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Ten Commandments of Resume Composition

The GOOGLE search engine is where I went this morning to do some research on resume writing. Here's what I found:

I put in the word RESUME and got 8.39 million results. Wow! Way too many! Next, I put in the phrase RESUME WRITING and I got 1.42 million, still too many! Next, I put in the phrase RESUME WRITING BOOKS IN ENGLISH and got 168,000 results. It would take a lifetime to do this research.

So, lets say, there are at least 50,000 valid results or books available to help you write a good resume. Each book will have valid points and suggestions, but some have outdated and harmful ideas. Lets set the record straight and follow my advice. It should be uncomplicated to write a good resume.

The rules for good resume writing are simple. Keep it short and to the point. Your resume should always be in reverse chronological order, that your most recent job is listed first and going back in time to your education. My suggestion is to never exceed two pages in length. The longer the resume, the less effort has been expanded in its composure. It is much harder to compose a one-page resume than a two or three page resume. When I read a perfect one page resume, I picture the candidate as a well-organized and complete person. My bet is that they will interview quite well with my clients. My clients think the same way.

Summary type resumes are the resumes that place skills and characteristics at the top of the first resume page. These are by far the worst resumes. A resume is short story of your career life. Why would anyone need to summarize a short story? The idea behind the summary type is to get the readers attention with a blast of sizzle and spin. In reality, most recruiters skip past the summary fluff and go directly to the real experience.

The physical aspect of your resume is vital. Just as a well-dressed candidate, your format reflects who you are. Be sure the font is 12 pt. or 14 pt. Don't go for smaller to increase the word count. Remember simplicity. Never, ever, print on colored paper. Never, ever, use the foldout type or two-pages connected. Never, ever, print on the backside of the resume.

Computer friendly format is critical to getting your resume reviewed. Listing your industry key words that may be scanable, may help you make the cut to the finalists.

Should you list your graduation date on your resume? What I see everyday is that young candidates proudly list the date. The older candidates tend to not list the date. I prefer that the date be listed at all times. Do not be afraid of your age. Legally, you are not required to list any graduation dates. So, the choice is yours. Remember that if the reader has to do math, your resume might just get dropped in the trash because of missing dates. If your resume is missing graduation dates and you have not listed all jobs since college, you are attempting to hide something. To a recruiter it is easy to see and is a turn-off that the candidate is not confident about their background.

Covering gaps in employment is a common practice for resume writers. When your career has periods of unemployment, it is easy to extend ending dates and starting dates to cover those gaps. Hiring managers responsible for checking these dates rarely get it down to the exact months. If your unemployment period is more than a couple of months, it gets dangerous to cover and may lead to termination if discovered later.

Your college degree(s) should be listed at the bottom of the last page. Any achievements should always be listed. A strong G.P.A., all leadership positions, club memberships, fraternity or sorority offices should also be listed. All internships and community volunteer work will show a balanced, organized person. A sports team membership indicates discipline and a team player.

List all seminars that you have attended. As your career matures and the years between the present and your college graduation date expand, seminars indicate commitment to life long learning and development. Seminars that are industry specific add equity to your value.

Do not list personal hobbies, family size, spouse name, years married, etc... Do not list references available upon request. That statement is like listing: This resume is printed on paper.

Sending your resume by e-mail is the expected means of delivery. If you do not have your resume formatted for e-mail, you must do so at once. When we receive a resume by fax or snail mail I know it is an "oldie"-an older candidate resisting the computer age and thinking it does not matter. Would it matter if you went to an interview wearing a suit with bell-bottom trousers? You bet it would! For all you oldies, you must stay current or die.

Your resume must have a physical address, no P.O. boxes. If you do list a P.O. Box, your resume will be tossed without a second look. You should list all your phone numbers. Your direct line at work is okay because voicemail has legally protected confidentiality. I suggest you list your cell number. Even while on vacation, you might get that perfect call for an interview. Never list your company e-mail address. Your e-mail correspondence is not confidential and your company has legal access to your e-mail at any time. Always list your personal e-mail address on your resume because resumes are kept permanently in a company's database. If you leave your current company, a hiring employer can still reach by your personal e-mail address, maybe even years later.

So, the bottom line is to craft your resume as a living permanent record of your career life. At any given time, it just needs some tweaking and updating to be ready for your next interview. Good luck and start writing.


I. Thou shall not exceed two pages

II. Thou shall not summarize experience or skills

III. Thou shall not attempt to baffle the reader

IV. Thou shall not adulterate the facts or dates

V. Thou shall not attach a lengthy cover letter

VI. Thou shall not exclude any job since college

VII. Thou shall not omit any graduation date

VIII. Thou shall not state the position desired

IX. Thou shall not print on colored paper

X. Thou shall not list personal, family, hobby data

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
-Leonardo Da Vinci

"Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud." -Sophocles

Dear Headhunter,

Since I saw your e-mail address on the SVG Tribune web site, I thought I would ask you this question. I find very few ads in local So. Cal. Newspapers or on on-line job sites. What should I be doing at this time? Any info you can provide will be appreciated.

PLEASE NOTE: emails received become the property of "Dear Headhunter" and may be published unless otherwise requested. Questions may be edited for content and length. All questions will be reviewed, some without a reply.

George Gurney has been a leader in the employment industry since 1976. He founded an executive search firm that conducts domestic and international assignments.  He has won numerous awards for recruiting excellence.  He has been a guest speaker at national conventions and seminars.