Your All-In-One Guide To Building The Perfect Resume

Aaron Couch 06-09-2012

perfect resumeWhether you just graduated, are returning to school or are looking for a new job, within or outside your career, you need a resume. But not just a resume. You need a great resume. One which will stand out among the rest and help you land that job which you’re hoping will make some positive impact on your life.


My first tip of advice before you even start is to not get lost in the resume, but remember what you’re trying to accomplish. Not only does your resume reflect you, but it also attracts or repels certain kinds of employers. Obviously you want the good ones, and your resume can be that filter. That said, however, you always need to stand behind what is on your resume because ultimately you are what makes the difference in the interview and job.

Lastly, you might be thinking “Writing a resume has nothing to do with technology.” Au contraire. It has everything to do with technology… unless you write yours with a feather pen on animal hide.

The Most Important Part Of The Resume

What would you consider the most important part of a resume? Your education? Skillset? Experience? Vast knowledge in a specific area? In my opinion, all of those are great, but none of them are the most important aspect of your resume. The most important part of your resume is your contact information. Think about it.

If you were an employer looking through vast amounts, or even just a few resumes and you stumbled upon one that “wowed” you, but included no contact information, what would you think? What would you do? First off, a thought might occur that they aren’t attentive to details enough to even remember to include it. Second, you might not have the time or even care to try to find their contact information. Perhaps it was even in an email signature or something and you have it somewhere, but you are likely to not put much effort if they can’t even do that much.

Next, it’s important where it goes. As tempting as it may be, don’t place your contact information (or anything really) in the header or footer. The primary reason being that if you submit your resume online to a transposing database, the header and footer are likely to be missed in the scanning for key words and phases. This is because most just scan through the body of the resume.


A One Page Resume? Really?

There is a common thought out there that your resume shouldn’t extend one page, unless you are something special. And sadly, students in high school and universities are learning this still. I cannot count the times I was told this in school, even college. In fact, my last semester before I graduated I was applying for a job and asked an instructor for her input on my already stellar resume (I thought so, anyways). This was one of the things she told me to do – only make it one page. But when looking at my resume, that was clearly unrealistic. I had far too many valuable experiences to just cut them out, even if they all weren’t completely “relevant” to the job I was applying for – which I’ll cover later.

The answer to your question is “No. You don’t have to make it one page.” However, there are some guidelines to follow here:

  • Don’t add filler information, larger font or extra spaces just to make it two pages.
  • Don’t make the font too small and hard to read to make it fit to one or two pages.
  • It should be equal. If it’s two pages, make it a full two pages.
  • If it spills just over one page, tweak your resume until it fits.
  • Focus on content, not length. Once you have quality content, then make the size adjustments.

As you might see, they somewhat contradict each other in a way, but I think you should understand it. These are the tips that helped me. I can’t remember how or when I learned them. It was likely a combination or the Internet, school (very minimal) and personal experience through self-teaching.

Create A Clean, Easy-To-Follow Layout

In some ways, this goes right along with how many pages you have. You definitely want to customize the layout to the number of pages that you have. There are a couple aspects in having an easy-to-follow resume. First, you must have a nice template. You don’t want something busy or obnoxious. Something that makes it easy to find the information the interviewer is looking for. Another side, however, is less about the actual template and more about how you position your content.


Be consistent. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you do something one way in an area of your resume, do it that same way throughout the rest of it. If you change how something is positioned. If necessary, make that same change in all other areas of your resume. You want your resume to flow, not have your interviewer feel like they’re in a chaotic abyss of words when reading your resume.

As far as choosing a template goes, there are tons of them. If you’re using Word, Microsoft has several. The internet is full of ideas Top 3 Websites To Build A Free Resume Online Read More and there are even ways to use LinkedIn to create your resume 2 Tools To Turn Your LinkedIn Profile Into A Neat-Looking Resume LinkedIn isn't only good for networking. Those who maintain detailed LinkedIn profiles can turn them into informative online resumes to jump start their job search. There are a few handy tools that will both allow... Read More for you. Although, I wouldn’t necessarily condone only using that as your main resume, but it’s a nice option. What I did was get an idea from a resume I saw and created one for myself, making custom tweaks here and there to my liking, while keeping the basic layout the same. It doesn’t matter what template you choose, as long as it meets the requirements of being easily read.

perfect resume

There are also a lot of ways to make your resume. From infographics Two Easy Ways To Create Visual Infographics Of Your Résumé Creative jobseekers are always searching for new ways to distinguish themselves to potential employers. One of the quickest ways to do this is to make your résumé stand out from the crowd. Once you've got... Read More to clever designs to videos. However, though these are very cool, I don’t personally feel they’re very practical… especially not for all careers across the board. Some careers strive for creative individuals that stand out from the rest – these are the kind of resumes that fit. All other careers simply should have pretty basic resumes. That doesn’t mean it has to be boring to read. Just like a story, you want the interview to feel engaged when reading it, to be impressed when they set it down… or better yet, not be able to set it down, but to continue to look through it.


