Creative Job Search
On-line Job Search Guide

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Basic Principles of Resume Writing

Keep it brief!

Your resume is an overview of your qualifications - not your life story. It is a "preview of coming attractions" which creates the desire to see the rest of the show. One to two pages is the standard for a resume read by the human eye, and up to three pages for a scannable resume. If your resume is more than one page, the first page must capture the reader's attention. If it fails to do so, the remaining pages will not be read.


Don't try to be everything to everyone. Target your job search and your resume to your specific occupational goals.

Multiple Resumes?

Generally, you should concentrate first on one well-written resume that targets your immediate job search. Make sure this resume represents you well to a wide range of employers and is suitable for scanning. If you have more than one objective, additional resumes may be required. For example, if you are planning to pursue two distinct occupations such as realtor and bookkeeper, you would need two resumes. If you only use the targeted resume approach, you would also write a unique resume to each employer.

Visual Impact

A piece of sales literature has only about two seconds to attract the reader's attention. Similarly, the resume must attract the employer even before it is read. Many advertising techniques apply, including the use of white space, bullets, indentation and varied type style. Professional printing produces high quality, but can be expensive. Laser quality printing is an excellent alternative. Never handwrite your resume! Make sure there are no typographical, grammatical, or spelling errors. Ask someone to proof read your resume to help eliminate errors.

Insure Integrity

Your resume is specifically designed to paint the best picture possible of you. Place the emphasis on the positive, not the negative. It should be an honest statement of your best qualities. Your resume should hold up under scrutiny. Facts and numbers must be believable. The content of the resume should be in harmony. Dates should be consistent while experience and related activities should support your qualifications.

Scannable Resumes

Many employers and employment agencies are using resume scanning systems to screen resumes, a trend that will increase in the future. When writing any resume consider its scannability. Generally, there is little difference between a good scannable resume and one that is effective for the human eye. Since, ultimately, all resumes will be looked at by a person, your resume must work for both.


If you consistently hear that you are overqualified or are concerned that you will be perceived as such, then you have not effectively targeted your resume. When writing your resume, target it to the level of employment and to the occupation or employer. If you are pursuing more than one distinct level of employment, then consider a separate resume for each. Present the information that you believe is important. You don't have to tell everything. As an example, if you have an advanced degree in a field unrelated to your goal, leave it off.

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This page was last updated on April 17, 1997
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