Elements Of A Strong Resume

Mary Mulvihill Ed.D., Executive Director, Grace Institute
Writing a Strong Resume

What elements make up a good resume? Try on this list: brevity, clarity, positivity, attractiveness-and truthfulness.

Your resume is your calling card to hiring managers and human resource departments. Because it represents you, two things are paramount.

First, make sure your resume truly represents what you have to offer. Get all the advice you can, but remember, in the end your work, qualities, and accomplishments go on the paper. Make sure your words represent you and that you can stand behind everything you wrote. Tell the truth (it's easier than ever to uncover lies and misrepresentations), and phrase things positively.

Second, make sure your resume's as perfect as possible. No mistakes, no bad grammar, no typos, and no poor or unattractive formatting. Put yourself in the hiring manager's shoes and think of it this way: Your resume is a short document you've had plenty of time to work on. If you make mistakes here, how will you do on rushed projects with deadlines?

Let's look at format. Your resume must give the reader complete information in a clear and readable way. Check all the resources you can-bookstores, the Internet, and templates-and then try formatting your own resume. If you plug your information into an existing template, the person receiving your resume will have received dozens that look just like it. Especially if you're in a creative field-advertising, Web design, and so on-you must personalize your resume. If you can, do not rely on templates.

At Grace Institute, we have a firm rule: stick to one page. Unless you've been a CEO (or similar position), or are a scientist or professor, keep it to a single page. If this means leaving off irrelevant information or jobs more than ten years ago, that's fine. Especially if you have a great deal of experience, it's OK to have a few versions of your resume and tailor each to the job you're applying for. However, if this puts gaps in your experience, be sure to explain them.

When you tailor your resume, phrase your qualifications and experience to show that you are ready and qualified for the job you're applying for. Showcase your appropriate skills and credentials in your Summary or Profile at the top of the resume. Capture the attention of prospective employer by pointing up how your skills closely match the job.

What about content? Use strong, active verbs and concrete nouns, and put everything in a positive light. Avoid passive phrases such as "was responsible." Find a clear verb that describes what you did. Instead of saying, "Was responsible for maintaining office supplies," write, "Maintained and ordered supplies for 50 people."

Under your job title, don't keep repeating your job description-list items as accomplishments. Be specific, including money you saved the company or how you got a promotion. Don't write, "Made travel plans." Instead, try this: "Arranged multiple itineraries and frequent travel plans for senior management." You could go even further and say, "Planned frequent travel for senior management and researched travel options saving company over $1000 per year."

Next, ask yourself this question: Was I good at my job? How? At Grace Institute, we had a young student with limited retail experience. Each job on her resume was nearly identical: assisted customers, operated register, and so on. When asked if she was good at her job, she said, "Sure! Customers commended me to my manager all the time." Excellent customer service and customer commendations went right onto her resume.

Once you've finished your resume, find someone objective-and someone who's a good proofreader-to look over your resume. In fact, two or three people are even better.

Writing a good resume is a challenge-but once you've spent time putting together a resume that you're proud of and that genuinely represents you, the confidence you feel sending it off or holding it as you walk into an interview will be worth it.

Mary Mulvihill Ed.D.
Executive Director, Grace Institute

Mary Mulvihill is the Executive Director of Grace Institute, a tuition-free, job training program for New York area women of all ages and from many different backgrounds. The average income of a woman entering the program is $6K per year and 80% of the women are placed in positions that offer starting salaries of $32K plus benefits.

For over 100 years, Grace Institute has provided tuition-free, practical job training in a supportive learning community for underserved New York area women of all ages and from many different backgrounds. In the tradition of its founding family, Grace is dedicated to the development of the personal and business skills necessary for self-sufficiency, employability and an improved quality of life. For more information about Grace Institute visit www.GraceInstitute.org or call 212-832-7605.