By Bethany Stafford Small Business Marketing Consultant | Asheville, NC

Before you start beautifying your resume, remember that well-written content is absolute top priority. I mean, that’s what hiring managers are looking for, right? Sure, there is a whole lot of noise that managers have to weed through, like resume length, fonts, colors, etc., but when they really get down to business, they just want to know more information about YOU. Let’s start with the basics.

Bad content. – Don’t include personal information on your resume like the year you were born or where you grew up. These facts are interesting over a cup of coffee but don’t address the question at hand, which is: Are you qualified for this position? Don’t include content on your marital status or how many years you spent being a mommy when you took a break from employment to raise your children. Again, I reiterate: Are you qualified for this position? Don’t even include that time you worked as a barista for two months at your local coffee shop while you searched for fulltime jobs in your career field or any other experience that does not specifically answer the question: Are you qualified for this position?

Good content. – What you should include is any and all information that lets managers know you are qualified for the job to which you are applying! Consider any relevant experience, education, classes, community service, extracurricular activities, special skills, technical certifications, military experience and more. So even though your job as a barista didn’t further qualify you for accounting positions (and therefore, should not be included on your resume), your volunteer work with that non-profit’s finance team did! So did that certification class you took last year—no, not the one for calligraphy—but the one for QuickBooks.

The key word here is “relevance.” Try this exercise to help you practice relevant resume writing. I assume there is a specific job in mind that you want to apply for. If not, then do some digging and research and find a specific job. Now print out the job description and grab a highlighter. With highlighter in hand, comb through the job description for keywords. You might find words like “healthcare industry,” “customer relationship management,” or “attention to deadlines.” You’ll probably end up highlighting one keyword per bullet point so this process should take you anywhere from 15-45 minutes depending on the length of the job description or your experience in reading job descriptions. Once completed, use the highlighted words throughout your resume to demonstrate how you have education or experience in these areas.

Now that we’ve built a foundation of relevant content, also make sure to exercise a professional vocabulary and strong action words. For example, “Networked with local vendors to print and disperse promotional products” is stronger than “Got items printed.” Review, revise and repeat until you feel that each line specifically addresses how you are further qualified for the position at hand. Try to keep bullet lines to one line if possible and limit yourself to two-five points per section. Only go over this limit if each and every point answers the job description fully and completely.

Finally, when you think you’re finished, you’re not! Hand your resume out to 2 or 3 colleagues that you trust to review for punctuation, grammar and—of course—content. Don’t feel like you need to incorporate every suggestion, but at least get a feel for how your resume will be questioned by a potential employer so that you know how to answer those questions ahead of time.

Bethany Stafford is a small business marketing consultant in Asheville, NC. Her background and experience in marketing and career services have helped numerous men and women create their personal brand across a variety of industries. Learn more about Bethany at