DRG Executive Search Consultants


by Ellen Bodow
Former Vice President, DRG Inc.

This article has been reprinted with permission Fund Raising Management Magazine

In today's tight labor market, the need for well-developed resumes is increasingly important. A good resume should allow employers and search firms to capture the essence of a candidate's career direction and credentials in 60 seconds or less. Good resumes also enable interviewers to formulate accurate questions for an interview based on the content of a resume.

This means resumes need to be well organized to effectively communicate a candidate's objective and credentials. In order to understand what a well-developed resume includes and how to create one, here's an in-depth look at what makes a good resume and how candidates can best prepare their objectives and credentials.


A good resume is well organized and effectively communicates a candidate's goals and experiences. It will present information in a systematic order that can be immediately understood and followed. Good resumes are not cluttered with miscellaneous details or cramped with too much information. They are pleasing to the eye, easy to read and have a balanced amount of white space.

Good organization enables an employer to easily pinpoint key information such as the candidate's objective and the role he or she wants to fulfill. In addition, the content of the resume shows how the candidate makes the case for being qualified to fill the position he or she is seeking.

Presenting a career objective can often be accomplished in a sentence or two. However, communicating a history of credentials and experiences is often not as straightforward.

To effectively communicate credentials and experiences, a good resume includes short statements that outline a candidate's record of professional accomplishment. Good resumes use concise and quantifiable information instead of static or lengthy statements. Brief statements that specifically identify what the candidate contributed (not what the entire organization or department accomplished) are ideal.

Good resumes present a candidate's credentials in reverse chronological order, allowing search firms and employers to quickly identify a candidate's most recent experiences. A solid and complete timeline of experiences helps employers and search firms gain a full understanding of a candidate's background. This facilitates the employer's ability to develop meaningful interview questions regarding each position held.

Because they do not contain irrelevant filler material, the best resumes are concise and clear, generating an employer's enthusiasm.


Whether they are preparing a new resume or revising an outdated one, candidates should consider what position they are targeting and then make a case for their ability to perform that job superbly.

Conducting a self-evaluation prior to resume development or revision is helpful.

Some questions for that self-evaluation include: Who are you professionally? How have your education, career and other interests prepared you for the position you seek? What have you accomplished? Is it quantifiable? Where and how have your resourcefulness, creativity and knowledge been valued and acknowledged? What do you want to accomplish now?

Then it is time to outline a resume. Be brutally honest; don't exaggerate, and account for all time periods without fabricating. Remember, people will be verifying the information you provide.

Here are some points to consider:
  • Unless you are just starting your career, you do not need to limit yourself to one page. Two or, if you have a long career history, three page resumes are appropriate for most senior staff members.
  • Present the name of your employer, position, titles, dates and accomplishments consistently in parallel format for each position listed.
  • Incorporate specific, action-oriented verbs as much as possible to describe functions: what you planned, how you managed, what strategies you formulated, etc.
  • If your credentials include consulting, self-employment or freelance experience, when possible, include the names or at least a generalized description of the organizations you served and describe the assignments completed.
  • If your experience includes promotions, be sure to show that chronology in your resume. (If you have changed jobs to follow a former boss, plan to mention that in your cover letter.)
  • Bullet functions and accomplishments without using lengthy sentences.
  • Quantify accomplishments when possible. (How much you raised, how many people you supervised etc.)
  • If you are hoping to make a career change into the non-profit sector, include the kinds of community service and volunteer leadership roles you have filled.
  • Delete anything unrelated to your objective.
  • Offering family and personal information is optional. If that kind of information is part of your reason for considering a relocation, refer to it in your cover letter.
  • Regarding your educational background, offer your degrees and years of graduation. Include your majors only if relevant or if you think it will trigger an interesting discussion relevant to the position.
  • Unless you are a recent graduate, place your educational credentials at the end of your resume (not at the beginning).
  • Do not write "references available on request ". That is trite. (When you arrive at an interview you might, however, want to have a separate sheet of paper available with list of your references.)
  • Correct spelling and good grammar are a must. Typos are sure fire signals that you do not prepare presentations carefully and they can be deadly for any position that requires written communication skills.
  • Always have someone whose proofreading skills you can trust review the final draft of your resume and cover letters.
  • Print your resume on white or buff paper so that it will successfully fax and reproduce. Avoid unusual colored paper.
  • If you are sending your resume as an email attachment, include your name in the title of the document so that the recipient can easily locate it on his or her own computer.

A well-prepared cover letter gives you an opportunity to tailor your story to the opportunity you are seeking. With a cover letter, a candidate conveys why he or she is uniquely qualified for a specific position and why an organization is of particular interest. It should not be a reprise of a resume.


Good resumes are well organized and effectively communicate a candidate's objective and relevant credentials.

However, beyond describing career goals and articulating credentials, a good resume demonstrates a candidate's skills in making proposals and presentations. This gives insight to an employer in how a candidate might communicate on behalf of an organization and in effect serves as a preliminary sample of one's writing skills.

Non-profits are looking for people who will represent them well, who are comfortable with the professionals and business people who are frequently their leaders and high-level donors. The resume and cover letter are an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate these capabilities.