The Proper Resume Outline


The Selection Process

Before we get into selecting the proper resume outline, I want to first outline the selection process that your cover letter and resume will be put through (as illustrated above).

The Resume / Application Step:

This is the first step.  It's where you cover letter and resume pass through a thorough screening, usually by someone in HR or a pre-screener working with a recruiter.  They are NOT reading your submission and saying "Wow this is a great candidate, and we MUST bring him/her in!"  Instead, they are merely looking for "buzz words, and keywords that are listed for the criteria of the job -- simply selecting the candidates that have the most matches.

The Screening Test:

In MOST cases the hiring manager or HR Generalist are going to read your resume with any level of depth.

Labored, unexciting text, pat phraseology, fluff and puff exaggerations. It’s unexciting and very laborious  to read and pre-screen hundreds of boring poorly written submissions.

Here are some tips that will help get pass this stage:

  • Keep it short your cover letter and resume outline clear, accomplishment oriented. An effective resume is preferably one or two pages...three at most if your a seasoned professional
  • Make sure your cover letter and resume are easy to read and not cluttered
  • A cover letter and resume MUST be tailored for a specific position. I know cranking out variations of your resumes is more work, but nobody said standing out in the crowd was a walk in the park or easy.
  • Choose the right format (see examples).

The Interview / Reference Checks / Decision:

These next steps speak for themselves, and we'll cover them in great detail a bit later...each are worth a section or two all by themselves.  I  just to give you a high-level view or preview of the process ahead.

The resume is your main marketing tool.  It's real purpose is to get you an interview.

Plain and simple….if you get the interview, it was a successful tool, so the importance of the proper resume outline can not be understated.

On the other hand, if you are consistently not getting called for interviews, then your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) is not standing out in the crowd of applicants as well as it should, and therefore, you need to take a hard look at your resume, because it is not marketing you properly. 

As you can see from the illustration above, the potential of being eliminated from the selection process can happen at any time (so be VERY careful with your usage of buzz or keywords, spelling, grammar, people's titles...and yes the title of the job it self -- I have even seen submissions get tossed because the wrong jobsite source was sited). See resume examples here.

No matter what your past experience, qualifications, intelligence or skills, you need to submit an application and pass through a very competitive selection process.

Start by creating a clear resume outline and format, which will help you organize your sections and thoughts.

The Proper Resume Outline:

• The Heading

This is where you list your personal information, such as your name (first and last is best, it isn’t necessary to list you middle name, or placing marital titles such as Mr., Ms., Miss, or Mrs.). However, if your first name easily falls into the “gender-less” category, avoid the complication and embarrassment for a prospective employer and use the proper title. Type your name in capital letters and in bold for more impact -- avoid nicknames.

The heading also contains your mailing address (do not use abbreviations), and your other contact information such e-mail addresses, and phone numbers such as home and cell.

• An objective statement of career goals

A career objective expresses what you want to achieve in your career and which position you seek. The objective should include: your skills, achievements, the kind of company you would like to work for -- these should be aligned to the job you are pursuing.

Your objective should be more what you can do for the employer rather than vice versa.

If the potential employer sees that your objectives are his targets, you have become a prime candidate -- this is a good technique to quickly grab the attention of the reader. Make your Objective statement focused, interesting, and unique so that it instantly grabs the reader’s attention.

Another technique is instead of an Objective section, is to use a Job Target section that will call attention to the position you seek. A job target also provides a headline of the position you are qualified for without taking up much space on your resume.

• A resume outline also contains an accurate summary of your credentials

This is where you (depending on format) list and highlight your work history experiences and background to convey your strengths and areas of expertise. Weave in your accomplishments and achievements, and not just list the functions you did – remember, you want to show value and successful growth to the employer.

This is your chance to build on your background, and experiences gained over the years. Highlight your strengths and accomplishments for each position, list when you where promoted to new roles and always try to make it appetizing to a potential employer.

• The resume outline also includes sections for achievements, special skills, and certifications

When you list achievements and accomplishments, concentrate on measurable results and be specific. Use numbers, percentages and timeframes to emphasize accomplishments and successes. Grab the recruiter or potential employer’s interest by using action words, and avoid the use of (I or me).

When listing special skills in the resume outline, be clear and convey the uniqueness of the skill, and how it differentiates you from other candidates.

Certifications are essential for nurses, social workers, real estate brokers, stock brokers, insurance brokers, teachers, CPA accountants, and a multitude of other professionals whose fields are governed by a license or certification. If you do not yet have your license or certification, but are in the process of obtaining one, list the expected date you expect to receive it, if the date is unknown, then list both the number of months and years expected till completed.

• Educational background

Another important element of a resume, and far too often it is given little or no attention -- it could be the deciding factor in the employer’s decision to hire you.  Stress your accomplishments in school with the same degree of flair that you used in describing your accomplishments at work.

• Other special sections of the resume outline

If you have acquired any honors, awards, or have been published, or have any special talents (this is very important for the fields of film, design, modeling, entertainment, advertising or any of the other creative fields), list them and provide any specific relevant information such as production dates, names of producer/directors worked with, agencies, publications with dates listed, or any other highlights, credits, or affiliations.

A great strategy to use for your resume outline is if you do not have much experience is to list any volunteer work or other special accomplishments that you may have (i.e. Eagle Scout, martial arts Black Belt, military experience, parental experiences etc.).

You can use these experiences to your advantage by explaining how they have made you better at handling conflicts, how they have taught you leadership skills, or other powerful qualities that can be useful in the working world and be attractive to a recruiter or potential employer.

• Last, but not the least

resume outline contains a reference section that acknowledges that other people can support statements made in your resume, and validate your accomplishments and character. Do not list them on your resume, but do indicate that “Reference Provided Upon Request” -- There is no need to provide them unless they are requested.

This helps to keep your search confidential (always make sure you tell a recruiter or potential employer when you want your search to be confidential).

Although they are not always asked for, a potential employer will generally request references if they are seriously considering your candidacy, so have them lined up, informed (never list anyone who not been notified or is willing to stand-up for you), and ready to be presented.

Make This First Impression Count...Dazzle Them!

It is vital you have a clear understanding of why you are writing a resume before you start – this will help direct you to the correct resume format.

Usually you write a resume because you are:

  • Seeking a new job in the same industry
  • Seeking a new job in the different industry
  • You were asked to provide a copy of your resume, possibly for consideration for an internal position or promotion
  • Seeking a career change
  • Re-entering the workforce (such as: mothers, military or coming out of retirement)

Lastly, it's always good practice to keep your resume updated after each major task, accomplishment, promotion or qualification earned. It is always better to have this very important tool updated and ready to go – companies can be shut down over night, and employment situations can change in the blink of an eye. 

Always be prepared! 


What's on your mind? Is there something specific I can help you with?

This site's success will hinge on me helping you solve problems. For those of us over 50, we face more challenges than others younger than us when competing for jobs and getting doors to open.

I invite you all to share your stories of challenge and successes. We all can learn from those who have faced the same challenges. The idea here is to help and be helped - so please add your comment or insight!


Thank you for your contribution.


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