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Write a Winning Résumé

Learn the basic elements that make up the perfect résumé

A résumé is not an end in itself; it’s a tool to get the employer’s attention. You need a well-written, up-to-date résumé to market yourself effectively.

See also: Get noticed with your cover letter.

An attention-getting résumé is one that conveys your personal brand — the unique combination of skills, achievements and abilities that shows you are an outstanding candidate for the job.

The must-do’s

  • Tailor your résumé to the specific job you’re applying for. Don’t send the same résumé to hundreds of employers.
  • Keep it brief — maximum two pages.
  • Proofread several times. One typo can send your résumé to the trash.
  • Always include a cover letter with your résumé.

Basic elements of a résumé

  • Contact information: name, mailing address, phone and email address
  • Brief statement of your key experience and strengths. This is optional, but many career experts recommend it as a way to convey key information at a glance.
  • Work experience that is relevant to the job for which you are applying
  • Skills, areas of expertise and specific accomplishments
  • Education, training and certifications
  • Awards, professional memberships and volunteer work — if relevant to the job

Keywords — the key to success

  • Keywords are the industry-specific terms necessary to get attention.
  • Learn more about keywords at
  • Sprinkle keywords throughout the résumé. Use them when referring to job titles, accomplishments, experience, skills, education, career objectives and training.
  • In online résumé, use the exact keywords and language that the employers uses in the job posting, or your résumé will be discarded. 

What to include

  • Your most recent relevant jobs — within the past 15 years.
  • Accomplishments, not just job duties. Avoid phrases like “responsible for” or “duties included.”
  • Results and outcomes. Quantify your achievements and use action verbs. For example,  “increased sales by 40%,” “expanded program,” “exceeded fundraising targets.”
  • Skills and experience that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for. Include the specific computer skills that are mentioned in the job posting.
  • Transferable skills from nonwork settings such as volunteering — especially if you have gaps in your work history.

Next: 4 things you should remove from your résumé. >>

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