It’s very hard to write your own resume because a resume is a macro view of your life, but you live your life at the micro level, obsessing about daily details that have no bearing on your resume. So I recommend to a lot of people that they hire someone to help them. After all, spending money on a resume writer is one of the few expenditures that will have good return right away.

But some of you will be able to do a decent job rewriting your resume on your own. The first thing you’ll have to do is make some mental shifts. You need to rethink the goals of a resume, and rethink the rules of a resume in order to approach the project like the best of the resume professionals.

Here are three ideas that guide professional resume writers and should guide you as well:

1. Don’t focus on your responsibilities, focus on what you achieved.
A resume is not your life story. No one cares. If your life story were so interesting, you’d have a book deal. The only things that should be on your resume are achievements. Anyone can do their job, but only a small percentage of the population can do their job well, wherever they go.

The best way to show that you did your job well is from achievements. The best achievement is a promotion.It is an objective way to show that you impressed the people you work for. The next best way to show objective measures is to present quantified achievements.

Most people do not think in terms of quantified achievements when they are in the job, but on the resume, that’s the only part of the job that matters. No one can see that you were a “good team player” on your resume unless you can say “established a team to solve problem x and increased sales x%” or “joined under-performing team and helped that team beat production delivery dates by three weeks.”

If you are only putting achievements on your resume, you are going to be hard-pressed to fill a whole page. That’s okay. Anything on your resume that is not an achievement is wasting space. Because you don’t know what a hiring manager will look at first—and if you have ten good achievements and three mediocre lines about your life story, the hiring manager may only read those three lines—so remove them.

2. Don’t make your resume a moral statement; it’s a marketing document.
Think about when a company announced the launch of their product. First of all, the product is not done. Second of all, it has bugs. And third, the company is probably showing photos of prototypes and the real thing will look different.

All this stuff is fine. It’s accepted practice for marketing. The company will tell you that they are doing their best to get you the information you want in the way they think is best for letting you know what your consumer options are.

You need to take the same approach with your resume, because a resume is a marketing document. The best marketing documents show the product in the very best light, which means using whatever most outrageous tactics possible to make you look good. As long as you are not lying, you will be fine.

Here’s an example: You join a software company that just launched a product and the product had so many problems that they had to hire someone to handle the calls. You start doing the tech support, and you work tons of overtime because the calls are so backed up. You clean up the phone queue and then you start taking long lunches because there’s not a lot to do, and then you start job hunting because the job is boring.

Here’s how you summarize this job on your resume: Assumed management responsibility for tech support and decreased call volume 20%.

How do you know 20%? Who knows? It was probably more. But you can’t quantify exactly, so err on the safe side. But if you just say “Did tech support for a software company” no one knows you did a good job.

There is a fine art of almost-lying-but-not-lying on a resume. You need to talk about it a lot in order to know where you fall on the spectrum. Here is a sample of my own family discussions about what is lying and what isn’t.

3. Don’t give everything away in the resume.
The idea of a resume is to get someone to call you. Talk with you on the phone. Offer you an interview. So a resume is like a first date. You only show your best stuff and you don’t show it all.

Some people dump everything they can think of onto their resume, but a resume is not the only chance you’ll have to sell yourself. In fact the interview is where the hard-core selling takes place. So you only put your very best achievements on the resume. Sure, there will be other questions people will want answers to, but that will make them call you. And that’s good, right?

For those of you who can’t bear to take off the twenty extra lines on your resume because you think the interviewer has to see every single thing about you right away, consider that we have statistics to show that people don’t want to know everything up front. It does not make for a good match. Of people who got married, only 3% had sex on the first date.


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  1. al feersum
    al feersum says:

    Hi Penelope,

    How do I write a resume that focuses on the [i]advantages[/i] I have through being an aspie? Sure – I’ve got a great track record in the IT field, but I want orgs. to employ me [i]because[/i] I’ve got Asperger’s – the benefits they’ll get from my extreme systemising should push me to the top of their list. Sadly, along with being an extreme systemiser, I ain’t that good a social animal :| – this is what many orgs. see: Asperger = Retard. It’d be [i]really[/i] good to change this perception to Asperger = Extremely Valuable Asset.

    Cheers Penelope.

  2. My-Tien
    My-Tien says:

    After purging everything else each position now reduced down to a one line achievement statement. I love how clean it looks but scared of how little it shows

  3. J A.
    J A. says:

    I’ve read so many articles on how to make a “winning” resume but this has been the most realistic so far! Thank you so much! :)

  4. Lynne
    Lynne says:

    I came across this post when I was browsing the web and unable to sleep. It is old now, but the content is still very relevant. Achievements are the key to gaining an interview and your CV/resume is a marketing document. Its sole purpose is to entice the reader to call you or offer you an interview.
    Great and interesting post!

