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Easy Ways to Improve Your Resume

Part 1 of 2

In my line of work, I see hundreds of resumes, and I often see the same patterns over and over again. I frequently observe resume tendencies that are not necessarily mistakes, yet the job-seekers behind these resumes could have much nicer, cleaner, more readable resumes if they just tweaked a few things. And none of these tweaks are hard to accomplish. Even if your resume has other problems, you'll see significant improvements if you make these easy fixes.

Use a bulleted style to make your resume more reader-friendly. Given that employers screen resumes for between 2.5 and 20 seconds, they will find your resume a lot more readable if you use bullet points instead of paragraph style. It's just easier to read.

Follow "The Resume Ingredients Rule." Set forth by Donald Asher, author of numerous resume books, the rule says that information on a resume should be listed in order of importance to the reader. Therefore, in listing your jobs, what's generally most important is your title/position. So list in this preferred order: Title/position, name of employer, city/state of employer, dates of employment. I can't tell you how many resumes I've seen that list dates first. Dates can be important to some employers, but they're generally not as important as what your position was and whom you worked for. Education follows the same principle; thus, the preferred order for listing your education is: Name of degree (spelled out: Bachelor of _____ ) in name of major, name of university, city/state of university, graduation year, followed by peripheral information, such as minor and GPA. If you haven't graduated yet, list your information the same way. Simply by virtue of the fact that the graduation date you've listed is in the future, the employer will know you don't have the degree yet.

By the way, the Resume Ingredients Rule is also the reason that experience and education are listed in reverse chronological order on your resume; it's assumed that your most recent education and experience are most important and relevant to the reader.

Eliminate "responsibilities" words from your resume vocabulary. Never use expressions like "Duties included," "Responsibilities included," or "Responsible for" on your resume. Why? Because your resume should be accomplishments-driven, not responsibilities-driven. Anyone (well, maybe not anyone) can perform the duties listed in a job description. Job-description language is not what sells in a resume. Accomplishments-oriented language tells employers how you've gone above and beyond in your jobs, what makes you special, how you've taken initiative and made your jobs your own.

Eliminate clutter from your resume. Several elements can clutter up your resume and impede readability:

BEFORE: Recruited to manage the women's division and oversee the opening of the Madison Avenue Store.

AFTER: Recruited to manage women's division and oversee Madison Avenue store opening.

BEFORE: Managed and controlled all aspects of the company's presence on the West Coast.

AFTER: Managed and controlled all aspects of company's West Coast presence.

BEFORE: Coordinated and supervised all aspects of the opening of the Beverly Hills Store.

AFTER: Coordinated and supervised all aspects of Beverly Hills store opening.

BEFORE: Facilitated the development of management and staff to ensure store growth and minimize turnover.

AFTER: Facilitated management and staff development to ensure store growth and minimize turnover.

Aren't the "After" versions a lot more streamlined?

- Katherin Hansen

Katharine Hansen is Chief Writer for Quintessential Resumes and Cover Letters and Creative Director for Quintessential Careers, where this article initially appeared. She is a Credentialed Career Master and Certified Electronic Career Coach. She can be reached at