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The Riley Guide: Resumes & Cover Letters

Help With Your Resume and CV

More information can be found under Job Search Advice

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Resumes for Dummies by Joyce Lain Kennedy (
I personally think this is one of the best things done by Joyce. Her advice is witty and entertaining while also right on the mark. A definite must-read from the Grand Dame of the Job Search!
The Resume Guide from Susan Ireland
...Susan Ireland is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume (5th edition is now out) and other books, and her web site has terrific information and samples for the job seeker, including free online workshops for resume writing, e-resumes, and cover letters, along with her many samples of resumes, cover letters, and thank you letters. Susan has also released her own software products Ready-Made Resumes and Cover Letters. These inexpensive programs include numerous templates along with Susan's great guides to writing your best job-search correspondence. Be sure to check out the many how-to YouTube videos Susan has added to her site. Short (under 2 minutes) and very interesting. You can also follow Susan through her JobLounge Blog, on Twitter, and now Facebook.
The DamnGoodResume
Before her death, Yana Parker was one of the leading experts in resume preparation. Her books, including the Damn Good Resume Guide, were easy to read and provided excellent guidance to thousands of job seekers and career professionals. Susan Ireland continues to operate the DamnGoodResume site at the request of Yana's family, allowing us to continue to read Yana's excellent and witty advice. This website includes reams of information and assistance for job seekers beyond just resume preparation. Recently, Susan added Yana's Fill-in-the-Blanks Resume Workbooks to the site for users to download at a very modest fee, or if you cannot afford this, for no fee at all. These 4 workbooks are ach targeted to adults entering the workforce, job hunters in transition, high school students, and college students and recent grads. The files are in PDF, so you must have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view and print them.
JobStar: Resume Help
JobStar has assembled a terrific resource of resume assistance for all users.
How to Write a Masterpiece of a Resume
...excerpted from The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success by Nicholas Lore (Simon & Schuster, 1998.) The sections discussing the Object and Summary Statements are very good and could be very helpful to you in creating these sections of your resume. Everyone should also review his list of Questions a Pro Would Ask You to help you prepare your resume as well as prepare for interviews.
The Resume Place
"Home of the Federal Resume." Kathryn Troutman has been a professional resume preparer for over 20 years. Check out her expert information on the new federal resume format for the Federal Government and her guide to resume writing for high school students.
Pongo Resume
...offers an online resume builder and multi-format publisher for a fee, but they offer a free trial which allows you to build a basic resume once you've registered. I am more impressed by their collection of job search and other articles under the "Learn" button, plus the blog postings are great.

