How to Write a Resume

How to write a great resume using your to-do list.

Stever Robbins
3-minute read
Episode #80

When your resume lands on someone’s desk, you want it to be more impressive, more amazing, and more valuable than any of the other resumes that person is getting.

How to Write a Good Resume

Let’s review some of the principles of writing good resumes. First of all, tell the truth. I know you’re proud of that fictitious past you’ve created, complete with endorsements from the Queen. Drop it. Tell the truth. Lots of people lie on their resumes, and they often get found out. Even if it takes decades to discover the lie, you can get fired for it. And besides, it’s just plain wrong. You wouldn’t be happy if they lied about the salary they were going to pay you, would you?

Use Specific Action Verbs

Read these: “I worked on the hovercraft system.” And, “Designed, tested, and deployed hovercraft system.” The second is much stronger; it starts with action verbs that are much more specific than “worked on.” Since the subject of virtually every sentence is “I,” in the case of a resume, you can leave it out and go straight to the exciting verbs.

Lead with Results

If your actions led to impressive results, put those first. You’re being hired for your results. Your work history only matters because it tells the reader a credible story about why they should believe you can produce those results. So when they’re impressive, lead with the results: “Reduced transportation costs for Zombie World Domination Army by 30% by creating hovercraft transport system. Designed, tested, and deployed hovercraft system.”

By the way, if you want tips for cover letters, I created an audio program several years ago where I walk through a real cover letter and rewrite it.

Use Your To-Do List to Write Your Resume

If your actions led to impressive results, put those first on your resume.

So where can you find a list of the amazing things you’ve done, in convenient verb form? Simple: your to-do list. If you don’t have one, well, you’re out of luck. But if you do have one, there’s no better place to look for a specific list of every action you’ve taken for the last forever months.

You won’t be copying to-do items verbatim. Your to-do items might include “wash socks” and “prepare marketing posters.” Those don’t belong on your resume quite like that. Scan your old to-do lists and for each item, ask what project the item belonged to, and what results it produced for the company.

  • Wash socks: part of general morale building. It didn’t produce specific results for the company, but since it allowed you to move out of your separate containment trailer back into the main office, you saved the company a small fortune in facilities expenses.

  • Prepare marketing proposal: part of our new product launch. We made $50,000 on the first day alone, when we stood on the street corner and gave people free samples. They loved the little bags the samples came in. No need to tell them those were my old, but washed, socks.


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.