Neglected Characteristics of an Effective Resume

“Never neglect details. When everyone’s mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.” – Colin Powell

As with any endeavor, one does not excel over the competition without attention to detail. When it comes to making a career move, being “okay” just won’t cut it. Middle of the pack, and even “pretty good” is a recipe for failure. If you decide to compose your own resume, attention to detail is going to be necessary if you are going to be the last man or woman standing. To assist with this, here are some areas of resume writing consistently neglected by novices … and even some professionals:


Think back … what was the first thing you noticed about your significant other when you met? Unless you first met over the phone, it was likely the way they looked. Something visually attracted you to them. Your resume is no different. In order to stand out from the dozens (or sometimes hundreds) of other resumes the reviewer is likely to see, yours should attract their attention and capture their interest. Of course, this should be tempered with the level of professionalism your field requires. For instance, a brokerage firm CEO’s resume would have quite a different look and feel from that of a graphic artist.

Easy On The Eyes

Resumes that do not effectively utilize certain visual optimization strategies are often far less effective than those that do so. When you have notable awards, accomplishments, or projects to mention, consider using a combination paragraph/bullet format which make your high impact information easy to notice.

The proper use of white space is critical. Not only should you watch the length of your paragraphs, you should also properly space your bullet points as well. The idea is to not discourage the reader by giving the appearance of a “difficult read”.

Pay attention to your font choice and its size. Try to avoid the over-used Times New Roman and go with something your competition won’t. Arial, Verdana, and Tahoma are nice change of pace fonts that give a sharp, professional look.

Content Organization

Remember that the goal is to communicate as much relevant information as possible within 15 seconds. Good content organization goes a long way toward achieving this objective. The rule is to place the most relevant information first. If you are a recent college graduate with little work experience, you will likely put your education before your work experience. If you are an IT professional, consider placing the details of technical knowledge first as this is extremely important to IT hiring managers.

Accurate Voice

We’ve all heard the phrase “Dress for the job you want”. This adage is no less true for your resume. Your resume’s voice should reflect your occupational goal. If you are seeking the position of Chair of the English Department at a major university, the verbiage should be vastly different from that of someone pursuing a Journeyman position at a local construction company.

The idea is to speak both the reader’s and the position’s language, making it easier for them to identify with you and see you in the role. The higher up the ladder you go, the more professional the prose should be. But while satisfying this requirement, be careful not to get overly wordy as though you were producing a sonnet, which brings us to our last characteristic.

Tight and Concise Phrasing

This is perhaps the most important quality of an effective resume. The idea is to communicate as much information as possible in the least amount of time and space. This is, of course, the most difficult part of resume writing because it is essentially a balancing act. How much is too much, and how little is not enough? This usually depends upon many factors which include the amount of available space, the position being sought, and the experience and training to be communicated.

Many job seekers assume that as long as the content is there, they should be fine. The fact is that many factors go into the production of a document that successfully draws the reader in and holds their interest. During the search, one rarely receives constructive feedback when a resume is ineffective. Instead, interviews just come few and far between and you never know why. Getting your most valuable career advancement weapon up to speed should be your highest priority.