Five Principles for Developing an Effective Resume

When I wrote my first resume back In the 80s, things were much different. Resumes were written with broad objectives, with content that was comprehensive and generic in focus, and everything was included—just in case. Overall, my resume was all about me and was designed to cover a wide range of  employers and potential opportunities.

However, in today’s resume and employment market—hiring needs are much more specific, and the process is much more automated. There is a larger population of highly educated, experienced job seekers, and recruiters need to quickly narrow down the candidate pool. Today’s employers want resumes that are position focused and address their needs.  

To create an effective resume for today’s job search environment, it is important that you start by having the correct resume writing mindset.

Here are five principles to keep in mind when developing an effective resume:

  1. Make it about the employer. Remember that filling their position with the right candidate and satisfying their business needs is the primary concern.
  2. Be strategic in your messaging. Shape your message to fit a specific position. Communicate that you are the right “fit” for the job by effectively aligning your talents and experience with those needed for the position. Employers are not interested in sorting through all of your information to see if they can make you fit, they want a candidate that establishes good fit from the start.
  3. Understand that hiring is position specific. Employers recruit to fill predetermined positions with stated requirements and parameters. You must clearly explain what you have to offer relative to the needs of the marketplace and of the desired position.  
  4. Be deliberate in deciding what information to put in and what to leave out. Provide the reader with useful and relevant information. It is not necessary or advisable to include everything.
  5. Communicate value relative to the position and employer’s needs. Remember that it is about them and who they are looking for to fulfill the position.  You may know how to drive a Zamboni, but unless the accounting firm has an ice rink in their lobby, that skill is not of value to them.

The key to creating an effective resume is to understand that organizations hire to meet their business needs. Creating a resume that is position and employer specific may help you succeed in your career search.

For more information on developing an effective resume and to receive feedback on your resume, visit CareerQuest’s resume tools VMOCK and Resunate. These tools provide a real-time analysis and recommendations for improving your resume. For more resume assistance, contact your UMUC Career Services Office at 240-684-2720 or

Ann Martin is a career advising specialist at University of Maryland University College where she has worked for more than five years. She holds a master’s in mental health counseling from Bowie State University.  As a mid-life career changer, she feels uniquely qualified to assist adult students in transforming their lives and finding their place in the workforce.