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Tips & Pointers

How Do Employers Review Resumes?, by Harry Urschel (
We'd all like to believe our resumes are read in their entirety when received by an employer. The reality is that only happens if you are highly qualified for the position in question AND have used the correct language in your resume AND have survived the first couple of 15-second scans. This article goes over the reality of what employers face once they have received your resume and how you can improve your odds of making it into the "not rejected" pile. (Hint -- make sure you meet the qualifications of the job!)
Why I Tossed Your Resume, Brent Miller (
Read this in conjunction with the article by Harry Urschel to get a full picture of how those charged with reviewing resumes think. Brent lists 6 mistakes he frequently sees which immediately remove your resume from consideration, starting with "minimal qualifications" and moving through "customized". You will recognize each of these from every "how to" article on resumes you have ever seen.
I'm Unemployed. What Do I Put on My Resume?, Susan Ireland (
"What should you put on your resume if you're currently unemployed? We hear employers don't like to see employment gaps on a resume, so how do you hide the fact that you don't have a job right now? It depends on when your unemployment started." Susan offers some very specific advice on covering these gaps while still presenting a completely honest resume.
How to Get a Job When You Need to Relocate, Susan Ireland (
You all know what we are talking about here! "An employer may not consider you for a job opening if she knows you need to relocate in order to work for her, even if your relocation is due to a completely legitimate reason. For example, you might be a new college graduate, recent military veteran, a newlywed, or someone who just plain wants to live in a different city. So how do you get the employer to look past the relocation roadblock? Make yourself look like a local." Great tips with input from Patricia Frame, an experienced HR director.
Showcase Your "Home Run" Accomplishments, Bill Frank (
An excellent article on documenting your greatest achievements during your career, done by Bill Frank, author of "200 Letters for Job Seekers." "Written records of your work results, achievements, successes, and accomplishments are the heart of your marketing campaign. They explain the essence of your "track record." Sooner or later, you'll be asked about what your triples and your home runs--or else your field goals and touchdowns--or any other metaphor you want to use. Writing them down on paper prepares you in advance."
Why You Absolutely Need a Job Objective Statement on Your Resume ( 2 minutes and 21 seconds, this nationally recognized recruiter explains why you need an objective on your resume, even suggesting that the objective stand in for the cover letter (which she almost never reads). Excellent! Courtesy of Susan Ireland's JobLounge.
Notes on Reading Resumes, the Swiss Army Librarian
"I am certainly not a human resources professional, but I do have input on who will get interviewed and ultimately hired, so I thought I"d share some observations and trends I"ve been noticing." This blog is authored by a reference librarian in Massachusetts, and with a few exceptions his notes to potential applicants are quite insiteful (several experts do not agree with his suggestion that all resumes be in PDF format). Be sure to read the comments too as a few add even more suggestions.
How to Match Your Resume to the Job You Really Want, Mary Elizabeth Bradford (
"One of the major reasons resume writers - or any writer for that matter - are in business is because it"s simply so hard to be objective in writing about ourselves or our businesses. For this very reason, if you are writing your own resume, it may be tricky for you to try and customize your resume for the position you are going after. To make it easier, here are three tips that you can use to 'tweak' your resume properly - I call this 'The Mirroring Technique.'" 3 easy tips to help you focus your resume to better demonstrate that you are the candidate the employer is seeking. Mary Elizabeth is a resume writer and career coach. Look around her blog and her website to learn more about her and her services and to review more of her blog articles. You can also sign up for her free bi-monthly ezine with more helpful advice.
Writing a Resume That Shouts "Hire Me", Phyllis Korkki (
Expert advice from resume experts, including Susan Ireland and Wendy S. Enelow. Susan says "Your resume is about your future, it's not about your past," so stress what is most relevant to the position you want. Wendy says "Your resume is not an autobiographical essay of your entire life." Long-ago past jobs that do not relate to where you are going can be summarized very briefly or even left out completely. Read the whole article for even more great advice.
Recruiters Tell Us: Do Resume Fads Really Work?, Angela Smith (
"As any job hunter knows all too well, there"s a lot of competition out there. [...] And as a result, job seekers have started getting creative, ditching the traditional white linen paper and trying trends like artistically designed resumes or video submissions to help their applications stand out from the pack. But before you jump on the bandwagon, consider this: Not all these resume fads will make the impression you want them to." Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Proceed with caution.
Lying on Your Resume by Dawn Rosenberg McKay
This 3-part article discusses the issue of lying on resumes and the ramifications, like being fired because you were caught and then trying to explain why you were fired to a future employer. Part of the Career Planning channel on
Creating Resumes, Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
The many state offices and agencies that work to help you find work are creating some terrific job search guides to go along with their tremendous online job databases, and the advice on resume preparation from the Massachusetts EOLWD is no exception. This guide was developed with input from employers so you know what an employer wants to see in your resume (and what they DON'T want to see). The sections are short and easy to follow. This is just one part of their Job Hunting: Information to Help You. If you prefer to work offline, or you are a counselor/coach who works with job seekers in a non-Internet environment, the Mass EOLWD has several Job Search Publications you can view and print, almost all of which are also available in Chinese, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Spanish, and Vietnamese (look under Multi-Lingual Forms).
Great Resume Advice from Votaire, Louise Fletcher (
Voltaire said "The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out." How does that apply to your resume? According to resume expert Fletcher, "Employers don't care about everything you've done - they care about the things you've done that apply directly to their needs." It's a short but effective article. While you are here, scan around for other great articles.
Resumania from Robert Half
...these are some of the greatest resume bloopers, blunders, and typos from real resumes. Your goal is to Not end up in his list.
Top 20 Recruiter Pet Peeves About Resumes
Results of a survey done by As they say, some of the Pet Peeves will be quite obvious, while others may be surprising. Number 15 surprises me. He says most folks want that resume in Word, but he cites formats other than plain text. In reading the actual comments, I only saw one person say he wanted a Word resume attached to an email, not plain text in the email itself. Others complained about non-plain-text formats other than Word. I got the impression that most of these people were third party recruiters who need to be able to forward a resume on to a client, and many wanted the recruiting industry to accept Word as the standard. My advice -- unless they say "send it as an attachment in Word," stick with plain text, but offer to forward a copy in Word upon request. With third party recruiters, this also means they have to inform you of their intention to forward this document to others, meaning you know where your resume is going.
Free Resume Help and Information from Creating Prints
...several good articles on resume and cover letter preparation, and several free samples of resumes they have prepared which you can peruse for ideas.
Sample Resumes from
...a short collection of 5 actual resumes prepared for various clients with different goals in mind plus one cover letter. GreatResumesFast offers resume preparation as well as interview coaching services.
...his business is resume preparation, and he has several sample packages of resumes and cover letters to sell you (you use these to create your own resume). He also has a couple of pages of free tips and pointers which are quite good.
Resume Dictionary
...this is an interesting site that offers you what appears to be very good advice on using the best terminology in your resume. On the left, you'll see a list of topics that you may want to address in your resume. Select any to get a list of terms and suggested uses. While information on the operators is anonymous, the site is owned by a gentleman named Phil Baker and it is operated by several writers and former educators including Lindsay Capobianco.

