How to do a resume well

How to do a resume well: it’s one of the hardest challenges in job-search for many people and especially many women. Most of us find it difficult to sit down and think of what to include in a resume. It’s actually quite astonishing how many women are struggling with this - because in theory it should be easy for you to summarize your career path and work experience.


Having worked with several women on promoting their careers, I noticed that most of us face a few main challenges:


Summarizing the relevant work experience


This is one of the main hurdles when trying to figure out how to do a resume well. Very few candidates manage to tailor the resume to only includes the most relevant work experience for the position.


Yes, you should tailor your resume to the position which you’re applying for. That doesn’t mean that you have to write a completely new resume every time. You can repurpose part of previous resumes but be sure to take the time necessary for analyzing the position description and identifying which of your work experiences are really relevant for this position. Depending on the position, you might sort your experiences in a different order and highlight different aspects of your job.

Does that sound very theoretical? Let me give you an example from my personal experience: I gained a lot of skills during my career: Customer service; team management; account management; project management and of course recruiting. When last looking for a job, I naturally looked at several positions, not only one. Every position had a slightly different focus, so for a project management role, I listed my project management skills first and in more detail than for example the leadership skills. For a leadership position, I focused more on team management and recruiting experience.


I didn’t omit the other experiences because they were also valuable for those positions but I made sure that I described the most relevant experience first and in more detail. De-emphasizing less relevant skills and detailing relevant skills removes clutter and leads the eyes of the recruiter so that they don’t have to spend unnecessary energy on figuring out whether you fit the profile or not. This is an important point to make, especially for a position that might already be a bit complicated to define. If it‘s too much work for the employer and there are more than enough candidates available, your application might end in the ‘I‘ll-revisit-these-if-no-one-else-works-out‘ -pile.


How much detail to include in the resume


In my many years as hiring manager and when working with clients, I noticed two main tendencies:


Too much detail


Out of fear that you could forget something really important, you just write everything down. There are two main issues with this: Your resume gets too long if you held a few different positions and describe them in detail. You overload the recruiter with irrelevant information.


If you tend to write really long job descriptions, take the time to really focus on the job ad and only list the most relevant tasks for that position on your resume. Use bullet points to structure your experience and make it more easily readable for the employer. There is a tendency in the last years to describe work experience in short paragraphs. Honestly, most people won’t read so much text. So stick with the important stuff and make sure it’s well structured.


Too little detail


You’re not a person of many words, so you just stick to the essentials. The issue with this is that it may seem like you didn’t hold many responsibilities in your previous role or that you didn’t put much effort into the application. Most likely the description of your tasks will be so generic that the recruiter or hiring manager won’t really understand what your actual job was or whether it was relevant to the position.


I worked with several clients who just added very generic descriptions, such as lab work, project management, team management, accounting, market research… Now, all of these can refer to so many different tasks and you can‘t expect a recruiter to just take it in good faith that what you did within these generic descriptions contains the same skills needed in the position you are applying for. It is therefore important to describe in a little bit more detail what you actually did.


If you recognize yourself in this description and you find it hard to put your experiences on paper, think how you would explain to a friend or family member what you do all day at work. Take notes - or even better have the other person take notes of the essential tasks. Then check against the job ad which of these tasks are really relevant. Just include the essential information which outsiders need to understand what your job is all about.


Highlighting special achievements and skills


Now this is an area where so many of us women struggle. I recently worked with a client who got special scholarships and invites to participate in highly prestigious projects during her studies. It’s important to add such achievements in a rather prominent place on your resume, not at the end. If you’re unlucky, the employer won’t even read to the end because of lack of time.


Always put such important information on the first page of your resume. If you already have a few years of work experience so that your first page is full with that, check out modern resume designs. Many of them have boxes or columns where you can add additional information on the first page so that it doesn’t disappear amongst all the text.


The formatting

Not all of us are talented graphic designers who know their way around creating pretty templates for our resumes. When thinking about how to do a resume, most of us will use a word document and add a table, because that’s the easiest way. But the problem with that is that most people do that, so you won’t stick out.

You need to stick out. That’s what your resume is all about - catching attention and holding it long enough for the recruiter to peruse the most important stations of your career. So consider investing in a professionally made template.


These are really the most important things to consider when thinking about how to do a resume. I hope my tips were useful and you feel all confident and ready to start. If you’re still lost where to get starting and not really sure how to do a resume, check out my free checklist for preparing your application. It’ll help you to gather the right information to add to your resume.