Ten Secrets of a Successful Résumé

resumesGuest Blog by Pam Condie


The most important thing to keep in mind when building a résumé is its purpose:  answering the employer’s need for you to solve a problem he/she has that can’t be solved with his/her current staff.  That is the employer’s only interest in you.  Focus your résumé to answer his/her question.  That is what will get your foot in the door for a job interview.

  1.  Make your résumé long enough to tell your story but tell it succinctly.  There is a myth out in the ether that a résumé will not be read if it is longer than one page.  Wrong!  I have seen many résumés that had the life edited out of them because they were squeezed into a single page of small print – not appealing to the hiring manager.
  2.  When I worked in human resources I often found that hiring was a messy, frequently changing process.  Cover letters and résumés could get separated, particularly if we had received many responses to a job opening.  Be certain that all pages of your résumé as well as your cover letter have your name and contact information in the footer of each page.  At the bottom of your first page write “continued on next page” if you have a second page.   Otherwise the reader will not know if you have finished writing or if he/she should look around for a missing second page.
  3.  As they teach in accounting classes, “Check your work, check it and check it again.” Check for spelling and English errors.  A careless error can turn a reader off and damage your credibility as someone who pays attention to details.  Don’t depend on a software spelling feature to catch all mistakes.  The engineer who wrote the program was most likely not an English major.
  4.  Most human beings are lazy readers.  Be kind to them.  Make your font 11 or 12 point.  Smaller fonts are harder on the eyes.  Larger looks amateurish.
  5.  Times Roman is the most popular font in the US and allows more information per square inch than most others.  Pick it or one that is neither unusual nor fussy looking.  Keep things simple.
  6.  Since most people resist reading, especially reading long sentences and paragraphs, divide your résumé into smaller batches of information to invite the reader in.
  7.  The objective is the first piece of information at the top of the first page. A clear objective helps the human resources department track your document more easily.  It answers the employer’s question, “What do you want from me?”  Keep the objective brief, to the point and possibly slightly broad, i.e., “Director of Sales.” Keep in mind that you have an electronic copy of your résumé and can tweak the objective if you need to for other job openings.   (Connie disagrees with the use of objectives and feels you should have 3-5 bullet points that show the things that you can do, and like to do, that the employer needs for this job. Louise Goeckel, Let’s Go Forward.biz, suggests a headline like “Director of Sales known for _________ with talent in ________.”)
  8.  The first third of your first page is the most valuable real estate on your résumé.  The latest study shows that recruiters spend a maximum of six seconds screening your résumé for further review. State your case there in a career summary, the snapshot of your career.
  9.  Unless you are in the field of education, medicine or diplomacy or you are a new graduate, your education goes near the end of your résumé. If you had a college minor subject or a scholarship or an academic honor, do include it.
  10.  Community activities are nice to include at the end of the résumé. They demonstrate industry and the physical and mental energy for a balanced life. Be careful of mentioning activities with controversial groups here.  You never know where people’s prejudices lie in spite of what they say. (Connie disagrees.  Only include if you KNOW that the hiring manager does the same thing.)


Pam Condie is a former HR person and a Certified Professional Resume Writer who works with people from all industries to clarify and write their next resume.  She can be reached at www.pamcondieresumes.com

Guest Blog: Asking for References and Recommendations

My friend, Lori, helps all sorts of people figure out what they want to do next and then develop some tools to make it happen. She is lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Lori Howard

Lori Howard

Guest Blog by  Lori Howard


Are your references current?  Do you have a list of people who will gladly recommend you and your work to your next employer?

Maria worked at the same company for over five years.  But when her youngest went off to college, she decided it was also time for a change for herself.  She wanted to change careers, and get a job she would really love.  After she updated her resume and cover letter, she began to apply for jobs.  Almost immediately she was asked to provide references.  Maria began to feel uneasy and not at all prepared.  She hadn’t asked anyone to be a reference or provide recommendations.  She realized she had lost contact with some of the people who could provide the best reference for her.  Maria quickly called me to talk about what to do.  She wanted to be prepared going forward. 

