How to Write a Winning Resume

Debbie Shalom, founder of Amazing Résumés and Coaching Services

resumePractice makes perfect

Winning résumés and victorious athletes share several features; they both rely on extensive preparation and hard work.

As you begin to create your résumé, you need to invest time researching the subject. Visit a local library or bookstore and review professionally written résumés that focus on your job title, area or industry. Concentrate on content, format and style. Will you need a section for professional experience, education, technological skills and affiliations? What type and size font should you use? Should your writing style be formal or casual? Once you decide on and are comfortable with your resume's appearance, style and content then you are ready to take the next step.

Job advertisements and official position descriptions are a treasure chest for resume writers. Not only do they include required skills and experience, they also contain industry buzzwords or keywords. Employers use keywords as part of their selection criteria and incorporate them into their scanning software. Determine which keywords and phrases emphasize skills, strengths, and achievements, then weave them into your content.

Leverage your strengths

How will your résumé differentiate you from the competition? In order to have a competitive advantage, your résumé needs to identify factors that define your unique value proposition. What information can you include that will impress prospective employers and convince them of your value?

Including a profile or qualifications summary in the beginning of your resume is an opportunity to form a positive image in the employer's mind. Take time to develop and write your profile. Ask friends, colleagues and family to describe your personal and professional strengths and attributes. Find similarities between your personal and professional attributes and the competencies listed in the job announcement. Incorporate positive endorsements and testimonials into your profile. Remember your goal: You need to prove you are the best candidate for the open position.

Celebrate your successes

Research reveals that hiring managers review résumés for no more than 10 to 15 seconds; therefore, your writing needs to contain a "hook" that will immediately engage the reader. Although résumé writing is not an exact science, there are a few formatting guidelines you can follow.

  • Limit the resume's length to one or two pages.
  • Try to present work experience in reverse chronological order.
  • Do not include employment more than 15 years old.
  • Focus on achievements, not tasks.

Employers are not interested in reading about your daily routine. They want to see accomplishments! What are you most proud of? How did you add value to your position or company? Did you increase profitability, reduce expenses, improve efficiency or boost productivity? Can you quantify your achievements? These are some questions your résumé needs to answer.

A proven method of identifying achievements is to ask, "What problems did I encounter?" "What actions did I take to solve them?" and "What were the results?" In her book "Job Search Magic," Susan Britton Whitcomb states this "creates a consistent, balanced visual impact and gives the appearance of a strong, long-term history for taking on challenges and delivering results."


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Debbie Shalom specializes in writing executive resumes that showcase candidates' unique strength, skills and value. She can be reached at (410) 653-7679.

Copyright 2008 Debbie Shalom

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Jennifer Ann Garcia

I feel so discouraged as the rest of you. I am 39 years old and a single mother to four children. I had a late start to life as well, raising three in diapers with an abusive ex-husband. Now that I have been divorced for eight years, it took me awhile to get my life in order. I went back to college in 2006, got a technical diploma and an associate's degree in medical assisting. I still have not found work since I have graduated in 2008. Even when I do find a job in this field the pay is still not enough to pay rent for a three bedroom apartment. The economy is so discouraging. Even my friends who have master's degrees can not pay for their morgages. I am now looking into realestate. I plan on also going back to get my "RN" in the spring of 2010. Maybe, I am wasting my time. I feel so hopeless, especially for my children. I guess I will have to raise my daughters to be co-dependant on a man to help pay the bills because it's too hard to make it as a single parent alone. What ashame that it takes two incomes to survive. And, the child support system is a joke as well, my ex owes 47,000 in arrears and never spends a day in jail. What hope do people have? Not much. Shame on our government.

December 02 2009 at 11:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am 36 and i've been laidoff since September of this year and like everyone else haven't found a job I worked as a machine operator for 15years, i've never done a resume can some one help i'm a really hardworker and like the challenges but haven't had any luck seems like no one is hiring at least for now...