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Samples & Critiques

90 Resume Samples from Susan Ireland
...Susan has always offered several sample resumes for you to review, but now she has organized them into various categories covering different Occupations, Problems Solved, and Format. Most subcategories have more than one example, so you can review several and find the form, language, and format that best fits your need. Be sure to check out the many how-to YouTube videos Susan has added to her site. Short (under 2 minutes) and very interesting.
Before & After Resumes from ResumeEdge
...several samples of resumes both before and after ResumeEdge worked on them. These samples cover Executives, IT professionals, other professionals, and even entry-level job seekers.
Resume & Letters Samples from
...sample resumes and sample cover letters. These not only cover a number of professions, they cover a number of situations.
Resume Analysis Sample,
2 sample resumes, one for a recent college grad and one for an experienced manager, both with highlights to show what is good about each. Full recommendations are at the bottom of the page. They also offers great Resume Writing Tips, critiques of Resume Mistakes, and Cover Letter tips. has over 160 resume samples available for sale.

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Privacy and other Online Issues

Online Job Search Web Sites: Tips to Safeguard Your Privacy by Pam Dixon
...Another great article from Pam Dixon on how to protect your privacy and identity online. This is Fact Sheet 25: Privacy Tips for Online Job Seekers from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Resume Database Nightmare: Job Seeker Privacy at Risk
Pam Dixon has updated this report on major privacy violations online -- the actual theft of resumes from several resume databases by someone establishing a new career site. She outlines how the theft was accomplished and how the thief then contacted the resume posters directly and got them to submit new resumes. She also discusses how you can recognize this problem and ways you can protect yourself online.
Click, you're hired. Or tracked…: A report on the privacy practices of By Pam Dixon, Research Fellow of the Privacy Foundation
Released Sept 5, 2001, this "investigative report on, the nation's biggest online job search site, discloses that company officials have discussed selling resume data to marketers; resumes sent to - even when deleted at a later date by job seekers - may be saved and parsed for later use; resumes submitted by job seekers to corporate Websites, such as H&R Block, have been routinely sent to without disclosure to job seekers; and that Monster supplies AOL Time Warner, a marketing partner, with information from job-search activities - including unique resume I.D. numbers.
Protecting Your Privacy
...Susan Joyce, the force behind, has put together a good collection of articles talking about protecting your privacy during your online job search. She addresses privacy policies in general, how to choose a job site that will help you maintain your privacy, and how to create your own cyber-safe resume. Susan has had several HR managers "find" resumes of their own employees while participating in her seminars, and many times she could tell that employee was toast as soon as the HR manager could get to a phone. I've heard the same thing from other sources, including reports from job seekers who had a lot of explaining to do when a resume was found still circulating a few months after being hired. I urge you to read these and consider the advice carefully.
Preparing Your Resume for the Internet and Posting it Online
... my own advice on the topic, with good words from a couple of other experts.
We also suggest you look at our information on The Internet as a Job Reference

