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Top Ten Resume Tips: #1—Be Focused

Boiling down complicated concepts to clear messages is my specialty! That’s what I do every day in distilling decades of executive experience into concise 2-page resumes. It’s also what I do when I’m in training mode—delivering educational sessions at conferences, presenting to groups of job seekers, writing books on the art and science of resume writing, and developing full-scale training programs for aspiring resume writers.

So when I was asked recently, “What are the few key points you would share with anyone about to write a resume,” I thought long and hard about what’s most important—where it’s most essential to get it right and you can sink your chances if you get it wrong.

Here’s my list:

1. Be focused.—2. Be strategic and selective.— 3. Be succinct.— 4. Stand out from the crowd.— 5. Show results. — 6. Write it right.— 7. Make a great first impression.— 8. Be interesting. — 9. Be specific.— 10. Tell your story.

In this and 9 additional articles, I expand on each point—what I mean and why it’s important. You can easily link to any of the other articles simply by clicking the link in the list above. Every one is a quick read that will help you navigate a process that is often unfamiliar and may seem scary, because so much is riding on it.

And here’s a bonus tip—#11: GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT. Professional resume/profile writers are widely available for all professions, all levels, and in all fee ranges. Not only will we take an objective, employer-centric view of your career, we’re experts at uncovering the themes, threads, and success stories of your career that will sell your value.

Please email me (louise@louisekursmark.com) if you’d like a complimentary review of your resume, a few specific suggestions, and a proposal for a rewrite.


When writing your resume it’s tempting to want to position yourself for a wide variety of roles. Most people are not targeting one specific job when they think about making a move. Rather, they might consider this job … or that job … or a related job … or a similar job in a different industry.

And that’s fine. You don’t have to be finitely specific. But you shouldn’t try to cover every base by broadening your resume too much. You might, indeed, look like an OK candidate for many jobs; but you are also likely never to be a top candidate for the few specific jobs that you’re really most interested in.

I understand why many job seekers are reluctant to focus on one (or a few) jobs. You fear that you’ll be overlooked for other positions that you’re also qualified for, and you don’t want to limit your options. But from an employer’s perspective, being “all qualified for all jobs” isn’t a selling point. It is not the employer’s job to figure out where you best fit into the organization.

So before you start writing, spend some time envisioning your ideal next job and write the resume that makes you a great candidate for it. Keep that job in mind as you decide what to include, what to exclude, what to highlight, what to downplay. If you can’t decide if something is important, envision the hiring manager for that job reading your resume. What will he or she find most impressive and valuable?

As long as you are pursuing jobs that are substantially similar, it’s likely you can use that sharply focused resume for many applications. You might need to tweak it a bit or create a second version for a second target. But you won’t make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people … and end up looking like nothing to nobody.


  • Start with a specific focus and write your resume for that position.
  • Evaluate all of your career information on how important and valuable it is for that focus.
  • Tweak your resume if necessary for applications to other positions; use as-is when you can (often more frequently than you might think).

NEXT: #2 Be Strategic and Selective

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