  5. Glenn
    Glenn says:


    I write resumes for a living- hope this might give some insight as to the differences in the UK

    (1) What sort of job will you be looking for?

    The very first question you need to ask yourself is “What is the ideal job for me?”. the answer to this question will dictate everything else that comes afterwards. please don’t fool yourself- whilst following this advice will get you a very large head start on your competition, if you are not qualified for the role in question, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Qualified surgeons are the people that i want operating on me if I ever need to have an operation, not people pretending to be qualified.

    (2) Research the company and/ or profession

    If you are serious about a job role or a move into a sector, please make sure that you know everything that you can possibly know. The reason is that the purpose of the CV is to get you interviewed- once you are being interviewed, this preparation will help you enormously.

    (3) Get your information together

    Get a blank sheet of paper and write down every job role that you can remember doing. The Cv will need to be written in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job role. When you have the month and year and job title of each job role that you have been employed in then detail then think about what you achieved or delivered for every employer. By achieved, I mean that employers are only really interested in one thing- exactly what you can do for them. if you can show that you have delivered significant benefits for employers in the past then it stands to reason that they might see that you have been a productive employee in the past and therefore should be in the future.

    (4) Qualifications

    Get together all the qualifications that you can find. get the certificates together so when it comes to writing everything down, all the information will be at hand and most importantly factually correct- it is never OK to lie on the CV so make this a priority. You will set yourself apart as most people cannot be bothered to get all this information together.

    (5) Hobbies and interests

    This is a minor point, however some employers will be interested in what you have done or do for a living. One simple point though- please make sure again that you tell the truth. If someone says that they read, at some point in the interview, I will bring the subject up and ask what was the last book that they read. You would be amazed at how many people freeze at this point- they clearly don’t read.
    Putting it all together- How To Write A CV

    Because you have researched the company and the sector that you are looking to work in, the first part of the Cv will be pretty easy to write. the career profile or objective is the first thing on the CV after your personal contact information. The Americans call this an elevator statement. this is a short introduction that you can amke to yourself, mentioning what you have done in the past and what you are looking to do in the future.

    The next section is the key achievements section. Taking the achievements that you listed down from the emplotment that you completd in the section earlier, choose the best 5-7 bullet points and detail this in a key achievements section on the CV.

    Work experience next and remebering to put things in reverse chronological order, detail 5-7 bullet pointed achievements for your most recent or current role and 3-5 for the previous jobs.

    Qualifications come next, then training courses, then hobbies and interests. The very last section covers languages, nationality and whether you can work in the country, i.e. visa or residential status.

  6. jessica
    jessica says:

    Such A great article you share with us! I am highly appreciated with you. Resume author shouldn’t solely write a resume, however, he ought to get it on well. However, this is often not the sole operate that an author is trained to do. An honest author of resumes molds the resume in line with the work description. This but, doesn’t mean that the resume may be a lie. It merely highlights and aligns the qualities of the individual with what the potential employers are searching for.

  7. career placement services
    career placement services says:

    there are many good points that you have added penelope, however, i would like to add a few, for the ones who still dont’ get it,

    tell the HR manager ( in resume, subtle ways, ) WHY would you be beneficial for their company, what skills do you bring that will help their company achieve success?
    it all depends on the type of position you are applying for,

    if you are applying for a managerial position, you would want to stress on the point , how you manage to get things done. how you keep the dissent within the employees down, and keep them motivated.

    if you are applying for an lower level employee position, you may wish to stress at team player attribute of your character.

    think about it.

  8. Luke Axelson
    Luke Axelson says:

    You need a citation for the following information:

    “we have statistics to show that people don’t want to know everything up front […] Of people who got married, only 3% had sex on the first date.”

    i’m not saying the information is incorrect, it just nees a link to back it. (the 3% statistic seems questionable)


    Take care to check where information is coming from, so you have a clear idea of the validity of the statement.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The source is OK Cupid. They are an amazing repository of dating statistics. And the blog they write, based on those statistics, is so fun to read.


  9. Izzy
    Izzy says:

    Thanks for all the tips. It’s definitely true that CV’s get you an interview, not a job. You don’t want to give everything away about yourself and have nothing to talk about during the interview either! I also think it’s worth working on a unique design for your CV to make it stand out against all the other CV’s the interviewer will read. Also, I really think it is worth getting help with your CV. It is such a worthwhile investment.

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