An effective resume is one of the keys to getting an interview. But, before you can get that interview, you need to make sure your resume is well written, and tailored to the job for which you are applying. This post contains some fairly basic resume information, later posts will dive into more detail on each of the sections in this post.

In this post, we lay out some basic resume information:

  • The steps your resume goes thru at companies
  • The 3 types of resumes
  • The sections of a good resume
  • Dos and don’ts for your resume

Why You Need an Effective Resume

Your resume is the key to getting in the door. Even with a referral, it’s unlikely you get an interview without a good resume. Your resume needs to get through two or three steps in most companies before you can even get an interview.

  • In large companies, your resume probably goes through an applicant tracking system, or ATS. This system will scan your resume before a human even sees it.
  • Next, your resume probably goes to someone in the HR group, or a recruiting firm hired by the company. They will do the initial screening, then they will recommend which applicants the hiring manager should talk to.
  • Finally, your resume goes to the person that will be your first interviewer. Sometimes your first interview will be with a professional recruiter, other times the hiring manager. Either way, your resume has less than 30 seconds to impress.

At large companies, there can be hundreds, maybe over 1000 applicants per job. Because of this, people looking at your resume spend 6-30 seconds looking at it, your first impression needs to impress.

The 3 Types of Resumes

There are three basic resume types.

  • One is the classic chronological resume. In this version, your experience is listed in reverse order of what you’ve done (beginning with your most recent role). The emphasis is on your experience and accomplishments.
  • The next resume type is functional. Here, the emphasis is on your skills and abilities, alluding to potential contributions you bring to the table.
  • Lastly is the hybrid approach, a combination of the functional and chronological.

Why choose one format or another? As Covey would remind us “begin with the end in mind”. With that in mind, what kind of work are you looking for? People with a long history of work, looking for leadership or other positions that require applicants to show steady progress often choose the chronological. People applying for highly technical jobs, or requiring very specific skills, or those seeking project or contract assignments often choose functional resumes.

What would I do? I’d use the hybrid resume. This format allows you to showcase your skills, and to show how you’ve grown those skills over time. It also makes it easier to show accomplishments, which are key to how people look at your resume.

Sections of an Effective Resume

The Resume Header:

The header of your resume should have your name, email, phone number, LinkedIn link. You should expect people to look you up on LinkedIn, so you may as well give them the link. Most of us don’t have a personal website, but you might want to consider having one during your job search if you are in a creative or other career where a portfolio is needed. Just make sure it is something you want a potential employer to see!

The Resume Summary or Objective:

There appears to be some debate online about the resume summary. After talking to hiring managers and recruiters, I can tell you there is no doubt that a resume summary is an important section. Back when I was first looking for work, this section laid out my goals, what I was looking for in a job. We actually even used to call it an Objective Statement.  But, if you think about marketing and current trend, and run your job search like companies run their products… the ads you see say what the seller wants? Or, do they talk about what you want?

The resume summary should talk about how you can add value (what can you contribute) how you can help the company you are applying to.

List out skills and accomplishments and write a short bit about how you can help them. Don’t make it sound like you are going to fix the whole company, that would be a turn off. Talk about how your analytical skills enable you to discover problems and offer effective solutions. Or talk about how you have experience solving customer problems using technology by describing one such experience. Make it about what you can do for them. You and them, in partnership. That’s what the resume is about, getting to a place where you are working for this company.

Education and Certifications:

This section of a resume can actually be under the skills section, but we recommend it be toward the bottom of the resume unless you are a recent graduate or your education is your most relevant skill (if you call that Qualifications), but is usually its own section. List education in reverse order (if you graduated from any school after HS, like vocational or college, don’t list your high school). This is a good place to also list any licenses or certifications you have that are relevant to the specific industry or job you are applying for.


This section is your chance to lay out what you are good at. Make sure to use some of the keywords used in the job description of the job you are applying for. For example:

Public Speaking – Invited to speak, and presented at national conferences on the Balanced Scorecard and other topics.

Written Communications – Published author in trade journals on measuring employee satisfaction…etc.….


This is the part of your resume that lists out your jobs and the things you accomplished in them. Don’t just type long list of things you did but talk about how what you did made things better for customers or fellow employees, or to the business in general. List out your actions, and the positive outcomes those actions provided.  Describe accomplishments instead of listing tasks.

Go back 3-4 jobs, but don’t list them all unless there are key parts of a job that you need in your resume for the specific job you are applying for. One of the other times you would list more jobs is if you were rapidly promoted, and wanted to show that off. But generally, hiring mangers will look at your most recent 2-3 jobs. Think in terms of about 10 years of work experience if you have it.

Other Things to Know About a Effective Resume:

Keep your resume to 1-2 pages. If you can get it on one page, still make your points, and not have it look cramped, one is better. But, for people with a lot of experience, two pages is more than acceptable.

Don’t include references, or state they are available. That’s pretty much a given, and doesn’t add any value to your message.

Some people list hobbies or interests. Some hiring managers like to see those, others don’t care. Just don’t include political items on there (unless you are applying for a job in politics). As a former hiring manager, I’d be interested in seeing volunteering on a resume, but other than that I’m not sure if you should put interests on a resume at all.

Keep the font the same on the entire resume. Keep the font simple. I’d google “best font for resume” to see what has changed since this was written.

Use action verbs in your bullet points. The interview guys have a great blog post about picking action words that are better than normally chosen words.

Things to Avoid in Your Resume:

Don’t lie. Amazingly, 75% of hiring mangers report having found a lie on a resume they’ve seen.

Don’t put your age, race, marital status, or other personal information on your resume.

Don’t include a photo on your resume.

Typos are a no-no. Some hiring managers won’t even look at your qualifications at all if you have typos.

Don’t list out why you left your previous jobs, or say bad things about previous employers.

Don’t include or reference attachments of other materials such as diploma, portfolio, recommendations.

My last recommendation is to have 2-3 people read your generic resume. Have them look for typos, but also let them comment on it in any way they want. Don’t take the comments personally, even the best authors in the world have editors. Think of this feedback as help, not criticism.

Good luck in your job hunt, and look for more articles about having an effective resume on Laid Off Better Off in the coming weeks.