…and then I changed my resume to “Degree: B. S. Business Management”. Just to be clear.


Include any professional certifications

The certifications show that you continue to learn, stay current in the industry you are working, and show initiative.

My only caveat here is make sure the certifications actually relate to the industry you are working in. A masters certificate in gardening doesn’t help much when you are an IT developer.

Follow this process and produce a better resume

What you want to do is, when reading any advice on how to put your resume together, bump up that advice with these six principles.

If it passes the so called smell test, great, the advice is worth considering.

And like I said, if you don’t agree with this philosophy and approach, that’s fine – but make sure you pick an approach and follow it.

Remember: it’s about the resume being able to get you to the next step in the job search process…the interview.

See more resume tips and my approach to building resumes. Check out my Resume Tips page.