How to avoid resume constipation

Resume Writing Advice

By Robert Meier, Next Step Magazine

I’ve written nearly 4,000 résumés. On average, I spend 10 hours composing, refining and finalizing each client’s career profile. That’s 40,000 hours spent crafting résumés!

Blurt it out

I want to inspire you to write a great first résumé. The active verb in the last sentence is “write.” When you sit down to compose your thoughts, blurt them out. Or as one of my clients said a decade ago, “I puked my thoughts out over eight pages” (this same client completed her bachelor’s in English with a perfect 4.0 GPA).

People get so wound up wanting to write perfect sentences that they become immobilized, which turns résumé writing into mental constipation, something that is both not fun and not productive.

It took me years to learn to type my thoughts quickly without agonizing over typos, bad grammar or poor word choices. It’s a psychological battle that requires strong willpower to knowingly make mistakes without stopping to correct errors. But by doing so, you give your thoughts room to breathe.

Edit, then edit again

When writing a killer résumé, plan on editing your thoughts at least six times. Each hour I type requires three hours of editing. But don’t edit your thoughts until after you type them.

Beef it up 

Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you have nothing to put on your résumé. Whether you are a babysitter for neighbors who trust you with their infant, or you work at an ice cream shop, there are ways to make those experiences appear interesting, compelling and challenging. The key is realizing that you are a one-of-a-kind original. Paint your résumé with creativity, and share who you are and what motivates you as a person, employee and student.

A great résumé puts you ahead of your competition. Remember, the résumé balances art and science. The science relates to the résumé’s physical boundaries: type size, font choice, page margins, page count, grammar. The science of the résumé announces that you understand business expectations. The art makes reviewers want to call you.

Your résumé blueprint 

Typical résumés for people under age 25 are written on a single page and have, in descending order, the following categories:

  • Name, address, contact info
  • Objective
  • Experience
  • Activities
  • Accomplishments/awards
  • Education
  • For the name, address and contact information at the top of a résumé, I use a 10.5 point type size in Times Roman font, although Arial is a good alternative. Only for a person’s name do I use a larger font size, typically 18 point.
  • Below name is an objective statement. The objective is used to apply for a specific job. In one sentence, make it clear about what you want to do.
  • Experience holds most of the résumé content. If you have little or no work experience, you can highlight your activities, student projects or unique experiences. This section should contain dates of employment, job title, company and city/state all on one line. Below that, briefly give an overview of the job. Next, outline the challenges and duties you performed to meet those expectations.

Lets say you joined Greenpeace for a summer and went to different neighborhoods each week to promote awareness and raise donations. Your résumé might state:

Challenge: Door-to-door campaign to promote Greenpeace initiatives and raise funds.

Actions: Contacted 100+ homeowners in 36 neighborhoods (an average of three blocks per 90-minute canvassing period). Spoke to more than 200 potential donors.

Results: Secured over $5,000 in donations.

  • Activities should include any organized team, club or group of which you were a member. List the name of the group, your role and any specific mission that identified the goals of the organization.
  • If you have any accomplishments or awards, list them. If you don’t, don’t worry about it.
  • Education is your date of graduation or expected graduation, school and degree attained.