Effective Technical Writing in the Information Age

Chapter 8 Introduction

Diamonds are nothing more than chunks
of coal that stuck to their jobs.
—Malcolm Forbes

Around campus, folklore abounds about unorthodox methods for landing jobs. Students swap stories about how one woman got her job with a major pizza franchise by having her resume delivered in a pizza box, while another guy fresh out of college took the George Costanza approach—lying his way through the interview, even faking his age. Another one I’ve heard is that a software company had hired a skilled hacker, impressed by his ability to access the company’s confidential files.

Whether these tales are fact or fiction, I attribute them partly to wishful thinking—we want the hiring process to happen easily, almost magically, without having to do research or traverse hoops. We want the task of landing a job to be as simple as calling in a favor from Aunt Julie, or exchanging a chatty e-mail with an alum who knows of an opening. Mostly, we want to avoid having to write in order to get a job. But the fact remains that a perfect resume is usually essential for getting your foot in the door. Happily, lots of advice is available to guide you as you tread.

No one expects you to invent your resume from thin air; in fact, employers reading your resume expect you to know and follow the accepted conventions. Remember, you are often competing with hundreds of similar documents at a time, so you want yours to fit in yet stand out for the right reasons. Further, you must treat your resume as a living document that you will revise for the rest of your life. Most professionals change jobs five or more times, so their resumes are always in flux. So begin well by studying the conventions and basing your resume on a good model. And recognize that plenty of options and variations are available within the conventions. This chapter will help you to study the conventions, work within them, and write a winning resume.

Helping Yourself

Clearly, as a user of this handbook, you understand the value of using online resources to educate yourself. To educate yourself further about finding a job or an internship, I highly recommend the sites below.


There is no shortage of great resume writing advice on the web, often ocused on details for writing resumes targeted to a specific field of study or circumstances. Here are some recommended sites:

"How to Write a CV and Cover Letter" article from themarketinghelpline.com (marketing)

"How to Write a Masterpiece of a Resume" article from the Rockport Institute (career change)

"Resume Guide" from psychology.org (psychology)

Sample resumes and advice from greatsampleresume.com (template-based)

Guidance and sample resumes from careermatch.com (overview and introductory)