When seeking a new job, your resume is likely to be the primary tool for conveying your personal brand in written form. Unfortunately, many resumes are similar and get lost in the “resume shuffle” of online job applications.

I am not a fan of online job applications, having met many a job seeker who spent months applying for dozens (or even hundreds) of jobs without success. If you are seeking help to improve your online applications, there are lots of articles posted on the web that will provide you ideas. This article is different from them in that it is focused on helping you get better results with your resume by improving its readability for human beings.

Before we discuss resume improvements, it is important that you choose the basic format of your resume. Three common formats are the reverse chronological, functional, and combined. Because the last two options are not generally popular and represent less than 20% of all resumes, it will be most useful to focus on the first one.

The reverse chronological format is the most popular style, not only with job seekers but also with recruiters and resume reviewers. Recruiters and resume reviewers prefer this format because it is familiar to them and it quickly provides them the information they want. The typical sequence of sections is:

  • Name and Contact Information
  • Summary or Profile
  • Reverse Chronological Work Experience
  • Education

Once you have created a basic resume of this type, you can make it more appealing to those who read it by applying any of the following five tips taken from my career book Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!):

 “1. If you have a particularly noteworthy education, consider moving it ahead of your Professional Experience. This could be accomplished by either noting your most relevant education in a bulleted area preceding your Professional Experience or by moving the entire Education section there.

2. If you know precisely what you want, include a clear and concise Objective such as “Chief Financial Officer” or “VP – Marketing.” While many will argue against this as being too restrictive (I’ve heard this objection over and over again), leaving your desired role to the imagination of the résumé reader is usually riskier.

3. If you want your résumé to be easier to skim or believe most people will not fully read it (which is the norm), consider deleting the Summary/Profile section. This section can be omitted when the reader understands what you want (Objective) and your Professional Experience and Education sections are well matched to present a coherent view of your relevancy. It is particularly unnecessary if you choose to follow item #4 that follows.

4. If you have notable accomplishments in your area of expertise, try replacing the Summary/Profile section with a Summary of Qualifications section. This is a personal favorite that I have found to be highly effective for many.

5. If you are capable in more than one functional area, such as marketing and sales, decide if your goal is a position that includes all your functional capabilities. If you want a VP of Sales and Marketing position, then you need both areas highlighted in your résumé. If you are seeking a position in either sales or marketing, then your presentation will be more effective if you have one résumé with a marketing objective and one with a sales objective.”

With the proper application of these suggestions, your resume can be positively differentiated from your competition and the written presentation of your personal brand will be more appealing to your audience. Give them a try and let me know if you agree.


Richard Kirby is an executive career consultant, speaker on career strategies, and author of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!). Richard Kirby’s earlier experience includes managing engineering, human resources, marketing and sales teams for employers that ranged from a Fortune 100 to a VC-funded entrepreneurial startup. For the past 11 years at Executive Impact, Richard has helped hundreds of executives and professionals successfully navigate today’s transformed 21st century job market and achieve better employment for themselves. Richard’s expertise includes career assessments and goal setting, personal marketing/branding, resume enhancement, strategic networking and job interviewing, and “contrarian” job search methodologies. He is a Board Certified Coach (in career coaching) and a Certified Management Consultant (recognized by the ISO).