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How Not To Write Your Resume

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Michelle Dumas photoDon't Focus On Yourself.

This is one of the most important rules when composing your resume -- don't focus on yourself. Yes, of course it is your resume and of course your resume is about you. But when you write your resume, you should do so with the employer's needs in mind. Rather than including a "resume objective," for example, which tells the reader what YOU want, write a "summary of qualifications" section that tells the reader what you OFFER them. Your summary section and entire resume should be written to showcase the qualifications that you bring to the table that will make you a valuable addition to your future employer's team. The "employment history" section of your resume should be written to emphasize achievements, but include only those details and achievements that are relevant to the intended recipient of your resume, and write your achievements statements with an eye toward providing proof of your aility to deliver similar contributions and value in the future.

Don't Be Too General.

While you might think that being intentionally vague is a good ploy to attract a broader spectrum of employers, this strategy is almost guaranteed to backfire. Many recruiters will tell you that they receive hundreds and hundreds of resumes in response to just a single job posting. They will not have time to go through each methodically. You'll be lucky if you resume gets a quick 15-second scan. This quick scan must give the employer an immediately obvious idea of what you have to offer and whether or not a closer examination of your resume is justified. If your resume focus isn't crystal clear -- if the key points don't literally jump off the page at the reader -- if the content isn't focused to show how you will meet that employer's needs -- you will not make it through the cut. Be specific and write your resume to highlight the qualifications and accomplishments relevant to your focus.

Don't Be Generic.

Generic qualifications are those that simply put you on par with your peers. Nearly everyone working within your profession and industry can lay claim to certain baseline qualifications. If these become the focus of your resume, your resume will seem generic. While your baseline credentials are important and should be mentioned in your resume, they do nothing to differentiate you. Baseline qualifications aren't what will win you an interview. Showcasing baseline qualifications will simply make your resume seem generic and ensure it blends in with all the others. Instead, showcase those qualifications that differentiate you and set you apart from your competition in the job market. Communicate to the employer what makes you unique and valuable and what uniquely qualifies you to meet their needs, as opposed to the other applicants. Now take it a step further and provide some examples of past accomplishments that illustrate your differentiating strengths.

Don't Focus On Job Responsibilities.

Focusing your resume on the responsibilities that you have held in past positions simply informs the reader what you were supposed to do, not what you did do. There is a difference between being responsible for something and actually achieving something. Your resume should use active language to convey what you accomplished, not what you were supposed to accomplish. Additionally, an accomplishment statement that stops short of conveying the actual result or benefit of the accomplishment is not as powerful or credible as it could be. Whenever possible you should use numbers in your resume to provide examples of how you have helped make money, save money, or otherwise add value to past employers.

Don't Include Your Life History.

Resumes, at their best, are meant to be self-marketing documents that sell you as the best candidate to fill a job opening. It is not meant to be a listing of your entire background back to high school. If you include irrelevant or out-of-date data in your resume you dilute the impact. If you include experience that isn't relevant to the position you are applying for, the reader may even begin to doubt that you truly understand the requirements of the position. Write your resume to focus on the specific skills that you bring to the table for the job you are applying for, highlighting and accentuating your experience in a targeted way. In most cases, if you have more than 10, 15, or 20 years of work history, your early jobs will be less relevant to your current career. Focus your resume on only the most relevant and recent experience.

Don't Be Too Personal.

Most experts agree that you should infuse your resume with your own personal brand. Many even agree that it is a good idea to let your personality subtly shine through. However, you should not include too much personal information. Your resume is not the place to list your age, details about your family, information that reveals your religion or political leanings, or details about your health. Quite apart from the fact that this information is essentially irrelevant for virtually all jobs, employers are very sensitive about information that could lead to discrimination suits. Potential employers are restricted in the types of information that they can seek from you and you should not offer it up front. If you do, many employers will simply toss your resume aside and move on to the next candidate for the job.

Don't Use A Template.

In a job market that is more competitive than many of us have seen in our lifetimes, your resume must stand out from the masses. If you use a template to compose and design your resume, your resume will simply blend in with the 100 other applicants that used the very same template. It doesn't matter how powerful and persuasive the content of your resume is if it never gets read. A generic, template-looking resume will be passed up for the next resume in the pile that is eye-catching and distinctive. Don't go overboard, but make sure that your resume is neat, attractive, catches the eye, and uses a format that is easy to read while calling attention to the differentiators in your background.

About the Author:

Michelle Dumas runs one of the longest-standing and most respected professional resume writing firms on the internet. Since 1996, Michelle and her team have empowered thousands of professionals with resumes and job search strategies that get results and win jobs fast. Get insider resume writing tips that you won't find anywhere else, example resumes, and more articles like this one at her website. Go now to


Published - March 2011

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