Be Concise, But Thorough.

how to write a perfect resume

Content plays a huge role in whether your layout looks lean or not. You can have a great looking template, but not an easy to read resume. This is likely due to your content not being as clear and concise as it should be. Keeping things as short as possible is important. Let me put an asterisk by that though. You don’t want a vague resume. Meaning, you want to be thorough and avoid short, one to two word lines. It’s ok to have sentences  and explain yourself in your resume. This was something I learned by myself as well.

In high school, I felt as if they pushed your resume to summarize your professional life. And to an extent you want it to, but not too much to the point that you have dwindled down every skill and experience. In fact, many of the cliched phrases and sayings for resumes are derived from this very principle of “minimalism.” Again, you want to be concise, and certainly not redundant, but you need to make sure that you are also explaining who you are, what you’ve done,and maybe even why you have done it.

Impress, But Be Honest

how to write a perfect resume


Obviously you want your resume to stand out from the rest. You’ve gone to great measures choosing a killer template, creating excellent content… oh, content. About that. Reread everything you’ve got on your resume. How much of that have you literally accomplished? Have you specified your extent of knowledge in that skill or experience? Let’s say you have “Managed a team to create… blah blah blah.” Did you really manage the team? Or did you just observe them? Perhaps you did help manage the team, but in that phrase, it sounds like you were the sole manager. Were there others of equal stature whom you worked with to manage the team? These are important things to include. I have found myself being a little overzealous when writing/editing my resume and often need to step back and look at things a little bit more realistically.

In the image blow you can see I chose the word “assisted.” There are a lot more powerful words that sound better, but essentially that is all I did and it wouldn’t be right to set a bar higher than what my skill level depicts. Also, the majority of the time, being honest will impress.

how to write a perfect resume

Forget References

a perfect resume

Ok, so don’t literally forget them. But don’t add them, not mention anything referring to them on your resume. For a long time I added “references available” in the footer. Then I read how that is not really necessary since employers assume that you will have references, especially if you’re “sharp” – which your resume will often indicate. Employers typically will ask for references later.

However, depending on the situation, they do sometimes ask for references at the same time of the resume (or sometimes, you just know they’re going to want them right away). In these situations, I do include three references which are the most relevant to the job I’m applying for. I have a separate resume created with my references already in it so all I need to do is swap out any references, if I so desire, change their contact information and send it away.

That is an exception though. For the general resume that you might hand out and certainly for any public resume of yours which you post to the internet, leave out the references. If the employers like what they see, they’ll contact you for more. It also gives them a reason to contact you for more, and indirectly tells you they’re interested. The more contact you have with them the better so you don’t want to give them everything they want right away, unless of course they directly ask for it.

Grammar, Grammar, Grammar

Grammar. I can’t emphasize it enough. I’ve said it four times and I still don’t feel that you quite understand what I’m getting at. Alright, so I’ll assume that you do. Honestly though, this is one of the most important aspects of your resume. I’d almost say it’s right below remembering to add and having proper placement of contact information. If you don’t have an outstanding skillset expressed on your resume, but have flawless grammar, you’re already above average. It doesn’t just show that you know how to make a resume, but that you pay attention to detail. Detail that also will be expected on the job, no matter what you do. If you have trouble with this, don’t just do it on your resume, practice it in every day life so that when you do get a job, you don’t disappoint.

As you can see, even I mess up grammar occasionally. Although it doesn’t happen often.

a perfect resume

One Resume Doesn’t Fit All

I’ve already mentioned this briefly when referring to having multiple resumes, one with and one without references. However, it doesn’t stop there. I highly recommend you tweak your resume per job. Slightly adjust your objective to match what you are expecting from that job and what they are looking for. Add any skills that you have that may be more relevant to the job. Just adjust the overall focus of your resume to that company. It should also relate to the cover letter you write to them and include many of the same things.

Since graduating, I’ve applied at several places which are very different. Not all of the places were paying, some volunteer, like zoos, but many still requested a resume. From an avian sanctuary to two zoos to several vet clinics, my resume had a lot of tweaks. Had I not created multiple versions, I would have been in a mess and would have been constantly changing and editing what I wanted that particular organization to see.

a perfect resume

Instead of having to make the whole thing again, I recommend saving it as another version, opening that version and making the changes, then saving it again. That way you don’t overwrite your other versions of resumes. I also recommend having PDF and DOC versions of your resume. Personally, I prefer sending a PDF version versus a DOC version. Most of the time that is what employers want anyways.

