Dear Bev: It seems like everyone has a different idea of what my resume should look like. How do I know whose suggestions to follow?

Unfortunately there is no Holy Grail of resume writing. What there is though, is plenty of advice on the subject.

My suggestion is that you approach this like you would any project. You look at the available information and decide on a course that feels right for you. In the meantime, try not to be overwhelmed by the wealth of options.

Career Builder and Monster have resume templates online. Or just peruse the myriad of options a search engine will find under resume templates, resume writing, resume advice, and resume examples, as a starting point. You could also do it the old-fashioned way and buy a book. I wandered through the Strand Bookstore in New York City recently and found plenty of used and/or remaindered copies of resume writing books that had interesting tips and examples. Not near the Strand? Stay home and go to a virtual book store like or Barnes & Noble. A quick search on these sites pulls up a variety of resources.

Some recruiters give suggestions for writing a resume on their web sites. There are also a plethora of resume writers and two organizations that accredit them: National Resume Writers and Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches. Again there's more free advice to be had if you spend some time looking on individual resume writers' sites.



Still not ready to tackle this on your own? Hire someone to write a resume for you. Fair warning, I've seen plenty of professionally written resumes that aren't very good. I've also seen plenty that really make someone's experience pop. If you choose this route, I suggest trying to get a referral for a resume writer first. I also encourage anyone reading this that has had a good or bad experience to share your resources-you can do so at the bottom of this piece or email me your response and I'll share it in a future column.

Here's some advice I'll offer up:

* Content: The focus should be on your accomplishments. For example: "Met and exceeded budgets," isn't nearly as strong as, "Consistently delivered double digit year on year revenue growth during economic downturn with less infrastructure."
* Length: If you're more junior keep it to one page. If you've been around for awhile, two will do just fine. Three or more and you're pushing it!
* Prioritizing Space: Current jobs should be given the most space and the most elaboration. If you've been working for ten years or more, the older jobs shouldn't have more than a bullet point or two. Don't just take your old resume and keep adding. You can start with you old resume but keep editing.
* Style: There are a lot of options. Just make sure it's easy to read. Use bullet points versus dense sentences.

Those are some basics. A few more suggestions, from a seasoned resume reader: Don't put a career goal at the top, it's too limiting. I like to see something personal at the bottom. If you list interests or hobbies they should be "active" like golf or skiing not reading or travel. Don't forget to list panels you've spoken on and boards that you're a member of, if relevant.

View your resume as a work in progress, just like your career.

Editor's note: If you have specific questions about your career in the media industry, please post them below, and Bev will help you out. Or if you feel uncomfortable posting your queries publicly, feel free to email Bev anonymously at

2 comments about "Dear Bev: It seems like everyone has a different idea of what my resume should look like. How do I know whose suggestions to follow?".
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  1. Laurie Kahn from Media Staffing Network, February 10, 2009 at 10:25 a.m.

    Great advice, Bev. Especially for those in media, it is key to post accomplishments (facts and benefits), numbers or percentages - how have you helped the companies or clients where you worked. I find that often media sellers have the hardest time doing a resume - they are used to selling products and not themselves. We do alot of work with those candidates and I really have to pull to get that info. I reccomend that media people always try to keep a file with projects and how they measured up.

  2. Jim Watson from jwatsonexecutivesearch Inc, February 11, 2009 at 9:04 a.m.

    great article - finally another chance at a journalism career will keep this article for all my suffering resume writers jw

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