Writing a Résumé Should Hurt


A résumé enables you to put your best foot forward so be painfully thoughtful about its content. It must showcase only your MOST impressive accomplishments and selecting those requires four things: 1) discipline, 2) a delete button, 3) a job description, and 4) my secret sauce when the stakes are highest. 

Getting started begins by surrounding yourself with all of your accomplishments. Pull up performance evaluations, customer testimonials, work emails, industry awards, transcripts, presentations, reports, etc.  You should highlight, a) work that has been praised, b) assignments you love talking about, c) and/or projects that “smell” like what you’d be asked to do in your desired role.  Once you’ve completed this exercise then you should transcribe these instances, compartmentalize them under appropriate sections (i.e. summary, experience, academic, additional data), and then you’ll likely end up with way more than a one page résumé.

This is where a delete button and a job description are helpful.   Firstly, keep the accomplishments that showcase the skills your desired job requires, secondly throw out the ones that are not accompanied by results you garnered, and thirdly prioritize stories you think would most impress your reader(s).  

Then to streamline your document convert each accomplishment to a 1-2 line bulleted statement.  The following points are crucial components of each bullet: descriptive action verbs to launch each bullet describing your task, the skills you leveraged to complete that task and then how you benefited an individual, team, or the business.  Continue this process until you are within one page at a minimum 10.5 font.

At this point, you should have a workable résumé with stellar bullet points. This is where my secret sauce comes to play. Go to LinkedIn, find someone who had the job you’d like to have and see how your résumé stacks up to their résumé then tweak your own.  My secret sauce (it’s not so secret anymore) helped James Smith, a proud military veteran who was also a proven marketing student and practitioner, beat over 9,500+ entrants in the Macy’s 2011 Marketer of the Year Award Program.  Macy’s 2010 winners were his blueprint.  By considering the accomplishments that prior winners featured via their LinkedIn profiles James was able to prioritize his most impressive and relevant accomplishments which met or exceeded his predecessors’ greatest hits.

PS: If you find this excerpt helpful then don’t be shy about it! Also, feel free to provide your own tips. My advice comes from years of having written effective résumés.

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Melissa Llarena

Melissa Llarena is an author, imagination coach, consultant, speaker, and contributor to ForbesWomen articles that have garnered 4 million + views. She is also the host of Unimaginable Wellness, the podcast for entrepreneurs, founders, and creators who are also moms. Featured guests include GaryVee and Beth Comstock. Melissa holds a psychology degree from New York University, an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and a Transformational Coaching Academy certificate. She is training to become a meditation practitioner. Melissa lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and three sons. Visit www.fertileideas.com.


  1. Michael Harris on May 11, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Very good advice Melissa

  2. Christian Simamora on May 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I think it’s very helpful that you have offered a “recipe” for writing an effective resume. The tip to do “homework” and look through old emails and evaluation reports is a great one.

  3. John_Norris_Sr@norriscapital.com on May 11, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    very nicely and thoughtfully done

  4. sillytucky on May 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Would be good to see advice for entry level positions where the job descriptions are all roughly the same and the “look at other people’s resumes” thing doesn’t turn up much more than what you already have in yours.

    • Melissa on May 25, 2012 at 9:05 am

      The process is the same for those seeking entry level jobs. If you find that job descriptions identical then focus on the companies you are targeting. Different companies have different priorities and values they are seeking from candidates…look at their missions, purpose, etc. As far as looking at other resumes…look at someone who has already been hired for that role and is 1-2 years ahead of you. Their LinkedIn profile (if updated) should not look like your own.

  5. Ronald on November 14, 2012 at 5:38 am

    Good one Melissa, Interesting the four points make a impact of things your are really looking for, i feel the job description is very important where candidates really fail to accomplish.

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