When presenting a resume to a prospective employer, whether on paper or on-line, you have approximately 15-30 seconds to get past the "gatekeeper" whose job it is to screen resumes out, not in. Putting your best effort out there is critical in making that all important first impression.
From a content standpoint, a resume should start off with a "Summary of Qualifications" which is a 3 - 8 sentence overview of your career experience. Unless you have recently graduated from college or you are completely changing fields, an "Objective" is not appropriate to start off the resume. In your "Summary of Qualifications" you can hit the highlights right up front -- "twenty years of product marketing experience"-- "skilled in building strong sales teams" or "fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese".
Next, you need to define your "Areas of Strength" and briefly list the keywords as if you were going to put the resume on the Internet. Many companies scan for keywords and need to see your particular buzzwords -- "Sales management" "Cost controls" "Financial reporting" or "Distribution" -- you get the idea.
When you list your job experience under the heading of "Professional Experience", you need to identify and describe your skills and responsibilities. Skills are what you do and how you do it in regards to each position held from most current to ten years ago. Prospective employers are most interested in what your skills and experiences have been over the past 10-12 years. You can list previous jobs if they are related to your field, but please don't give a three page laundry list going back to that after-school job in high school.
What will ultimately set you apart from everyone else with similar work experience is, of course, "Accomplishments". Your accomplishments under each job title or position must be quantified. By quantified, I mean how did you make your company money, save the company money, increase department efficiency, and/or reduce operating costs. Be specific with numbers and percentages, if possible. Some specific examples of "Accomplishments" are: "Reduced operating costs by 13% within first year in this position" -- "Negotiated the company's first global marketing contract for entire product line" or "Named to President's Circle three consecutive years".
After your job responsibilities and accomplishments have been clearly presented, the next category on the resume should be "Education". List degrees earned, name of college/university, and city/state. A general rule of resume writing is to include the years of graduation only if you have graduated within the past three years. Please do not "fudge" the subject area you majored in, your GPA or the type of degree earned. If you attended college for three years but did not graduate, don't list BA. If a background check is carried out, you will be immediately disqualified for consideration if even one "white lie" is caught by the personnel department.
Having addressed the issue of content, the final piece of the resume to focus on is "format" or visual presentation. If the format is weak, regardless of the content, it just won't work. Visual presentation is almost as critical as content. If the typeface is too small, there is not enough white space on the page, or the print is smudged or too light to read easily, you are just wasting your time and postage in sending it out. Again, the "gatekeeper" is the first roadblock that your resume encounters and it must get past that person on the first attempt.
Please understand that a resume's function is not to get you a job. A resume's function is to get you a phone call inviting you in for an interview. If that is accomplished, the resume has done its job; the rest is up to you.