How to Write a Resume That Will Land an Interview


January 9, 2010   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Many people haven’t looked at their resume in years; they haven’t needed to. But, with a shaky economy, jobs are shaking out like coins from a piggy bank.

If you’ve been laid off or you’re worried you might be, blow the dust off your old resume and bring it back to life. Whether you are just updating or starting from scratch (who knew those floppies would become obsolete?), these steps will help you create an honest, positive resume.

  1. Understand the resume’s purpose.
    Your resume and cover letter are tools to land a job interview. Not the job, just the interview. Think of a resume as a fact sheet and a cover letter as an explanation of those facts. Lose sight of this and you may overwrite, over explain and convolute.

But a resume is also your public relations advocate and should be flattering. Maybe your record isn’t long or perfect, but don’t let your resume knock you out of contention before you have a chance to talk your way into the job.



Once you find a template or format that makes sense for your goals and experience, don’t feel you must follow its structure exactly.


  • Delete the objective statement.
    Your objective is to get the job; you know it, the employer knows it. Unless you really need to fill space, explain your objectives in your cover letter. Cover letters allow you to tailor your goals to the job you are applying for and creating a good cover letter is key.



  • Add creative space, if necessary.
    If you don’t have much experience, your credentials can look pretty lonely on the page. No one expects a young person to have as much to say as a person who has been working for twenty years. The results of thoughtful spacing? An easy-to-read resume.



  • Add new activities to your resume.
    Volunteer at the soup kitchen or the animal shelter. Get active in your community. If you volunteer at something related to the field you want to work in, everyone wins. Add this activity to your resume immediately.



  • Think creatively about your accomplishments.
    Some of your achievements may not have happened within the confines of a job. For example, if you worked on a major research project in school, you can describe your project and the skills it developed. Here is a list of resume action words that may help jumpstart your memory.



  • List jobs first, and in reverse order.
    List your most recent job at the top and the rest in descending order. This is the order employers/recruiters expect to see your experience; don’t disappoint or confuse them. A rare exception to the rule: if you are graduated from a prestigious college and you’re working at a filler job. All you Harvard degree graduates who are scooping ice cream, list your Harvard education first.



  • Omit your mailing address.
    Who is going to contact you by snail mail anyway? Your email address and cell phone number is all anyone needs to contact you. With your resume floating around the internet, keep some information private. Do you want them pulling your residence up on Google Maps?



  • Figure out what keywords are relevant and use them.
    Some HR folks don’t read resumes any more. They have software that scans resumes for relevant keywords. Use nouns, like the names of the computer programs you know. Read tons of job descriptions and notice which words are used over and over.



  • Include accomplishments in addition to responsibilities.
    If you made a suggestion that your boss used, if you saved your company money, if you streamlined the work process, it counts. Don’t be shy about highlighting accomplishments on your resume. Back them up with statistics, if possible. How much money did you save the company? What percentage of the budget was it?



  • Keep the resume concise.
    Stick to one page, unless you have been working ten or fifteen years. If early jobs are not relevant, leave them off.



  • Never stop revising.
    Your resume can always be improved so keep tweaking it. Add a better word, a better phrase, a new accomplishment. Keep old versions of your resume in case you need information that you previously deleted.



    • Don’t Lie.
      You knew this would be on the list. Employers routinely check job histories and education claims. Lies about either your job history or degree are the easiest for employers to uncover. The newly named dean of admissions at MIT lied on her resume when applying for a clerical job twenty-eight years ago. With the promotion in the works, her lies were discovered and she was fired. Never lie!


  • Omit the Ugly.
    Mediocre grade point average? Leave it off Have a 4.0? Put it front and center. Not all information is mandatory. Some people omit listing jobs they only held a short time or that might give them a bad reference. However, if the omission creates a gap that you are asked about in an interview, remember tip number one: don’t lie.



  • Mind the Gap
    I know someone who waitressed a couple of years after college. She omits her graduation year from her resume so there is no obvious hole, but no lies either.


Having a solid resume ready to send someone is important. Whether you need a job now or not, you never now when an opportunity will present itself and you’ll be asked to submit a resume. Clean yours up and be ready to shine!

Written on 1/14/2009 by Kate Mortell. Kate is a graduate of Marquette University and lives and works in New York City. She writes the blog,, a collection of travel journals and commentary on real estate, animal rights, gun control and whatever else might be under her skin at the moment. Updated and Republished on 1/9/2010. Photo Credit: jm3

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