The Six Cardinal Rules of Résumé Writing

Experts say put a little more vitae into your curriculum vitae.

“In my recruiting practice, if I receive a résumé and can’t immediately tell what the person does or what he wants, I’m finished with it,” says Peter Newfield, president of Retail Search of America and Career Resumes in Golden Bridge, N.Y. “I just don’t have the time.”

Clearly and directly state who you are, with either of these strategies:

Strategy 1: Write a clear, well-defined objective. For example, you might say something like, “Seeking a challenging management position directing sales and marketing for a high-growth consumer products company.”

Strategy 2: Omit an objective and start with a “summary” or “career profile” instead. Unlike an objective, which states what you want, a summary describes what you know and quickly grabs readers’ attention. For example:


Building Revenues & Market Share Throughout Global Business Markets

Dynamic 15-year career leading sales, marketing and service organizations throughout the U. S., Europe and Pacific Rim. Delivered strong and sustainable revenue gains in both emerging and mature business markets. Strong sales training and team leadership skills. Excellent qualifications in the information technology and telecommunications industries.

A summary eliminates the need for an objective because it usually indicates the type of position a candidate seeks. Don’t assume that stating your objective in a cover letter is sufficient. Cover letters and résumé must be able to stand alone.

6. Selling

A résumé should be more than a list of past jobs. It should serve as a personal sales and marketing tool that attracts and impresses employers. Your qualifications, words, format and presentation must all be packaged to sell yourself.

“Sell the strengths and benefits you bring to the table,” says Louise Kursmark, owner of Best Impression Career Services Inc. in Cincinnati. “Your résumé is your one opportunity to get noticed. Unless you focus on those great things you’ve done, an employer will never know.”

These examples illustrate the concept of selling yourself:

Poor examples:

  • Managed sales regions throughout the U.S. with 82 sales associates.
  • Met all company sales goals and profit objectives.

Good examples:

  • Independently planned and directed a team of 82 sales associates marketing sophisticated technology products throughout the northeastern U.S.
  • Launched a series of customer-driven marketing programs to expand market penetration and increase key account base. Closed 2000 at 182% of revenue goal and 143% of profit objective.

Poor examples:

  • Managed all financial, accounting, budgeting, MIS and administrative functions.
  • Updated computer technology.

Good examples:

  • Chief Financial Officer with full responsibility for the strategic planning, development and leadership of the entire corporate finance organization for this $280 million consumer products manufacturer. Directed financial planning and analysis, accounting, tax, treasury, budgeting, MlS and administrative functions through a 12-person management team.
  • Launched the introduction of PC-based client server technology to expand MIS operations throughout the finance function. Resulted in a measurable improvement in data accuracy and long-range business planning.

To create impressive descriptions, ask yourself not only what you did but how well you did it. Then sell your achievements, not your responsibilities. When Mr. Runyan went back to the drawing board, preparing his résumé took three weeks instead of an hour. The process involved his secretary, two friends and three professional colleagues. His new document includes a strong, accomplishments-oriented text and makes a sharp visual presentation.

Two weeks and 100 résumé later, his phone started to ring. In one day, he had spoken with five employers and scheduled more than 10 interviews. By remembering these six rules, your résumé can help you to do the same.

Ms. Enelow is president of Career Master Institute, a training, development and professional-networking organization for the career and employment industry in Lynchburg, Va.

This article is reprinted by permission from (c) 2002 Dow Jones & Co. Inc. All rights reserved.


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