To Put or Not To Put: Resume Writing

When I wrote my first professional resume, my instinct was to include everything I’d ever done on it. This not only resulted in a poorly written resume, but it never landed me any interviews because my accomplishments weren’t relevant to the position, or didn’t include the right keywords. I thought a successful resume included everything, rather than being targeted

The Hamlet reference in this article’s title (and photo) encompasses the question I learned to ask myself whenever I wrote a resume. To put or not to put, that is the question! Creating a targeted resume necessitates you leaving some background out. However, having a targeted resume will lead to more success later on. The key thing to remember is that, for every item you want to include on your resume, ask yourself “to put or not to put?”

  1. Have a “closet” resume (but don’t send it out). When I get dressed in the morning, I usually spend some minutes mulling over the most appropriate combination of clothes. This usually takes into account time of year, the weather, and what I’ll be doing that day. If it’s a Saturday in the summer, I’ll probably opt for a sundress. If it’s winter and I’m giving a presentation, I’ll opt for something formal and warmer. All of these clothes can be found in my closet.

Similarly, when you’re putting together a resume, it’s a good idea to have a “closet” of experiences from which to draw. Having a large document that includes all of your previous work, volunteer, and internship experience, educational experiences, projects and publications, etc., will allow you to quickly and easily put together an appropriate resume. Plus, it will make keeping track of dates a lot less stressful.

  1. Determine the format. We posted an article on Tuesday discussing the differences between and various uses of chronological and functional resumes. You can find a link to that article HERE!!!!!! Before you develop your resume, you need to decide which format works best for you. Consider the position you’re applying for, the organizational culture of the company, and how your strengths can be demonstrated best. Knowing what format you’ll be using will determine whether accomplishments need to be phrased to highlight skills, or need to be phrased to highlight work experiences.
  2. Look at the required and preferred qualifications. If you’re working from a specific job listing, make sure you’ve read over the qualifications several times. This is the hiring manager’s “wish list” of qualities for their candidate. Figure out which accomplishments and skills from your background best line up with the qualifications listed. You’ll definitely want to include these! If there are certain qualifications you don’t have exactly, but you do have something similar, that might be another snippet to include. If you have multiple accomplishments for one qualification, consider how important it is to the job. You’d probably include more writing experience for “content writer” than you would for “sales associate”!
  3. Look beyond your job background. Some experiences are more helpful than others. For certain positions, you might find yourself more inclined to include accomplishments from unpaid work, such as volunteer opportunities or school projects. If you’re struggling to find analogues for qualifications in your job background, don’t be afraid to look at your other experiences for better fit accomplishments.
  4. Consider how to phrase it. Phrasing can often be the difference between a well-written resume, and a poorly written one. Using phrasing that emphasizes certain aspects of your background can greatly increase your chances of being called in for an interview. For example: imagine you have a background in foodservice and you are applying for a position as a museum assistant. Museum assistants and foodservice workers both have to deal with occasionally belligerent customers. Rather than saying “provided foodservice to occasionally belligerent customers,” you could say “provided top-notch customer service and worked to deal effectively with conflicts.” One of these takes your experience as a foodservice worker and phrases it to be more aligned with a museum assistant position. As they say, “the devil is in the details.” Make sure you’re paying attention to your phrasing moving forward.

Career Solutions Group specializes in helping career changers find their next opportunity. If you’re interested in working with experiences professionals to define and pursue your career, email us at We offer free initial consultations and have helped hundreds of job seekers make successful transitions.

By: Julia Pillard, Career Solutions Group