Asking for references and recommendations should be a part of your tactical plan for getting a new job, as well as your strategy for maintaining your career independence.  Unfortunately, it’s an area we often overlook or neglect (like Maria did), until it becomes time critical.  The worst time to pull together your references and recommendations is when you are filling out a job application, or are about to connect with someone on LinkedIn that works at a company you’ve dreamed of working for.

References and Recommendations are different, so let me start with some definitions. 

References are the people who are willing to be contacted to give positive feedback regarding your professional work (professional references) or your personal character (personal references).

Recommendations are a written version of the nice things people say about you, your work, and your character.  The most common forms of recommendations for the job search are the written letter and the LinkedIn Recommendation.

This article focuses on the References List. Here are three keys to managing your references for your job search, and for your career independence. (For details on recommendations, click here. https://unearthyourworth.com/references-and-recommendations-part-2/)

1.      Whom should you have as references?

Only ask people whom you trust and whom you know will say positive things about you to be a reference for you.  This may sound obvious, but still worth saying. 

I recommend you maintain a typed References List naming 3-6 professional and 3 personal references.  Include their name, current title, relationship to you, and their preferred contact information (phone number, email address, or both). 

First identify your professional references.  Think about the people you’ve worked with, at your current job and throughout your career.  Think about managers, staff, and peers.  A professional reference is anyone who has direct experience and knowledge of your work, your work style, and your strengths at work.  Work can be paid work (a fellow employee or former manager) or volunteer work (team leader on a volunteer project, or fellow worker).  The ideal breakdown is to have at least 2 manager-type references (people you reported to or worked for), 2 peer references (coworkers), and if you are a manager or team leader, 2 staff references.   

Next identify your personal references.  This list can be comprised of friends, fellow volunteers, or co-workers.  A personal reference is anyone who can speak to your character or the type of person you are.   Ideally you will have 3 of these references.

2.      When should you ask someone to be a reference?

I recommend gathering your references and creating your References List before you start actively looking for a new job.  As you identify people to put on your list, you must also contact them and ask if they’d be willing to provide a reference for you.  When they say yes, you ask them how they prefer to be contacted (email or phone), and update that information on your References List.

Going forward, any time you have developed a good relationship with someone you work with or work for, you can ask them if they’d be willing to provide a reference for you, should you ever need one.  It’s a nice gesture to offer to provide a reference for them as well.

Also, when you leave a job, make a point of exchanging contact information, connecting on LinkedIn, and asking appropriate individuals if they’d be willing to provide a reference for you, should you ever need one. Again, it’s a nice gesture to offer to provide a reference for them as well.

 3.      What do I tell a reference?

When you begin to actively apply for jobs, make sure to contact all of the references on your list to let them know they may be contacted. 

It’s also very helpful for the references on your list if you tell them what you want them to say.  Now, I don’t mean script their comments, but let them know what strengths and skills you would like them to highlight.  Give them information about what the reference is for, what the company might be looking for, and what you want the hiring manager to know about you.  Your references want to help you, so the more information you can give them regarding how they can help, the easier it is for them.

Maria ultimately reconnected with several former coworkers and managers, along with some fellow-volunteers from some charity projects she participated in.  She created a References List that supported her job search.  As she asked for their help, they also asked for hers in return.  Now she’s providing references too. 

She also gave her references clear information about the types of strengths and skills she wanted them to highlight to help her get the job she wanted.  Going forward, Maria plans to review and refresh her references list every time she updates her resume.  That way, she will always feel prepared.   

Is your References List up to date?  Or does it need work?  I challenge you to take at least one  step this week to ensure your References List is ready for action.

Lori Howard
Career Transformation Coach
Certified Story Coach, CPRW

Helping you love your job and thrive in your career!

 (773) 669-7899



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