What makes a good resume?

Monday, October 19, 2020

Must-read tips every job-hunter should know when preparing a resume

Is a good resume all about nice fonts, coloured fonts, graphics, photographs or lots of details of past jobs? Is it fancy and detailed or cool and minimalist? Should it break the boundaries or play it safe? Perhaps the best way to start this discussion is to remind ourselves of the purpose of a resume.

The purpose of a résumé is to sell you to an employer or a recruitment firm. A good résumé does that. The clearer your message and, the easier to read, the better.

Target your résumé:

You need more than one résumé! If you are applying for several different jobs you must change some of the information in each résumé. Employers must think it has been written specifically for them – and it is!


I have seen résumés that are like pop-up books so when you open the covers the pages stand up. It gets attention, but probably gets too many laughs. Another one was a 10cm cube full of small washed iron ore pellets and in the middle was a flash drive. Open the flash drive and you saw the résumé. The mining engineer graduate sent these to mining companies and did get interviews from some companies! Not a good idea for online applications! J


I suggest you avoid coloured fonts and “funny” fonts like Comic Sans. Stick to small-size business-like fonts that look attractive. Colour is for children.


Some people like to insert a photo of themselves somewhere in the résumé. Of course a recruiter cannot ask for a photo, but you could include it. It might work for you. People applying for reception duties often think that their personal presentation will win them the job. On the other hand I have seen lawyers include photos of themselves, and real estate salespeople swear by them. There are no rules that you can’t insert a photo, but it is risky. Personally I advise most of my clients not to insert a photo, but the decision is theirs. If you decide to do it make sure your photo is modest and conservative.

Email addresses:

You should have one, but make it sensible. SexySue@hotmail.com will not impress an employer, nor will MusclesMike@adult.com ! Remember, this is what the recruiter sees first, before they meet you, so make a positive impression.

Complex formats:

Avoid boxes and lines between paragraphs.


Don’t use too many headings, especially similar headings. Use the words you want. For example you could have a heading called “Work History”, or “Work experience”, or “Employment history”, or “Past jobs”. It is up to you. Bold or underline your headings, not both.

Be contactable:

Show your phone numbers, both landline and mobile, and give an email address.  If you have an answering message on your phone make sure it is polite and encourages people to leave a message. When recruiters ring they don’t want to hear a joke message or something abrupt. Invite a message and sound serious. First impressions count.

Avoid symbols and graphics:

Your résumé might be scanned for key words and lines and graphics can cause your résumé to look a mess.

Upload the PDF version:

Microsoft Word documents can look very different when viewed on different computers or different versions of Word. Page breaks may be lost so you could end up with a heading at the bottom of a page with nothing under it. (A hanger). Once you are happy with your résumé, save it as a PDF version and upload that. All the formatting will stay consistent.

Leave out short-term jobs:

In your Work History stick to those jobs that have prepared you for this new job. Lots of different jobs will confuse the reader about what you want to do.