Effective Resume Writing


Your Resume Should Be A Unique Creation, Targeted For A Specific Job

Back in the dark ages (before word processing software) the conventional wisdom said your resume had to be general enough to be a fit for multiple potential positions in which you might be interested. In today’s world this couldn’t be more wrong.  The resume we ultimately submit on your behalf should be a unique document, tailored specifically by you and your Columbia Search Partners professional Recruiter for a specific job opportunity. It should be a collaborative effort, the result of which captures in a clear and concise manner how your past achievements and related skills and abilities make you not just a reasonable choice for an employment opportunity, but the only choice.

What Should Be Included? How Much Should I Put In? How Do I Decide What To Leave Out?

What’s In It?

The resume should account for your work history in its entirety, but all jobs should not receive equal weight. Your most recent position should occupy the majority of space. Each previous job should have less and less detail. If you have a particularly long work history, early jobs may be represented by job title and dates only. The contents of each position section are accomplishment oriented phrases that begin with action verbs. We sometimes call these phrases bullet points, or simply “bullets”.

What’s Left Out?

It’s not you life story. Your best resume may be one that you feel has much left out. The fact is, hiring managers will likely review many more resumes than yours. As a consequence, most experts believe that most resumes get only about 30 seconds of “read time”. Most resume readers only skim—looking for key words and phrases. Those key words and accomplishment-oriented phrases should comprise the lion’s share of the content on your resume. Forget about hobbies, interests and excess verbiage about job responsibilities. They serve only to distract the reader’s eye and detract from the impact of the accomplishment oriented phrases.

Balance is the key. Include enough information to adequately capture your skills, abilities and experiences and how these support the hiring manager’s job requirements. Leave everything else out.

General Tips On Resume Format

We use the chronological format recommended by most resume experts. Each of your jobs should be listed in reverse chronological order—beginning with your current or most recent job.

Your achievements should be represented as a series of bulleted accomplishment oriented statements that begin with action verbs.

Unless you are fresh out of college or have held only one or two jobs, your resume should be two pages long.  Before extending it to three or more pages consult your Columbia Search Partner professional Recruiter. Remember, you may add as much as you like, but most hiring managers still allow only 30 seconds for that initial review. Additional pages only serve to take attention away from where you want it.

Your Columbia Search Partners professional Recruiter will provide you with information about key job requirements, critical experiences and even industry or company specific language that will help you compose your resume in a way that will support your candidacy in the hiring manager’s eyes.

Getting Started

We have sample resumes in the format we use. You can see different examples of this format by clicking on the links below.

Sample Resume #1

Sample Resume #2

We strongly recommend that you DO NOT USE a resume template provided by your word processing software. These templates take the worry out of formatting, but become very difficult to edit once completed. Since you will be creating a resume that will serve as a working document and be edited using information from your recruiter to help it be targeted, you want to maintain maximum flexibility in the structure of the document.


The critical component of a powerful resume is the action oriented accomplishment phrase. We often refer to these achievement statements as bullet points. They are your achievements and should be written with several key characteristics in mind.
Generally, they highlight achievements and not responsibilities.

When possible, start every bullet point with an action verb. Click the link for a list of action verbs.

Action Verbs

Quantify your achievements where appropriate. Saying your efforts led directly to one million dollars in bottom line cost avoidance is much more powerful than saying you were responsible for delivering significant cost savings.

The content should be perfect with respect to spelling. Resume grammar does not, however, follow conventional written English. Sentence fragments are acceptable and periods are not specifically required unless the statement is a complete sentence.  Whether using fragments or complete sentences, the use of periods at the ends of the statement should be consistent throughout the entire resume.

Sample Resume Section Converted From A Paragraph Style To A Bulleted Style

Paragraph Format (Not Recommended)

ACME Parts, Inc. Waterloo, IA                                         January 2004 – Present

Plant Manager

I had full P&L responsibility for ACME Parts, which is a leading supplier of stamped parts for both the automotive and aerospace industries. I joined the team just before a Lean Six Sigma policy deployment. I was the site champion and the deployment touched almost every department in the plant from R&D to manufacturing to the customer service group that handles order entry. We achieved significant cost reductions in R&D and made notable improvements in the new product development cycle. We also streamlined the order entry process and moved to a third party logistics provider resulting in additional cost savings.


Bulleted Format (Recommended)

ACME Parts, Inc. Waterloo, IA                                            January 2004 – Present

Plant Manager

Full P&L accountability for a $4.3MM manufacturer of stamped metal components serving the automotive and aerospace industries.

  • Served as a Lean Sigma champion during a Lean Six Sigma deployment
  • Reorganized R&D and manufacturing organizations, integrating them into a single organizational structure
  • Reduced R&D costs by $1.3MM per year
  • Shortened the average new product development cycle from over six months to eleven weeks by utilizing lean sigma techniques, including Design for Six Sigma
  • Led a cross-functional site management team in completing a transactional lean manufacturing project that resulted in a 65% reduction in customer order lead time processing
  • Transitioned to a third party logistics provider resulting in annual cost savings of over $850K


What Should I Send My Recruiter?

Like everything, the answer is: “It all depends”

If you have detailed knowledge of the position in which you are interested and you already have a resume that “fits” that position, then go ahead and send your Columbia Search Partners (CSP) recruiter that version. He or she will then work with you to further customize the document in light of the position requirements. Remember, your Columbia Search Partners (CSP)recruiter has information about the specific requirements that go well beyond what you might have read on an internet job posting or a company Website.

If you don’t have a focused resume, that is not necessarily a problem. In fact some people maintain an “extended version” of the resume that contains much more content than you would likely end up using for a specific position. It is always easier to remove less relevant bullet points than it is to create them from scratch.

Whether you fall into one of these two categories or maybe fall somewhere in between, getting advice from your Columbia Search Partners (CSP) recruiter is the most valuable use of your time and the shortest route to getting that interview.

A Final Word On Resume Writing

If you have ever read a resume writing book, attended a resume writing seminar or asked a colleague to review your resume, you have probably already learned that the number of “perfect” versions of your resume more or less corresponds to the number of sources you consult! If you have read all the way to the bottom of this Webpage you have probably already realized that we also have our own perspective on how a resume ought to be composed and used.

There are several Websites you can consult to get other perspectives. If you put resume writing in your search engine you will get many. Many responses—mostly from companies who want to sell you their services.  We recommend that you start with the samples we have provided.