Manage Your Resumes

After creating resume after resume, you will soon realize that they need to be managed some how. If you’re somewhat unfamiliar with file management in general, I encourage you to read my article Creating Order From Chaos: 9 Great Ideas for Managing Your Computer Files It's frustrating isn’t it when you can’t find that file? When you’ve searched every folder imaginable on your computer, and somehow it got lost….or worse, deleted. Now, there are excellent search tools for Windows that... Read More about that. In that article I talk about naming your files according to what is included in them and also dating them. This is especially important with resumes. It’s nice to know what resume is for what job. For instance, I have a resume for a vet assistant position, a zoo keeper position and for working at an avian sanctuary. Plus, I have my general resume. It would be impossible to keep all of these straight it they didn’t have a proper description.

Along with describing, dating the file name is also important. Not just when you initially created it, but as you update it, change the name to when you last updated it. For me, I just go by month and don’t really need to get more specific than that. This has proven very helpful because I might have forgotten about adding something recent to my resume, but will be reminded when I see it hasn’t been updated for two months.

Lastly, put all your resumes in one folder. If you want to access these from other places, online cloud backup and sync applications like SugarSync SugarSync: The Most Well-Rounded Free File Backup & Syncing Service File backup is not a new conversation or topic by any means. If you search Google for “file backup” you will likely be overwhelmed by services and articles on the topic. It is a vast... Read More and Dropbox are excellent solutions. It also is in your benefit to use such programs since they have file versioning and live updating to automatically detect and save any changes you make.

Tell A Story

perfect resume

Remember that your resume is basically a timeline of your professional life. At first it may seem bleak, especially if you don’t have much professional experience. But be creative. Share about what life experiences you’ve gone through. Have you done Eagle Scouts? What about volunteer work, specifically in your area of interest? What extra curricular activities did you do in school? What skills have you taught yourself through your interests in a particular career? These are all things that you can include and should include on your resume. There are so many more things as well, but hopefully those questions will trigger some ideas for you to compound on and work with.

Conclusion – It’s Only The Beginning

So you’ve finished your resume. Congrats! Now I’m going to tell you that your resume is an ever growing, ever changing, live document. It will never be finished. For now, you are content with it. But soon you will think of something else to add or do something else that should be put on there. This is fine and you shouldn’t get discouraged about the never ending resume work. In fact, be proud that yours doesn’t sit around outdated.

Your resume is just the first part of your presentation. Like I said in the beginning, you are what makes a difference. Be sure that you can back up everything on your resume, and if in doubt, allow a little leeway to go beyond what you wrote in your resume. If you don’t agree with something here, I am more than willing to hear your argument and embrace different viewpoints.

Have you developed a resume based off these guidelines already? How has this article helped you in creating your newly refined resume? If you haven’t created a resume yet, are there any additional questions I can help with?

Image Credit: Resume via Shutterstock | Are You Sure Your Resume Is Accurate? via Shutterstock |  Why Did I Move To The Moon? via Shutterstock 

Related topics: Job Searching, Resume.

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  1. Anonymous
    July 17, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Your shared advices are really essential for a grad like me. Although I have had some important recommendations as well as necessary tips for my resume from my past experiences and some people around me, your experiences are quite helpful for me in order to organize the specific resume system well and make a perfect one :)

    Thank you very much for great sharing!

  2. Douglas Mutay
    November 8, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Good tips. In my country we are all looking for jobs. Even those who are working are looking for job :-) So thanks for sharing. That what I am getting also ready to do: share with other job seeker.

  3. mohit kumar
    September 13, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Awesome article. But what if it is Curriculum Vitae or the candidate has no job experience or he is just a fresh graduate.

  4. Eileen LaPierre
    September 13, 2012 at 3:17 am


    Do you have a downloadable template of your resume (including the sections, headers, etc)?

  5. Nancy B
    September 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Thanks for the advise and I definitely need to update my resumes.

    One thing I found as a former employer is also to make the resume job specific.
    If I'm looking for a hairstylist, I don't want to know about your years as a nanny really. Just mentioning it would be enough, not how you learned patience and tolerance! I'm mom I know what skills you learn taking care of kids.

    Some resumes I got were 5 pages long and had every job they ever had and everything they did in school back to high school! No just put in the relevant jobs, courses and computer skills, not everything you ever did.

