job search tip 25It is always a shock to candidates to find out that the importance of their resume, even a well-crafted resume, is grossly overrated. As a professional recruiter since 1973, I have never seen a candidate hired because of his or her resume. You do need a resume, and it should be well written, but all a resume is going to do is help get you in the door to the interview. The interview itself is where you either win or lose the job offer.

People think that a resume is some kind of magical document that’s going to get them a great job. The idea that there is some secret formula to the resume is simply untrue. The major reason people overrate resumes is because they can control what they write in one. It is one of those job search activities that can be confused with productivity. I encounter people all the time that devote three or four days to writing a resume. It shouldn’t take more than four or five hours – if you start from scratch. Beyond that, it’s a waste of time. Because it is one of the things in a job search that an individual can control, people have a tendency to think that if they devote enough time to it they will get a better job. Wrong!

Getting interviews and managing the process of interviews are 100 more times important than having a good resume. The purpose of a resume is to help get you into the initial interview by providing the hiring authority the information needed to decide if you are a person they should pursue.

The average resume is read in ten seconds because the hiring authority typically receives hundreds of resumes for each opening. Think about it…. ten seconds. If your resume cannot interest the hiring authority in calling you within 10 seconds, all of your artful, miraculous, cosmic, inventive, unique formatting or wording isn’t going to matter.

An effective resume will send the clear message to the prospective employer that “you need to interview, then hire, me,” because this is what I’ve done as a student (or member of the military) and therefore this is what I can do for you!” Remember what I taught you about transferable skills from what you learned.

Career coaches and your placement office at school are going to give you advice and examples about resumes. I personally review 400 resumes a week. I use two hundred of those resumes to help my candidates get interviews and find jobs. I know what works and I will share it with you now.

The secret to a successful resume, however, is not that you have a good one so much as it is how you use it. That is the real secret. Here are some basic tips for your resume:

Length – for someone just starting out in their career, it should never be more than one page.

Name, address, email address, and telephone numbers should be on the top of your resume in black, bold printing. Simple printing! No fancy script. Nothing cute. Just use a plain, black, and simple bold font.

I do not recommend an Objective or Summary/Highlights of qualifications. Any objective or summary is either too general or broad to fit a specific need, or so specific that it will eliminate you from other opportunities.

Chronological format is the only style you should ever use.

Prior experience, either full-time or part-time, can be listed. These can be jobs where you were paid, volunteer work, or even nonacademic learning experiences. You’ll want to describe the experience, as I mentioned above, in terms of outstanding accomplishments or what you learned. This part of the resume, along with academic accomplishments, is going be the most important for setting you apart from other candidates.

I do not recommend putting personal information on the resume. Personal information and salary requirements will eliminate you more than they will help you get an interview. References are not necessary in the initial stages of the interview.

Use positive, action-oriented verbs. Action verbs, such as attained, achieved, accomplished, investigated, set priorities, tested, inspired, influenced, determined, coached, etc., enhance the description of your experiences and accomplishments. You can find lists of many more with a little research.

Standard Resume Example



University/College (years attended) Describe the degree you received, primary majors, GPA and any outstanding academic performances you attained

High School (years attended) Describe any outstanding achievements and honors. The further along you get in your career, the less you will write about your high school experience. Eventually you won’t include it at all, but in your first resume you will.


Date to date – Describe any work experience, even if only part-time. Describe what you learned from the job, as well as any outstanding performance.

Date to date – Same as above.

VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE – Describe any volunteer experience and what you learned.

ACTIVITIES / INTERESTS / ACCOMPLISHMENTS – Describe here any outstanding activities, interests or personal accomplishments you may have.

Cover letters

Cover letters are as overrated as resumes. A well-written cover letter needs to be short and to the point. If a resume is read for 10 seconds, a cover letter probably gets read in only five seconds.

The purpose of a cover letter is to briefly state why you should be interviewed, as well as accentuate the facts in your resume that are most important to a prospective employer. As a student, or person just coming to the workforce, it should be simple and to the point. It can be mailed or emailed with your resume. It should read something like this:

Mr./Ms. _______:

You were recommended/referred to me by _______. (Only if you were referred that way)


You should review my resume and interview me because:

  1. 1. I was an excellent student and worked hard for good grades.
  2. 2. I have been a leader, with excellent communication skills.
  3. 3. I’m a proven hard worker who is dependable, passionate, and committed.

Read my resume and let’s talk this week.

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