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ASTC insights

How to write a Resumé or CV


By Jill Townsend

When people choose my Let Jill Write It bio service, they often send me a copy of their CV to use as background information. While these are generally well-written, many make a common mistake that actually distracts from the document's effectiveness: they over-format. 

Lines, boxes, shading, indents (often more than one level), multiple fonts or multiple sizes of the same font, miniscule margins. The CV ends up looking like a busy freeway at rush hour, and the reader doesn't know where to start, or is put off right away due to the sheer volume of 'data' they're presented with. 

So if you are looking to update your bio, CV or resumé, follow these simple rules:


  • One page only. No job needs more than 3-4 concise, well-constructed bullet points.

  • Don't go back more than 15 years unless there is a good reason to.

  • Choose one font style, and two font sizes.

  • Use bold and italic sparingly.

  • Give your document a file name that includes your name, for example, Jill_Townsend_Resume.doc. Employers received hundreds if not thousands of resumés. Don't make them search for yours by naming it New_Bio.doc or My_Resume.doc. Similarly, name your photo, for example Jill_Townsend.jpg.


  • There is no reason to use colour or shading. It's distracting.

  • If you have to minimize your margins in order to accommodate your content, go back and edit your content. Margins provide valuable 'white space' that makes your document easy to read. 

  • Is your font size easy to read? Fonts vary, but I like 10 pt. Tahoma or 12 pt. Times Roman. Verdana and Arial are also good choices. The default for most Word documents is Calibri or Cambria, both of which are fine. Comic Sans is not! 

  • Don't use big words when little ones will do. 

  • Expect your potential employer to look at your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. Do they complement your CV? 

Over-formatting your bio or CV is not the end of the world, but it does weaken your message. 

The good news: focusing on content rather than presentation makes the process of writing or updating your bio or CV much easier, much faster and much more effective.

Two more tips from Jill

Don't be shy and don't worry about bragging. Ask a friend to help or initially write your bio using someone else's name! You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to write about yourself by doing it this way.

I reviewed a bio today for a very successful businessman, who wanted to know how to explain to potential investors in his business that he didn't have a college education. “Don't” I say, “you've obviously done very well without it. If they want to know more they can ask when they meet you in person”.


The same goes for any one of a number of potentially sensitive subjects – time out of the work force to raise a family or to recover from an injury or illness. You can certainly mention it, but don’t feel the need to justify or explain it. Don’t induce doubt that might not otherwise be there. Focus and concentrate on what you have done or can do – that’s what counts.

Jill can be reached at

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About the author

Jill Townsend began her writing career in an unusual place for a city girl – the livestock industry.


Lucky to be offered the position of assistant editor for a livestock publication directly out of college, she went on to work in various copywriting roles before ‘happening on’ to the biography business. “Clients started asking me to write their biographies instead of their resumés,” she recalls, and a new passion was born.


Jill’s e-book, How to Write A Great Bio has sold more than 5,000 copies worldwide since 2007, and she has since added a bio review service and a Let Jill Write It  bio option to her list of services.  “I love that fact that I have the opportunity to work with so many interesting and successful people,” she says, “from all walks of life and at all stages of life. It’s an honor to ‘meet’ them through their bios.” 

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