December 02 2009 at 11:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Laura Paris

This is a good article, but I have trouble finding someone who really gives me constructive criticism, I will continue. I have seen many of the network will continue trying to compare, but it seems that none of them come close to thinking about my situation.

I have 5 years for job seekers marketing college. I have a good amount of market entry, during and after college, but I just sports marketing industry last year (the industry, I would like to know the track).

What should I focus my experience and my experience in college? How can I make to seem interesting to the general;

It is too much for nothing!

Resume Cover Letter Samples

November 16 2009 at 3:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

age discrimination is a reality. A huge reason for it is Big Government, in about every sector of employment. Just look at the Stimulus Cash being wasted. Hence, there is No Need to acquire experience (i.e. over 50 crowd). The Government and government funded (directly or indirectly)entities simply train a "diverse" younger crowd...

October 28 2009 at 3:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was having a very stressful week,I am 50 years old have been off of work for 3 months due to the work slow down,I want to share with you all that your missing one major point of your Job search which was brought to my attention by my six year old son,He noticed I was stressing over the whole job search thing,He looked me in the eyes these are the words he spoke to me,Papa why dont you ask Jesus to give you a job.Sunday at our church several people had leads, tips, pointers,Good luck to all, keep the faith we will all be working soon.I know it.

October 01 2009 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to James's comment

What a perfect comment to put here. So many people are so very discouraged. Talk to your Higher Power. Have faith.

October 25 2009 at 6:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am 32 and I just graduated from school in August. I have applied to about 500 companies and I have heard NOTHING. The only people I have heard anything from is through networking. A friend of mine sent out my resume to 900 of her contacts. It's all about people you know these days. And yes, it sucks.

October 01 2009 at 2:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey Dennis, first, I never reply to comments, but, yours stuck out to me. When I was laid off from a very good job back in the 90's one thing the company did, (they were consolidating and moving the company out of state), was send us all to a resume building workshop. I can now build a mean resume. lol I cannot tell you if it is your resume that is not getting you a job, but in the dog eat dog world today, something must stick out and grab your tentative employer. If your finances allow, take a resume workshop. If not, go to your local library and get books on resume building. I am sorry for your plight and I wish you well.

October 01 2009 at 12:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just turned 60. I've been out of work for almost a year. I've submitted my résumé to more than 60 companies. I customize my résumé for each application. I have had a few telephone interviews and a couple of in-person interviews. An analysis of all of my former jobs revealed that I landed good employment in a corporation (permanent, health benefits, 401k matching funds, etc.) when someone inside the company already knew me. And, all of the teaching jobs I landed have been on the strength of my interview. I didn't know anyone inside the educational institution. I feel the discrimination for my age. I also feel like my résumé could be in Lorem Ipsum (Latin placeholder text) and it wouldn't matter. My résumé gets my name into their database, but the people on the inside who know me are the ones who get me the job.

October 01 2009 at 12:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dennis; keep the faith. I'm 53 & no work since 2/7/09. Just keep at it. Keep hittin licks and one, the last one, will work. Can you take your skill set and be a contractor instead of an employee? The main thing is keep your head up, a positive attitude, believe in yourself and don't get discouraged. All easier said than done but I do know how you feel. Best of luck, maybe today is the day.

October 01 2009 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My name is Jim. I live in the Los Angeles area. I have been out of work since January and I too have "tasted" the age bias. I am almost 60 and worked for my company for 30 years. After the lay off in December 2008, I began that tedious job of looking for one. Well, as I said here, every time I speak to a recruiter or interviewer, they always say, "What a great resume and you have done so much in you 30 years at XXX company. We really would like to have you join our team, but you are over qualified." It says really that you are too old. So, what are we to do? Flip burgers, sell coffee or just exist. I really want to work and provide for my life as I did before December 2008. My bills are still coming, the mortgage needs to be paid. What is the solution? I sure hope someone can help. Thanks for reading and listening.

October 01 2009 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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