Resumé Writing


Rule #1

The Resumé Should Be Easy to Read

  • Use large type (at least 10 points), bolds, italics, and underline to set off important words and phrases, and plenty of white space between lines.
  • Proofread the resumé carefully for typographical and spelling errors.

Rule #2

Stress Achievements, Not Responsibilities

Many resumés come in with just the dates of employment, the title of the position, and a list of duties. These facts tell the reader little about your competence on the job.

Whenever possible, list your achievements and accomplishments under your job and school headings and try to include quantifiable results of those achievements.

Caution: Don't boast. You don't want to be so good that you will overqualify yourself.

Rule #3

Learn the Language of the Industry

Find a friend, relative, acquaintance, or contact in the industry and ask them to look at your resumé. Ask their advice on how to tailor your resumé to the skills, knowledge, and qualities in demand. Be sure to inject the terminology of the industry or profession whenever possible.

Rule #4

Eliminate or Explain "Foreign" Terminology

"ECU" (dollar equivalent)
"Market Access Europe s.a." (market research and development firm)

"DOC" Department of Commerce (US Ministry of Trade)
"Hechingers" (second largest retail hardware company in the U.S.)

Rule #5

Show Me, Don't Tell Me

Do not write that you are "culturally sensitive" in your statement of qualifications. Show how you are able to adapt to new cultural environments by highlighting experiences working with culturally diverse teams or negotiating across cultures.

Rather than say you are an "excellent writer", make sure that your resumé and cover letter are well written, free of awkward sentences and grammatical errors. If your work had been published, list your publications and highlight your writing accomplishments.


  1. Disorganized — information is scattered around the page — hard to follow
  2. Poorly typed and printed — hard to read — looks unprofessional
  3. Overwritten — long paragraphs and sentences — takes too long to say too little
  4. Too sparse — gives only bare essentials of dates and job titles
  5. Too long
  6. Not oriented for results — doesn't show what the candidate accomplished on the job
  7. Too many irrelevancies — height, weight, sex, health, marital status are not needed on today's CVs
  8. Misspellings, typographical errors, poor grammar — CVs should be proofread before they are printed and mailed
  9. Tries too hard — fancy typesetting and binders, photographs and exotic paper distracts from the clarity of the presentation
  10. Misdirected — too many CVs arrive on employers' desks un-requested, and with little or no apparent connections to the organization — a cover letter would help to avoid this

Cover Letters

Cover letters are still necessary, and in a competitive market they can give you a serious edge if they are written and presented effectively.

Cover letters are a way to introduce yourself, to convey your personality and to impress a hiring manager with your experience and your writing skills. You should also tailor them to a specific company in ways that you cannot always do with a resumé.

Your cover letter should be short — generally no longer than three or four paragraphs:

In your first paragraph, explain why you are writing — it may be that you are answering an ad, that you were referred to the company through networking, or that you learned that the company is expanding.

In the middle paragraphs, explain why you are a good candidate, and show that you are knowledgeable about the company. Convey a clear story about your career, and highlight specific past achievements. You can also highlight qualities you possess that may not fit the confines of a resumé.

In the final paragraph finish your letter by indicating that you will follow up in the near future (and make sure you keep that promise).