Refine Your Resume

Writing an effective resume is one of the most important tasks in the job search process

Your resume is a self-marketing tool that outlines your unique value to an employer and can ultimately secure a coveted job interview. Most employers will spend only 20 to 30 seconds when reviewing a resume. To get your resume noticed at first glance, you want to ensure it is concise, well organized, error free, and visually appealing. A successful resume should highlight your relevant knowledge, skills, and accomplishments.

Here are a few tips to remember when designing your resume:

  • Include relevant contact information.

Include an e-mail and phone number where you can be reached. If it helps to show where you live, include your full address. If you have a home phone, office phone, and cell phone, you may not want to include all those numbers. Pick the numbers that will make it the easiest for a potential employer to reach you. Include a professional website, but only if it provides additional, helpful information, such as if you have an online portfolio.

  • Document your achievements.

Highlight your past accomplishments, not just your previous job responsibilities. Accomplishments that are results-oriented will attract the prospective employer’s interest and are much more meaningful than just listing job duties.

  • Be sure your resume has a targeted focus.

Customize your resume to portray a clear match between your qualifications and the job requirements.

  • Emphasize your transferable skills.

These are the general skills that you have acquired over time that apply to a wide variety of employment settings. Examples include communication, leadership, interpersonal, and organizational skills. Most employers seek these types of skills.

  • Quantify information on your resume whenever possible.

For example, relay to the employer the number of staff you supervised, the total budget amount you managed, the percentage of sales you achieved.

  • Be clear and concise.

Keep your information brief and to the point. Depending on the extent of your experience, a one- to two-page resume is the norm.

  • Maintain a business-like tone throughout your resume.

Refrain from using personal pronouns such as “I” or “me” or any type of abbreviations.

  • Ensure that all the information reflected on your resume is honest and accurate—don’t embellish. Once you secure a job interview, you must be able to substantiate the skills and credentials you originally touted on your resume.
  • List your experience in reverse chronological order.

The only exception to using the reverse chronological format is if you are changing careers or your past experience is more relevant to your career goals than your current experience.

  • Consider adding a section at the beginning of your resume titled “Profile” or “Summary of Qualifications,” which summarizes approximately three to six relevant experiences, achievements, and/or strengths in brief, bulleted phrases. This serves to showcase your best-selling attributes and can immediately capture the employer’s attention.
  • There is no need to list names of references on your resume.

This can be done on a separate sheet and provided upon an employer’s request.

  • Proofread!

Before you submit your resume to an employer, be sure to catch any spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors. These types of errors will cause a prospective employer to dismiss you regardless of any winning qualifications you may have. Ask friends or relatives to review your resume as a second pair of eyes. Try to get several opinions.

A well-designed resume can secure an interview and elicit entry to your next job or career. Use the above tips as guidelines, and check out the Career Center for more related resources—like how to get your resume and cover letter critiqued (link:—and take the time to create a resume that reflects the exceptional and strong candidate that you are!

Editor’s note: Text adapted from Maribeth Gunner Pulliam’s article, “Quick Tips to Refine Your Resume” from Live & Learn, Fall 2006.