How to Write a Great Resume (Part 3)

Once you have the basic flow of your resume, properly word-smithing each sentence can boost its effectiveness. Get-It-Done Guy has priceless insight into how to make your resume stand out from the crowd.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #294

In Part 1 of this series on how to write better resumes, we learned that your resume should tell a story of how you’ll be valuable for a company, customized for that company. In Part 2 of the series, we learned that resume readers skim—they don’t read in detail—so the order of your entries matters a great deal. You’ll either tell the story of your awesomeness chronologically, or arranged functionally, by skill set.

Today we’ll do a deep dive into the details of the individual resume entries themselves. They say the Devil is in the details, so bring your pitchfork; it’s gonna be a fun ride..

People Scan From Top to Bottom

Did I mention that hiring managers and employers will scan your resume? If nothing else, pound that into your brain. They’ll read the major headings and the first few words of each sentence. If you use a long sentence, they’ll never get to the end of it. If you use normal prose, they’ll fall asleep. What matters most is the first couple of sentences under each job, and the first few words of each sentence.

People often format a job entry as a paragraph of text briefly describing the job, followed by bullet points that list specific accomplishments. If you choose that format, these tips apply to each sentence in the paragraph, and each bullet point.

Every Sentence Must Convey Your Value

I’ve read resume entires that start like this: “I was a Product Manager in the Zombie Domination Army (ZDA for short), 14th Division. The ZDA is a collection of reanimated book club members in search of the perfect novel.” Wrong! The reader doesn’t care what the ZDA is. Remember we’re telling the story of you and your value to the company. The ZDA is just a footnote in that story.

Here’s how I’d write that same resume entry: “Managed projects for ZDA, 14th Division.” Boom! 27 words down to 7, keeping everything that’s relevant. Less is more, because people scan.

If you think you need a company description for your bullet points to make sense, that means you need to reword your bullet points.

Start Each Entry with an Active Verb

Did you notice “I was a product manager” became “Managed projects” in my rewrite? That’s because people scan, and you want the first word of your sentence to be the most powerful. Start each entry with a verb. I prefer to use past-tense verbs, even for my current job, but you can use present tense for your current job if you want.

  • Developed world domination plans.
  • Acquired zombie reanimation powder.
  • Raised zombie army.
  • Preserved zombie integrity with daily formaldehyde regime.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.