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Resume Writing Principles

by Greg Fall

The following are a few key principles to keep in mind when writing your resume ...

Accuracy – Be honest in describing your experience and be conservative when citing numbers.

Focus on Recent Experience – Usually, the length of writing about your most recent 2-3 positions will equal the length of writing for all other positions combined. There are often exceptions to this principle, certainly.

Choppy Style – Eliminate as many “a” and “the” type words as possible, but pay attention to phrase structure.

Perfection – This entails more than just spell check. Have others read over for content and make sure to read backwards, from the last word to the first, to catch anything spell check may have missed.

Eliminate Personal Pronouns – Cut out “I” and “my.” 

No Discriminatory Information – Leave out any references to age, religion, weight, married or single, disabilities, race.

Current Terminology – Make sure you use current jargon, especially related to either technical aspects of the position or cultural speak in the industry.

Abbreviations – Be careful about using abbreviations, although a reference to TQM on a manufacturing resume will be easily understood as “total quality management.” Typically, include the full name in parenthesis after the first use only, such as with “EQi (emotional intelligence).” Also, many companies have their own terminology which is not easily understood outside the culture.

Periods – Periods belong at the end of each bullet.

Verb Tense – I recommend beginning bullets in the past tense, even with a current position, but you could choose present tense for a current position and past tense for past positions. The summary and core competencies sections should be written in present tense. 

Every Word Counts – If a word does not add any value, eliminate it. For example, don’t use “Work Experience,” use “Experience,” avoiding redundancy.

Use Adjectives Sparingly – Eliminate words like “very,” “most,” and “excellent.” Choose less subjective replacements or eliminate altogether. Examples: instead of writing “excellent communication skills,” write “proven communication skills.” Instead of writing “very accomplished,” write “accomplished.”

Hope these help! While there are many factors to consider when crafting your resume, the above will provide you with a good beginner's roadmap. And remember ... content is the real king!