The Right Resume

A Definitive Guide


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Resumes that Work

We all want simple answers to simple questions like “What should my resume look like?” or “What do I need to include in my resume”.

We all want the job. The job that’s right for us. To get there you’ll need to interview. To get the interview you’ll need the right resume.

The best way to tell you is to show you an example. Let’s call it a case study in what to do and what not to do.

A Short Case Study

in October of 2023, one of our Vice Presidents asked us to help his friend find a job. Like all friends, he had “tons of experience”, was “a committed worker”, “smart”. He had applied for more than 100 jobs in the last 3 months and was never asked for an interview.

This last sentence we hear all the time, and if the description of the person is accurate, it almost always comes down to the resume.

“Ok.”, we said, send us his resume. We’ll have alook and let you know what we think.

The resume was better quality in many ways than we expected. But in those ways it was eliminating his chances to have a decision maker look at it. Why? It was so elaborate that an ATS could not make sense of it and it ended up in the ATS data hole. Nearly all job boardfs are really just ATS. (If you don’t know what an ATS is, here is a link)


Here is the resume that didn’t work.

At a glance, you can see there is skill and quality to both the resume layout, the language used, the graphics, and clearly the experiences this candidate has to offer. The graphics alone indicate an expertise in design that would take years to master. The employment experience this individual has earned would place them at the top of any candidate list for corporate graphics design.

Have a look at the software proficiency list. It is long and deep. This person could work in corporate graphic design almost anywhere.

The skills list is exceptional too. They speak to both the candidate’s experience and proven application of the skills throughout their employment history. They tell a story about how the candidate used their learned software and design expertise to solve a number of problems faced by companies worked for over a long period of time.

Now, you ask yourself how this candidate applied for more than 100 jobs on Indeed and ZipRecruiter in corporate graphic design and did not receive one request for interview. This candidate started to believe their skills were not sufficient. That age was a problem. That AI was making their job and skill set unnecessary.

redact resume

It was none of those reasons. The reason is the graphics and layout were confusing company ATS and the ATS was rejecting the resume – which means it was not able to read the candidate’s resume. So not a single HR professional at the 100 companies seeking experienced graphics designers EVER SAW THE RESUME.

Here is the resume that works!

Here is the resume our expert team prepared in response to the candidate’s original resume above. You can see right away that it is simple in layout. The result in using this resume style and format made our team smile.

The candidate took this reworked and re-formatted resume and submitted it to his number one target company, a company that he had already submitted his original resume to. A company that he thought “Ghosted” him.

He received an interview invite on the same day. That is the goal.

Let’s take a minute or two to understand why.

  • There is very little “fancy formatting”. In fact, the font type and size is consistent throughout the document, except for the candidate’s name – which appears in the header section of the document and is in Bold style and in larger size, but retains the same font. We recommend Times, Arial, Helvetica, or Calibri.
  • The only line in the document is a border at the bottom of the document header.
  • We used the term “Summary of Competencies” but you can use terms like “Personal Summary” or “Applicant Summary”. It is centered and bold style.
  • The summary bullet 1 tells the reader what the candidate is, a Marketer in this case, what the candidate can do for the company if hired, and what the results of those actions will be for the company.
  • The summary bullet 2 gives the reader specific things the candidate has done that show the candidate’s top line experiences as they relate to the job the candidate is applying for.
  • The summary bullets 3 – 4 give additional examples of work experience in a general way.
  • The summary bullet 5 offers soft skills the client has learned are important to working in their industry.
resume that worked

Work History section

You will quickly note that the description of the candidates most recent job experience is a simple 2 sentence narrative. It contains action words that apply to the industry, “Managed” “prioritized”, “to ensure” and “encompassed”. Phrases like “restored and fully operational” add fine points on the candidate’s ability to complete important tasks.

The remainder of the candidate’s work experience is kept short. One or two short sentences that describe the experiences gained in each job that the candidate believes will be valuable to the company hiring them.

Software Proficiency section

Yes, this resume ran more than one page, and that is OK if you need the space. Note the software programs are listed with no description. They are in simple 3 column format. No bullets, no dashes.

Education section

This section is added last. IMPORTANT: If you are currently a student or are applying for an entry level job and you have no related work experience, that is OK! If this is you, then place your education section underneath the Personal Summary – reminder: A personal Summary should always be the first section.

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