Writing a Job-Winning Resume

by Alex J. Coyne
Writing a Job-Winning Resume photo

Writing a job-winning resume could be your key to a new career. Here’s what you should do with your resume to land your next job.

As an editor, I’ve helped hundreds of people whip their resumes into shape and get on their way to new careers. I’ve also seen many of them walk out of college (or a 20-year position) with what they consider “just a resume,” unsure of what to do with it.

Here’s what you should be doing with your resume.

Keep It Simple

I’ve seen full-color family photos on the front page, frilly borders, several resumes written in Comic Sans, and 40-page diatribes on hobbies and waitressing from someone applying for a job as a delivery driver.

Keep it simple. Employers like short sentences, readable fonts, clear headings, and perfect formatting. Employers don’t like frills, flowers, long-winded paragraphs, screwy formatting, and anything that takes up too much of their time. Remember that your resume is one of hundreds. Many resume companies report that an employer glances at a resume for six to eight seconds before deciding into which pile it goes. Make your resume count.

Keep It Updated

Update your resume or hire a professional to help you. Sending a dated resume to an employer shows that you haven’t bothered to take another look since the mid-90s, and that won’t put much confidence in your abilities as an employee.

Update your contact details regularly and include any new courses you might’ve taken, hobbies you might’ve picked up, or jobs you might’ve held. If a prior job holds no relevance to the job you’re applying for, you can omit it or condense it at the very least.

Sell Yourself Right

The pen is mighty, and it’s all in the words. You want to convey that you’re the right person for the job. When describing yourself in your cover letter and the positions you held, you want your strengths to come across. Read through it or read it to someone else. Would you hire you?

Did You Really, Now?

I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a resume and thought either, “What the hell does that mean?” or “Oh, really now?”

Don’t lie. Even if not blatantly dishonest, slightly altering the truth will backfire in most cases. If you were a cashier at Walmart, don’t say that you were a “cash register consultant.” It doesn’t work, and you destroy your chances right there.

Condense It

Never use a paragraph to say what you could in one sentence. Be brief and take a look at your resume at a glance. Especially with job descriptions, people are long-winded.

A study by ResumeGo.net revealed that recruiters prefer two-page resumes. If your job history is very short, a one-page resume is fine. Otherwise, try to use two pages and avoid carrying over into a third.

Numbered and Lettered?

Include page numbers (center bottom), and make sure the very top of the front page has your name and contact information, including an email address and relevant URLs such as your LinkedIn profile, portfolio website, or any social channels that could help boost your chances of employment.

After that, provide a short summary of why you’re qualified for the job. Then, list your career history, educational history, skills and references. Choose an easy-to-read font. Use Calibri (pt. 11), for example. Main headers (i.e., Career History) can be slightly larger and bold.

Upload It Online

Upload your (updated!) resume to various job sites online. Be accessible. Of course, keep in mind that if you’re uploading something online, there are some types of personal information you want to omit, like your home address. Some careers, like writers and freelancers, might want to upload their resume directly onto their own website as a .pdf downloadable to showcase their skills and portfolio.

Add Something New

Especially if you’ve been out of the job market for a long time, taking some relevant refresher courses in your field and adding them to your resume could give your resume some added weight and relevance.

Another thing employers don’t like is gaps that lie unexplained. If you were sick and unable to work, for example, mention it rather than leave things open-ended.


I always tell people to add a reason for leaving a job at the bottom of the description, especially where the employment was brief (or unemployment was sudden). Employers might want to know why you jumped from company A to company B.

Convert It

Make your resume available in a variety of formats (doc, docx and pdf). When you’re sending it electronically or uploading it somewhere, go for pdf. It’s neat and generally read-only.

A resume is never “just a resume.” Instead, it’s a key that’s ground and polished over time until it fits to unlock the path to a new job.

Is your resume saying what it should about you?

Reviewed January 2024

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