Writing a Strong Resume: New Tips and Advice

January 25, 2013

Admission, General

Almost everyone I know, in school or out, is working on writing a strong resume. We’ve written about aligning your resume and application, but what of the resume itself? Resumes have to be constantly updated and worried over. Is the font the best it could be, or will it get my resume tossed? Have I split up the text well enough or are there just too many words?

Writing a strong resume isn’t easy, but here are some new tips and advice to maybe make the process a little easier.

Betsy Massar, a Harvard Business school graduate and founder of and consulter for Master Admissions, writes in an article about what she calls “The Resume Gap Myth.” So many prospective students and job seekers worry that one of the biggest things that can really keep them from writing a strong resume is a gap in employment, but Massar offers two pieces of good news for those of us who worry:

1. It’s ok if you have a gap in your resume
2. There’s no perfect work sequence

Massar says that it is about productivity and being able to explain yourself well in an interview. If there are gaps because you were doing something productive other than working at a job (such as volunteer internships, studying for exams, working for yourself), then you are still being productive and those gaps should not cause you to worry about writing a strong resume.

Linda Abraham, president of Accepted.com, also offers three stellar tips for writing a strong resume:

1. Know your strengths. Think about what accomplishments you are most proud of and what achievements you have made.

2. Be specific. This can always be a hard one, but so many times resumes fail to provide metrics, or quantifiable details. If you were part of an event that raised money for charity, say how much was raised. Always provide specific results.

3. Don’t lie.  Don’t even fudge details, because not only is it wrong, but also “Background and reference checks are not just scare tactics; they’re realities.”

Still need more tips for writing a strong resume? In terms of the actual writing, I like to focus on action verbs. Each point should start with an action verb, rather than a flat, boring phrase like “responsible for” that doesn’t actually describe anything. Tyler Cormney writes more about action verbs: “Verbs like led, ran, spearheaded, managed, and directed are powerful, active leadership verbs. Bullet points that show you in action are the ones that score with the admissions committees.”

Writing a strong resume while daunting, is not impossible. It takes practice, diligence, and constant updating and reflection. As you apply to MBA programs in Virginia, what will you focus on in your resume?

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