How to Create an Effective General Resume

Tools and plans for creating an Effective General Resume


A generic resume written to current best industry practices is meant to make your resume more appealing and effective in getting you that all-important first interview. You use this type of resume where you don't know much in advance about the potential employers you are going to meet. It is a fall-back document when you don't have a resume targeted at a specific company.


Assessment Criteria

Your resume is going to be judged by it appearance and its content.


The appearance is the first thing a person sees and it affects their view of you and their desire to read further. So, your resume should be:

  • Logically organized
  • Well written using short, powerful words, short phrases, and correct grammar
  • In the active voice
  • Have distinctive headings
  • Use white space to avoid making your resume look cluttered

    If you expect your resume will be read by a person, keep it short: 1-2 pages. This may mean you have to leave a lot out.

    Also, if you are printing your resume, ensure that your name appears at the top of each page and each page is numbered, including the number of pages in your resume.

    If you are sending your resume to a large company, they are probably using an automated resume scanner. In this case, the length of your resume may not matter.

    Avoid contractions (e.g. don't), slang (e.g. "perfect", "man"), trite phrases (e.g. "got", "lots of", "huge"); and overuse of the pronoun 'I'.

    Check your resume for spelling and grammatical errors before sending it out for assessment or sending it to your prospective employer. You may also want to check how difficult it is to read by using a readability index program.

    Content Criteria

    During an assessment, the overall criteria subjectively measures how well your resume fulfils its task of getting you an interview. Things that are considered include:

    • Relevance: Resume reflects the position being offered.
    • Completeness: Has all the needed sections filled in appropriately.
    • Organization: Logically organized in a manner appropriate for the type of position.
    • Readability: It is easy to read and understandable.
    • Well qualified: It sets the right tone for the position. It is neither over nor under qualified.
    • Research: There is some indication that the job seeker has researched the company.

    More objective assessment criteria follow the suggestions given in this How-To.

    New Developments in Resumes


    Today, you have a lot of different ways of marketing yourself:

    • The classic way is the written resume, which we cover here. It is always the starting point.
    • If your cover letter and resume cause the recruiter to want to know more, you can support your application by:
      • Creating a video of yourself to give the recruiter a better idea of who you are.
      • Having business networking links, especially sites like LinkedIn, etc.
      • Having social networking links like Facebook, MySpace, etc.


    Large, well-known companies may get hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes a month. They use resume-scanning software to go through all these submissions. There are two main things to keep in mind about making your resume scannable:

    • The format of a resume should be simple, clear and somewhat standardized. Avoid things such as fancy fonts, italics, underlining, embedded graphics, and most things that are not textual in nature.
    • Scanning software looks for keywords in your resume. These keywords take 2 forms:
      • General category keywords such as chemist/chemistry, programmer/programming, sales/account executive, video/movie producer, etc.
      • Specific keywords such as bioluminescence , C++/Java, medical devices, documentary, etc.

    These keywords should be used in context so the resume reads as a coherent document. Typically, there should be one or more specific keywords for each general keyword. Use of general and specific keywords back each other up and make you more real.

    Historically, there used to be a section called "Keywords". It is no longer needed and only clutters up your resume. This section is often ignored since it is too easy to "pack" irrelevant words into this section.

    Legal issues

    In North America, the resume should not mention age, race, gender, disabilities, family status, or anything else not relevant to your fulfilling the employer's needs. For example, your date of birth, or the date of your graduation need not be given. For this reason also, you may choose not to include a photo or video. In some cases, you may need to mention one of these attributes. For example, applying for the government's small business loans to minorities may require that you mention your race to qualify.


    Always have a covering letter for your resume. It informally introduces you to any recruiter. It also tests your ability to compose a coherent letter. The written word is still a major way of communicating complex ideas and issues.

    Also, most of us have a generic resume that we use with a cover letter tailored to the specific position. This works as long as all the positions that you are applying for have the same requirements. If this is not the case, it would be wise to keep a copy of a generic resume and then tailor the resume to the specific position you are seeking.

    Lastly, each person reading your resume will have a different opinion of whether it is "good" or not. Objectively, it is "good' if it gets you interviews. Our mentors will try to give you as much objective feedback on different aspects of your resume as they can, but you are the final arbitrator on whether to follow their advice.

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