The word "résumé" originates from French, meaning "to summarize." Damn French. Because of their stupid word, you now have to condense your entire lifetime onto one piece of paper, with the desperate hope that someone who reads it will instantly know what a great person you are, and give you a high-paying job.

But you, my friend, are completely misguided if you think that that's what your résumé will get you. The purpose of your résumé is NOT to get you a job. "What?!" you say. "Years of classical conditioning have instructed me that if I write a good résumé, I'll get a good job!" Sorry, but you've been had. The purpose of a résumé is to get an interview, not a job. Once you get in the door, it's your winning personality and discussion of your lifetime of experiences that will get you the job. You could have the most brilliant résumé in the world, but if you walk into an interview and do nothing but drool on yourself, that résumé will be worthless (unless the job consists of massive drooling, or you are an actor portraying a two-year-old). But drool no more, for today, you will learn how to put together the perfect résumé: one that will play up your experience, play down your liabilities, and at least improve your chances at eventually acquiring your dream cubicle.

One footnote: we will be working under the assumption that you are either still in, or have recently graduated from college. If you've been out in the real world (or sleeping on your mom's couch) for more than a couple of years, this all still applies to you. The only main difference is that you'll have to talk more about your work experience, whereas recent college grads can add stuff like school activities to their résumés.


Before you sit down to write (or fix) that résumé, the very first thing you should do is make a list of everything you've ever done or accomplished in your entire life. This means everything: every single job, award, honor, volunteer work, skill, language, hobby, wart, bad dream, and witty retort. Try to make the list chronological, starting with your most recent accomplishments, and working your way backward right up until you received your Quickest Passage Through The Birth Canal Award. We shall deem this list your "Fat List." Henceforth, when we speaketh of your Fat List, we speaketh of the list of your life, not the list of your daily fatty foods intake. Take very good care of this list. It is your new best friend.

Why the need for such a list? Three reasons:

  1. Because you can now keep this list, add to it as you accomplish more things in your life, and pick and choose as you tailor your résumé for different job positions.

  2. Because it's really really hard to remember everything off the top of your head, so this list will function as a reminder of those little details that may really impress a prospective employer.

  3. Because seeing everything you've done on one list will help you remember things you've done that you can't fit on your résumé, but can still bring up in an interview.

All too often, people will look at their résumés, and hear a nagging voice in the back of their head telling them that something's missing. With a Fat List, you can rid yourself of such voices, or at least get them to change their messages to more interesting topics of conversation. Now don't get too detailed with this list. You don't have to write down everything you did at each job, or how much you won for a particular scholarship. Just write down the name of the event and the date that it happened.

But we understand that even writing a simple Fat List can be tough. It's a lot of information at one place. So what you should do is organize your Fat List into the following sections:

  1. Education: Where you went going to school, what your GPA was, a list of classes you took, what your major/minor was. If you're still in school, then your most up-to-date information is fine.

  2. Employment: All jobs you've ever had, and the dates that you had them through, including all volunteer work. If nuns made you do it, it still counts.

  3. Activities: All school activities in which you participated. Write them all down. If you held any leadership positions or started the group yourself, throw that in too.

  4. Honors: These are academic, athletic, or community awards or scholarships. Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude, and the George Jetson Scholarship of the Future would all be included here.

  5. Skills: If you speak any languages (even if only at a conversational level), all of your computer knowledge, especially of complicated programs, if you know how to operate heavy machinery, all that stuff goes into the "skills" category. This is like the potpourri category of stuff you know how to do, but nobody has really cared much so far.