    I have several resumes, one as a stylist, one in sales, one for volunteer groups and one general one that combines the best of all and puts it together for new to me jobs.

    In general I have found people prefer the job specific resumes and not everything you ever did....unless they ask for a CV.

  6. sidnicide
    September 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Resumes are real important. Thanks for the tips!!

  7. Ahmed Khalil
    September 10, 2012 at 4:34 am

    I think we need to read this artical more than one time.
    as every time i read i get more information

  8. Meidimi
    September 10, 2012 at 12:02 am

    Thanks so much. I Really learned much. Need to check my spelling and saving them as i update them. I save them now on my Dropbox so that they are accessible anytime

  9. JagdeshSingh
    September 9, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Great post.Going for an interview soon and this will help a lot.Thanks

  10. Clyde Atwood
    September 9, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Thanks for the info! I'm 51 now and haven't developed a new resume in over 10 years. This article is a definite help! Thank you!!!

  11. Mod Mike
    September 8, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Thanks enjoyed reading article. I got quite a few pointers on how I should updaye my resume.

  12. Adjei Kofi
    September 8, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Thanks for the tip

  13. Rigoberto Garcia
    September 8, 2012 at 4:07 am

    Thank you for your post Aaron. Excelent information and tips...

  14. Brad Tefft
    September 7, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Awesome article and very timely for a number of people I know and myself! Many of us are well beyond the college years ;-)

  15. Greg Underwood
    September 7, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks for a common sense approach. I like the fact that you will require multiple resumes to fit the different positions that you are applying for. Another good point is "be able to backup what you put on your resume". You will not want to be put on the spot in an interview and look foolish.
    Thanks again,

  16. Faisal Ahmed
    September 7, 2012 at 5:37 am

    If a resume goes beyond one page, then would it be wise to put one's contact information on the header for the following pages? I reckon this may give one's resume a different look.

    Your succinct but specific solution for the page limit will be of great use...

    And last but not the least, I have just now uploaded my resume and scanned photo into Dropbox...a suggestion by you worth doing!

  17. Bill G
    September 7, 2012 at 4:46 am

    Kudos, Aaron, for an excellent post! As a hiring manager, wading through resumes will be a lot easier if more job seekers would follow your suggestions. No ... wait ... my job will be harder because there will be so many more *good* resumes!

    The important thing to remember about a resume is the resume's purpose. The purpose of a resume is to ==> get you an interview 8 seconds <== looking at each resume. The resume has 8 seconds to convince the reviewer that it ought to be looked at longer and in greater depth rather than being "filed."

    Taking Aaron's advice will make your resume far more likely to survive that first 8 seconds, and hopefully will even get you an interview. So may I offer one more tidbit? After you've had the interview, send a thank-you note to everyone who interviewed you. You cannot imagine how much that helps!

    • Bill G
      September 7, 2012 at 4:50 am

      The submit button really botched-up the text flow and formatting of my comment.

      • Bill G
        September 7, 2012 at 4:53 am

        Oops ... a big chuck of my comment is missing. I used "arrows" to emphasize a couple points, but the website thought I was trying to include HTML and trimmed them out. Sorry!

  18. Keith Ambrose
    September 7, 2012 at 1:35 am

    A little side point, for job seekers. I craft my resume for most jobs I apply for so I have a ton of resumes. To keep them in order a bit more, I use a year-month-day format so that the most recent doc always appears at the bottom of the folder. Or I guess u can sort by date everytime.

  19. GrrGrrr
    September 6, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Thanks Aaron, u have mentioned many key points.

  20. 0c6892ade2f19fb5ad6953033450ad0b
    September 6, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Nice article. Concise & to the point. After 18 years with one company, I find myself looking for additional work. (No longer full time) Updating isn't going to be much of a problem, but I'm not so sure of making it work online. Any suggestions for a template?

  21. Christine Hicks
    September 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Good the world today every tip and trick is useful. Thanks for putting it out there.

  22. Dave Nelson
    September 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Excellent article. However, I have one question. I have been told, by several HR persons that they assume the resume is exagerated and deduct the equivalent of 50% of it, routinely. How do you counteract that?

  23. Darryl Park
    September 6, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    I'm a computer programmer and so there's a lot of acronyms and keywords involved with my skill set. I find that a skills matrix with 3 columns labeled novice, proficient, and advanced and then line by line under each column I put the skills and the number of years I've been doing that skill. If there are computers looking at my resume for keywords this helps and even better, if there's a person, they will see the skills immediately on the first page and they'll be able to figure out whether they should look further into the resume for more detail. Of course I only apply to jobs where I know my skills match so I almost always get an interview.

