Four Tips for Writing a Better Resume

What does the data say about writing a resume? Lots of things. Including:

  • Layout matters
  • Highlight your achievements
  • Experience before education


Writing a better resume is a really important thing if you want to stand out from the crowd. So, although we talk about the majority of jobs being filled through word of mouth, the reality is a resume is still required. 

You still need to send something to someone to demonstrate that you have what it takes or at the very least for them to take a box that says, “Yes we did due diligence. We looked into the background of this person.” So, what are some things you can do to write a better resume.

The first thing is to maintain what I would describe as a resume, and a CV. The resume is the summary document, the CV is the detailed document. So, on a yearly basis maybe, if you do performance reviews yearly, you might put into your CV the things that you’ve done for that. This year or that the year just gone, so that would include the role title that you had for the job. You might separate out what you did in the job in terms of achievements, and responsibilities. You might also list any education that you might have had. You might have if you’re maintaining a list of your publications, etc., you might put publications, presentations, and grants. All those things get updated, and so that’s in your CV. This is like a master list of everything that you’ve done. So that’s step one, maintain a CV.

The next step for a better resume is to make it look pretty as academics. We’re used to seeing grant manuscripts or grant applications, and manuscripts for journal articles. Those are fit for their purpose. They are set up you know, for grant assessments. They’re set up so that a reviewer can look through your manuscript but they’re not actually really good documents that portray you in the best possible life. They’re not well designed, and so you need to think about your resume as the ad for you and as a result it needs to look pretty. So, in the at the very least, you need to think about layout. Think about what’s called white space or negative space which is space that actually doesn’t have any writing. And that improves the readability of the document as well as other things like using smaller words. Using less complex words. Using words that are got fewer syllables. Those all improve readability. Don’t be afraid to use color but definitely make the whole thing look pretty. And to be honest, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft PowerPoint both have some really good templates that allow you to use color in your resume when you submit it. 

The next thing to do is to think about the order of things in your resume. I encourage most people that I work with, to put their experience before their education depending on the layout that you choose. It might be possible to have them both appear at the same time on the resume. And that’s called using a multi-column layout. And you can have you know, a thin column with you that might be a quarter of the page. I think a column that might be 3 quarters of the page. The thin column will have just a list of your education. Whereas, the thicker column has the descriptive stuff that goes with your experience. 

And then like in your CV, how I mentioned doing responsibilities in achievements in your resume in the sections that talk about your work experience, you need to cover off both the responsibilities, and the achievements. And some of this might seem blindingly obvious. Like if you are an educator, you’re responsible for educating students, and the achievements were that you marked assignments or marked exams or a certain number of people passed. Or you might even say that there was a failing student who then ended up passing because of the fantastic or additional or extra support you gave them. So don’t get rid of things that you think are the bleeding obvious. So, there you go. Some tips on writing a better resume. If you need any help feel free to reach out. I’m happy to give you some advice.