Many people haven’t looked at their resume in years; they haven’t

needed to. But in 2009’s collapsed economy, jobs are shaking out like

coins from a piggy bank.

If you’ve been laid off or you’re

worried you might be, blow the dust off your old resume and bring it

back to life. Whether you are just updating or starting from scratch

(who knew those floppies would become obsolete?), these steps will help

you create an honest, positive resume.

  1. Understand the resume’s purpose.

    resume and cover letter are tools to land a job interview. Not the job,

    just the interview. Think of a resume as a fact sheet and a cover

    letter as an explanation of those facts. Lose sight of this and you may

    overwrite, over explain and convolute.

    But a resume is also your

    public relations advocate and should be flattering. Maybe your record

    isn’t long or perfect, but don’t let your resume knock you out of

    contention before you have a chance to talk your way into the job.

  2. Research resume templates and cherry-pick what to use.
    Look at sample resumes for your field. Check out:, or

    Once you find a template or format that makes sense for your goals and experience, don’t feel you must follow its structure exactly.

  3. Delete the objective statement.

    objective is to get the job; you know it, the employer knows it. Unless

    you really need to fill space, explain your objectives in your cover

    letter. Cover letters allow you to tailor your goals to the job you are

    applying for and creating a good cover letter is key.

  4. Add creative space, if necessary.

    you don’t have much experience, your credentials can look pretty lonely

    on the page. No one expects a young person to have as much to say as a

    person who has been working for twenty years. The results of thoughtful

    spacing? An easy-to-read resume.

  5. Add new activities to your resume.

    at the soup kitchen or the animal shelter. Get active in your

    community. If you volunteer at something related to the field you want

    to work in, everyone wins. Add this activity to your resume immediately.

  6. Think creatively about your accomplishments.

    of your achievements may not have happened within the confines of a

    job. For example, if you worked on a major research project in school,

    you can describe your project and the skills it developed. Here is a list of resume action words that may help jumpstart your memory.

  7. List jobs first, and in reverse order.

    your most recent job at the top and the rest in descending order. This

    is the order employers/recruiters expect to see your experience; don’t

    disappoint or confuse them. A rare exception to the rule: if you are

    graduated from a prestigious college and you’re working at a filler

    job. All you Harvard degree graduates who are scooping ice cream, list

    your Harvard education first.

  8. Omit your mailing address.

    is going to contact you by snail mail anyway? Your email address and

    cell phone number is all anyone needs to contact you. With your resume

    floating around the internet, keep some information private.

  9. Figure out what keywords are relevant and use them.
    Some HR folks don’t read resumes any more. They have software that scans resumes for relevant keywords.

    Use nouns, like the names of the computer programs you know. Read tons

    of job descriptions and notice which words are used over and over.

  10. Include accomplishments in addition to responsibilities.

    you made a suggestion that your boss used, if you saved your company

    money, if you streamlined the work process, it counts. Don’t be shy

    about highlighting accomplishments on your resume. Back them up with

    statistics, if possible. How much money did you save the company? What

    percentage of the budget was it?

  11. Keep the resume concise.
    Stick to one page, unless you have been working ten or fifteen years. If early jobs are not relevant, leave them off.

  12. Never stop revising.

    resume can always be improved so keep tweaking it. Add a better word, a

    better phrase, a new accomplishment. Keep old versions of your resume

    in case you need information that you previously deleted.


  • Don’t Lie.

    knew this would be on the list. Employers routinely check job histories

    and education claims. Lies about either your job history or degree are

    the easiest for employers to uncover. The newly named dean of

    admissions at MIT lied on her resume

    when applying for a clerical job twenty-eight years ago. With the

    promotion in the works, her lies were discovered and she was fired.

    Never lie!

  • Omit the Ugly.

    grade point average? Leave it off. Have a 4.0? Put it front and center.

    Not all information is mandatory. Some people omit listing jobs they

    only held a short time or that might give them a bad reference.

    However, if the omission creates a gap that you are asked about in an

    interview, remember tip number one: don’t lie.

  • Mind the Gap

    know someone who waitressed a couple of years after college. She omits

    her graduation year from her resume so there is no obvious hole, but no

    lies either.

Having a solid resume ready to send someone is

important. Whether you need a job now or not, you never now when an

opportunity will present itself and you'll be asked to submit a resume.

Clean yours up and be ready to shine!

Written on 1/14/2009 by Kate Mortell. Kate is a graduate of Marquette University and lives and works in New York City. She writes the blog,,

a collection of travel journals and commentary on real estate, animal

rights, gun control and whatever else might be under her skin at the


Photo Credit: jm3