top of page

The Rule of Three & Key to Resume Success

For thousands of years, the number three has been instilled with an ambience, a power that has been placed at the centre of rules governing persuasive and influential communication within all aspects of culture. From academia and marketing to religion, mastery of the Rule of Three is the key to executive branding success.

Throughout human history, the number 3 has always had a unique significance, but why? The ancient Greek philosopher, Pythagoras, postulated that the meaning behind numbers was deeply significant. In their eyes, the number 3 was considered the perfect number, the number of harmony, wisdom and understanding.

When it comes to communicating ideas, intellectuals have always understood how human beings are programmed to process information through instinctive pattern recognition. Of course, to communicate effectively, the pattern needs to be as small as possible. So what is the smallest number required to make a pattern?


Three is the smallest number required to make a pattern. Of course, as copywriters, we’re primarily interested in writing and rhetoric: how to frame a claim, conduct research, provide evidence, consider alternative views and write in language appropriate to the intended audience. That’s where the Rule of Three really comes into play.

The Rule of Three has also been used to encapsulate some of history’s most powerful ideas. For example, using rhetorical devices such as the Hendiatris, where three successive words are used to express a central idea:

“Veni, vidi, vici.” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”) - Julius Caesar
“Citius, Altius, Fortius.” (Swifter, higher, stronger”) - The Olympic motto
"God, Country, Notre Dame" The University of Notre Dame informal motto
"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" - Famous Western Movie
"Truth, Duty, Valour" - The Royal Military College of Canada tripartite motto

and of course the

The three-act structure – beginning, middle and end, used throughout drama and in the modern cinematic trilogy.

The number 3 is universal as an innate expression of Nature. It is Earth, Sun and Moon. The human amalgam of body, mind, and spirit. We think of Time itself unfolding as past, present, and future and our full cycle of experience as birth, life, and death.

And when it comes to speeches, some of the most powerful men in history, including Winston Churchill and Barack Obama – fill their speeches with the Rule of Three techniques to persuade, assure and rule. No small testament to its power. And what about marketing?

Rule of Three copywriting techniques are commonly used within the marketing and advertising industry, so are highly relevant to Advanced CV & Resume Writing.


In CV & Resume rule of three theory, English CV Writing Pioneer, Lee Woodrow has laid out his key copywriting principles, which he feels are crucial for effective executive branding:

"The mission of Executive Branding and CV / Resume Optimization is to first hook a recruiter so that they will read the CV / Resume, then demonstrate value to substantiate strengths and skillsets, and finally influence the reader to take action. If a CV / Resume contains these three qualities, it will lead to an interview"

Lee calls this HDI.

But! The rule of three doesn't end there. Lee Woodrow explains further, how you can implement the rule of three into your CV or Resume in order to hook, demonstrate and influence the reader.

1. When creating a new summary for your CV/Resume you should use a value proposition statement to hook the reader with 3 core deliverables that you have expertise in. e.g. "An experienced Business Development Director, with a proven track record of analysing market and product trends, developing go-to-market strategies and building high-performing sales teams to meet the demands of enterprise-level organisations".

2. When demonstrating value to substantiate strengths and skillsets you should use the SAR storytelling framework in a key achievements section, which is an anacronym for Situation, Action, and Result, a shorter version of the STAR framework. Much the same as the beginning, middle and end, used throughout drama and in the modern cinematic trilogy. Lee suggests using three stories to demonstrate relevant experience and value. e.g.

ABC Company was awarded a contract to provide electrical transmission network connections to the ABC Wind Farm. As Security Manager, delivered cost-effective security plan, led tender selection, interfaced with local police force, continuously reviewed supplier against KPIs and successfully delivered security plan £250k under budget.

ABC Housing Association acquired XYZ housing, experiencing poor business and regulatory performance. As Area Director, provided leadership, developed teams and managed stakeholders to transform organisation and successfully increased tenant satisfaction from 77% to 92%, achieving housing association of the year.

The ABC Bank project to transform the bank’s secure sites sales offering stalled. As Senior Project Manager, assessed bottlenecks, planned delivery strategy, gained buy-in from the board, commenced delivery and managed change, maintaining effective use of resources throughout and successfully realised £212k postal + £697k income in 1st year.

*Notice how all three of these stories use a beginning, middle and end or the situation, the actions followed by a result, including metrics.

3. When writing content for your career history, sprinkle in a few Influential verbs, such as Enhanced, Simplified, Inspired, Overachieved, Formulated, Launched, Spearheaded, Recovered, Captured, Discovered and Revolutionized, etc...

To help you with composing a new profile summary for your CV or Resume Lee suggest using Grammarly. Grammarly upholds accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar, but is also clear, compelling and easy to read. Grammarly's suggestions help identify and replace complicated sentences with more efficient ones, refresh repetitive language, and strengthen your writing to say what you really mean.

You can also identify keywords for your profile summary and skills section by using Teal. It's the secret weapon that Lee has been happily using for the past year to help his clients identify keywords for their CVs, Resumes and LinkedIn profiles - and the tool is mind-blowing. Teal is a full-proof solution that easily stores jobs that you're interested in, tracks your progress, including notes and also automatically highlights important keywords for every job you save. It's like an online excel sheet on adrenalin and did I forget to mention, it's free to use!

Finally, Lee suggests using a keyword density of at least 3 per important keyword / phrases on page 1 of your CV / Resume to help beat an applicant tracking system (ATS Scan).

About the Author:

From Military Instructor, Engineer, Project Manager and Recruiter to World Class Executive Branding Specialist. Lee Woodrow has led an extraordinary life spanning 36 countries with many life and career lessons to teach.

Lee has worked in MENA, SSA, APAC, US & European regions and has hands-on experience delivering Oil & Energy, Maritime, Engineering, Sales, Recruitment, Academia, IT & Military projects. Lee started creating the Bigger Fish - Executive Branding framework in 2008 and has refined the service ever since. His clients land interviews within 2-4 weeks and Lee provides cv and resume templates, coaching and courses to teach the secrets of landing top-tier positions.


bottom of page