Is Your Résumé Working For You?

Michel A. Bell's picture

Your résumé is a marketing document meant to show a recruiter you are the best fit for the advertised job. It’s the start of building your brand. It is not meant to convey your life story. Your goal in writing the résumé is to show clearly, concisely, on one page, maximum two, why you are the best fit for the organization; effectively, how you might create superior value than someone else.

A two page résumé is better than a cluttered one page document. Eliminate fluff, be stingy—show only information that will help someone decide if he or she should invite you for an interview. It must pass the eye test: Does it look crammed? If it does, reduce the words. These are a few areas that should be in and out of the résumé:


1. Name

2. Relevant skills helpful to your value creation ability

You might be tempted to show all your wonderful skills; avoid that path. Show only specific skills that might tell the organization you are ideal for this job. If the job might need computer skills, highlight software applications with which you are competent. If in doubt, show less information.

3. Current Position: Title, Company, Employment Dates
Show dates in descending order, starting with the current. Be specific about your accomplishments. Instead of “managed a small group,” say, “managed a team of seven with a budget of $12,000 a month.” Be particular; don’t leave the recruiter guessing.

4. Previous Position: Title, Company, Employment Dates
Same information as current position above.

5. Education
Accomplishments such as deans list three of four years.

6. Awards, Hobbies, Volunteer Experience
Present information that might help convey how you used your skills effectively. You might save coins, collect stamps, and have other hobbies, but those might not help a recruiter understand you better. Show only those items that might help the recruiter assess how you might perform well in the organization.


1. Career objective
This is you talking about you; it’s subjective, adds clutter, and meaningless now.

2. “References available on request”
Really; don’t you think the organization knows it will get references if it asks you! When it asks, provide them.

3. Superlatives about you not highlighted in your jobs or volunteer experiences
So, you are “a real problem solver,” who is “a perfect fit for the team.” Show me! Is it obvious from your work experience that you are a “real problem solver”? Don’t use this empty, overused phrase. Instead, indicate briefly how you solved problems in your previous jobs… show this under your work experience. Then again, how do you know you are a “perfect fit for the team”? You don’t; exclude fluffy, catchy phrases that you can’t substantiate.

4. Paragraphs and Long Sentences
Use bullets so the reviewer can scan quickly to see who you are and what you did.

5. Fluff; don’t give too much information
You know how wonderful you are. You have done many things; but your résumé is not about your life history. Essentially, it is about your work experience and your education. Keep it simple and to the point. Adding too much might prevent you from meeting someone in the organization.
According to The, recruiters spend about six seconds reviewing each résumé, and they focus 80% of that time on these four areas:

1. Name

2. Current Position: Title, Company, Dates of Employment

3. Previous Position: Title, Company, Dates of Employment

4. Education

This is the question recruiters must face: How do I get the best fit for the job and for the organization? That’s the question you must answer.

This is your challenge as a job seeker: How do you get past the screening process? You need a simple, clear, honest, direct listing of who you are, and what you did that shows you will be able to do a superior job than another person.

In my years in business, except once, my colleagues and I did not use résumé information to help decide on a candidate. The only instance I allowed an outstanding résumé to sway my thinking, I discovered after we hired the person that he lied abut his qualifications. That’s not unusual; over 50% of people lie on their resumes!


There is no shortage of advice on how to write a résumé. However, I suggest you focus on the primary reason for writing as mentioned above, and follow these simple guidelines:

1. You can do it; you don’t need a professional

2. Keep it simple, clear, honest

3. Include the “in” items, exclude the “out” items listed above

4. Include a brief, simple, direct cover letter

5. Proofread several times; correct spelling and grammatical errors

6. Beware of overused, meaningless words and common misused words: principle instead of principal, accept instead of except, then instead of than.

7. Ask someone to read the completed résumé to check for simplicity, substance, and meeting the goal of the résumé: Does the résumé describe you honestly as potentially the best fit for the job and for the organization?

Michel A. Bell is a former senior business executive, author of five books, speaker, founder and president of Managing God’s Money, and adjunct professor of business administration at Briercrest College and Seminary. For information on managing God’s money, visit Managing God’s Money.

© 2015, Michel A. Bell