  24. Jason Maggard
    September 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    One of the toughest things is to put down a company that you worked for for 15 years, with a variety of jobs and responsibilities. I am in that boat. While my job title didn't change I went from being the new guy to the senior guy over my term there.

    Any tips on how to present this to a prospective employer? Started off as a low level systems administrator and moved into technical lead for new projects all without changing job titles over 15 years. How do I separate my time doing UNIX backups from my time programming and developing new products?

    • Dave Nelson
      September 6, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      My suggestion is a "Responsibilities section under that employer, with a time-line or date and the added responsibilities within it:

      ABC, Inc
      Title: Systems Engineer
      1980 - Initial employment
      1984 - Assigned as section leader
      1986 - Senior Engineer for section
      1990 - Assistant manager for department
      ...... ETC.

      • Jason Maggard
        September 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm

        The problem is that I was never assigned a new title, and there wasn't any one point when I stopped being a Unix admin and started being a programmer. The company I worked for had one generic title "Computer Technician" that covered the guy who fixed jammed printers, and the guy who did all of the programming for getting our product on Kindle.

        There was a concern that if they started saying a guy was a "Programmer" that he'd no longer feel like it was his job to go fix a jammed printer. By keeping the $60k a year guys and the $7 an hour guys all on a level playing field they hoped to make everyone responsible for making sure the business ran smoothly period. They had been through some troubles with the unions over similar issues in their history.

  25. Roger Humphries
    September 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    I thought you had some pretty good tips, but you missed one really important point. The word is résumé, not resume. In an article on a subject as important as writing a résumé you really should not be taking the all-to-frequent shortcut of calling at a resume.

  26. bruce steifman
    September 6, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I find the information that you provide to be of value on certain topics, but why must you send 'daily' emails?

    This may cause me to block and unsubscribe to your newsletter.

    They used to be sent 1x/ week.

    What's going on?

  27. Kaashif Haja
    September 6, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Few days from now, i have an interview. Your tips were useful. I hope i'll make an attractive Resume.
    Thanks a lot!

  28. Patrick Jackson
    September 6, 2012 at 11:03 am

    And yes, using PrintFriendly!

  29. Patrick Jackson
    September 6, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Really liked your article. Not much of a need for that, still going to keep it as I may need it lately!

  30. Michael Teague
    September 6, 2012 at 8:06 am

    Thanks for this post. Eventhough, I am not looking for a new position, I always keep my resume' update. I have found that I need it for several different things including some independent contract work and speaking at different conferences.

  31. Genifer
    September 6, 2012 at 6:45 am

    Your tips are useful and (particularly regarding the one-page limit) not one that are said enough.

    One element of resume design I recently learned of, and now want to tell everyone, is that if the resume you use in online applications includes bullets, computer programs scanning for keywords will interpret those symbols as 'stop' commands and not read the information following them. It's better to have un-bulleted lines if you want the computer to read all your skills.

  32. Sebastian Hadinata
    September 6, 2012 at 6:32 am

    Very nice article.. Gotta bookmark this for future reference when I'm going to create my resume. Thanks.

  33. venkatp16
    September 6, 2012 at 6:16 am

    This article is too good. I'm saving this and will forward it to my friends for sure.

  34. Richard Borkovec
    September 6, 2012 at 5:24 am

    I've heard the same "one page only" rule my whole life, but in reality, that's almost impossible to do with some people. Another thing about the references: I've also heard that you should just put them on there so the employer knows you're serious about the job. Then again, it seems that the "rules" to a resumé are always changing, and no one company is going to want a resumé like another wants.

    • Aaron Couch
      September 6, 2012 at 5:40 am

      "Then again, it seems that the “rules” to a resumé are always changing, and no one company is going to want a resumé like another wants."

      Richard, you are right on! The rules are ALWAYS changing. And although I do feel that most of these tips are pretty universal no matter the job or career, I trust the readers' discretion to decide how they should present themselves.

  35. syed asghar
    September 6, 2012 at 3:40 am

    This is a great information for a starter or for a person who wants to switch the job,for fresher and for Experienced too. These are little points people tend to miss out and they loose the opportunity meant for them.
    Try these steps and It will be helpful in the process of getting the job.

  36. IamAshMcLean
    September 6, 2012 at 3:29 am

    Thank You So much for post this. I'm from Puerto Rico, and they don't use so much Resumés like that. They prefer simple, and One page.

    Now I can learn how to do it, for USA!! ;)

    • Aaron Couch
      September 6, 2012 at 5:40 am

      You're welcome! Glad it was of some help. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. Thanks for reading.