Top 10 Tips for Writing a Job-Winning Resume

A resume is like a window into your professional career. It must tell a search committee enough to convey that you are a serious candidate and potentially a good leadership match for the institution, but it need not say everything.

Here 10 key tips that can help you refresh your resume and possibly land the interview.

  1. Market Your Experience; Customize Your Response
    Think of your resume as a marketing brochure rather than an autobiography.

    • Show that you’ve read the job description.
    • Tailor your presentation to suit the job opening. 
    • A scattershot approach of firing off the same generic resume to multiple jobs will not do the trick. 
  2. A Resume is Not a Curriculum Vitae (CV)
    If you’re moving from an academic post to the executive leadership track, you will need to reframe your professional background.

    • Streamline your experience.
    • Present publications, grants received, and teaching and research experience as accomplishments.
    • Present your skills and accomplishments in a manner that shows what you can do for the institution.
    • Resumes are never more than two pages. One page, done properly, is even better.
  3. Format Optional, Presentation Critical
    Resumes are usually presented chronologically or functionally. This is largely a matter of personal preference. More important than format is presentation.

    • Your resume must be clean and good looking. 
    • Make it easy to read.
    • Keep it error free. There are no excuses for typos or bad grammar.
    • Never send a Word document. Your formatting errors will look appalling. Always send it as a pdf.
  4. Focus on Leadership
    The search committee will be looking for candidates who appear capable and competent on paper, but more importantly are leaders who can help move the institution to the next level.

    • Focus on key leadership skills that will help the institution today, as well as the future.
    • Emphasize both tangible and intangible leadership qualities.
  5. Be Accurate and Truthful
    Your resume must be accurate and truthful.

    • Do an internet search on yourself.  Look for both positive and negative information.
    • Present all relevant professional information even if it might show weakness or raise concerns.
    • Be prepared to turn perceived liabilities into strengths.
  6. Avoid Phantom Experience
    Phantom experience (it never happened) is easily detected.  There is little hope of getting away with exaggerations or outright falsehoods in your resume.

    • Don’t round up employment dates.
    • Don’t take sole credit for work done by your team.
    • Don’t exaggerate or overuse superlatives. They are an arrogant red flag.
  7. Match Your Skills with Job Description
    Highlight your skills that are most germane to the position for which you are applying.

    • Avoid resumes that bear no direct relationship to the job description.
    • Include keywords and phrases from the job description to use in your resume.
    • Quantify your key accomplishments as they relate to the job for which you are applying. 
    • Consult a colleague who knows your background and can objectively edit your resume.
  8. Right Resume for the Right Job
    You should have several resumes at the ready.

    • Highlight skill sets that can be easily adapted to specific jobs.
    • Some positions will demand a broad range of leadership and people skills. Write for this.
    • Some positions are likely to be looking for operational skills. Focus on those.
  9. Your Professional Life is Dynamic
    Think of your resume as a living document, always in need of tweaking and refining.

    • Seek to learn new skills and display those on your resume as you perfect them.
    • Attain credentials or certifications that will help you secure that next position up the ladder.
    • Let your resume reflect those changes and ambitions.
    • Promote yourself as someone a search committee should meet.