Resume Help/Resume words


Hi Dr Converse,

I watched an online video clip recently where the lady doing the video advised to keep words in the resume to a minimum.  She said incomplete sentences and no punctuation is okay.  Can this be true or did she not know what she was talking about?  Please explain.  Thanks.

Hi Cam,

Good question!  Actually, yes, she is correct.  The purpose of a resume is to provide a very brief snapshot of what you've done, where you've done it, and when you did it.  Spelling, as always, should be correct here, but punctuation and complete sentences are not needed.  All that is required is that you provide those three basic pieces of information (what, where, when) for all your entries.  Anything else can be saved for a cover letter, required essay, or some other document.

The reason is fairly simple:  an employer doesn't have time to read long and extended descriptions of the what/where/when if his or her main purpose is to decide if they want to proceed further with your application.  A simple and straightforward resume should give them a reason to consider your candidacy further.  That's it.  The mistake a lot of people make (most people, actually) is that they fall in love with their own ability to romanticize every single thing they have done in their life OR to overly-describe those few things they have done in the mistaken belief that more description is better.  Sometimes people with limited experience do this in an attempt to fill up the page.  Resist including words that can easily be left out without changing the basic facts.

Here's an example: if you were applying for an office job that required you to pay the bills each month, an overblown description might say "I was responsible for all accounts payable and making sure obligations were met in a timely manner."  You could just as easily write "Managed accounts payable."  So in three words you described the duty and eliminated 14 words which were not needed.  Logic tells the employer that you did your job in "a timely manner."  Would you tell the employer you were constantly late in doing your work?  No, so it doesn't need inclusion.

Also, employers know that if a resume is done correctly, it will have a lot of incomplete thoughts, so they don't expect punctuation.  In a letter or essay, you certainly need proper grammar, punctuation, and syntax.  But not in the resume.  Keep it brief and make it easy for the employer to scan it in a few seconds - because a few seconds is all you have to impress the reader.

Hope this helps.  Contact me at the email address below if I can help further or if you would like a free appraisal of your resume.

Best wishes,

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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