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When talking about the CV, it is important to note how this term is used and in reference to what geographic area.
  • In the United States, a Curriculum Vitae ("CV" or "vitae") is "a comprehensive, biographical statement emphasizing your professional qualifications and activities." It is not our standard resume but a variation provided only when specifically requested, usually in pursuit of an academic or research position. (Check the information from the Colorado College Career Center, below, for more guidelines on when to use a CV rather than a traditional Resume in the U.S.)
  • In other countries, the CV is the standard resume, although the format and some of the information may differ from customary practice in the U.S.
For clarification, I have marked the information and resources under this category as Academic / Professional (US) or CV (non-US).

Academic / Professional CV (United States)

The CV Doctor is Back, Julie Miller Vick and Jennifer S. Furlong (
"Many of the doctoral students and postdocs we've talked with say they are pursuing dual job searches this year, looking for both academic and nonacademic positions. With that in mind, we decided to help two candidates prepare both strong academic CV's and resumes for nonacademic positions. We evaluated their documents and asked them to make changes. Here are the Before and After versions, with commentary." Excellent article with specific examples of both CV and resume for specific persons seeking academic and non-academic positions.
Curricula Vitae (CVs) versus Resumes, The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Excellent article on the difference between a resume an the CV, which is appropriate when, and a selection of additional resources.
What is the Right Resume for Me: Curriculum Vitae, JobStar
...a short introduction to the CV along with samples and resources to guide you in preparation of your own CV. From JobStar
Preparing a Curriculum Vitae (CV) by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
A nice article on preparing an academic C.V. To make it even better, he had a selection of Vita samples you can review (and even borrow). Dr. Hansen is an associate professor of marketing at the School of Business Administration, Stetson University, and webmaster of the Quintessential Careers website.
Curriculum Vitae [PDF]
This guide from the Career Center at Colorado College outlines when a CV is appropriate, sections to include, and use of a cover letter.

CVs (non-U.S.)

Check some of the International Job Resources for more info on non-US formats and practices for resumes and CVs.

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Martin Kimeldorf's Portfolio Library
...sometimes a standard resume just doesn't work because it can't tell the whole story. This is where a portfolio comes in. Marty has written several articles on the topic along with a book, "Portfolio Power." On his web site you'll find several articles introducing you to portfolios and covering the how-to's of creating one. Sample portfolios are also included.

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Other Options for Resume Presentation & Delivery

Broadcasting Services || Video Portraits

It's amazing how much the resume has changed in recent years. It used to be verbs, now it's nouns. You need to have 3 versions to meet all your needs -- Designed, Scannable, and Plain Text. You also need to add a skill summary and/or an experience summary at the top where they can be seen and digested in the first thirty seconds your resume is reviewed.

Broadcasting: Resume Distribution Services

Some job seekers may think these services deliver a great bang for your buck. More likely, you are getting a scatter shot for your money. Recruiters have rated this as one of the least effective methods they have used for finding new candidates. Some services give you some means of deciding who shall receive your resume, some don't. Some send only to recruiters who have signed on to receive resumes, some just send them out to anyone they can find.

We have a link to some of these services under Resume Distribution Services

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Video Portraits

These are like taped interviews that an employer can review. Some online services are offering these as supplements to standard online resumes. My impression from speaking to some in the Human Resources community is that they are nervous about having access to anything that could demonstrate a person's age, gender, ethnicity, or any other physical characteristic that might be visible in such a record. And this article from tells the story of someone whose video resume went very wrong:
Dying to get that job? Don't use a video resume by Jasmin Aline Persch (
"A year after Aleksey Vayner"s video resume made him a laughingstock on Wall Street and YouTube, he"s still searching for a job. 'Negative consequences are still felt,' the 24-year-old wrote in a recent interview conducted by instant message."
Ouch! The reason he is doing so poorly is his video gave viewers the wrong impression. And therein lies the problem -- You cannot control the reaction anyone will have to viewing your video. They may not like your clothing, your hair, your looks, or just the lighting of the video. My opinion -- Save the performance for a real live interview.

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