You want to get it perfect, and getting anything perfect can be intimidating.
What if you make a mistake…
What if you forget something…
What if they find out you embellished…
What if you can’t “write”…
Take a deep breath…
Writing an resume might not be easy, but it is straightforward.
Resumes are a collection of past accomplishments and performance that can indicate future performance.
Kind of like stocks.
The key is to minimize the importance of that resume to any one of the jobs you are applying to. You do this by focusing on networking, contacts, focused cover letters, and like. If you can get in with the hiring manager or be recommended by a trusted source, then you resume really becomes an afterthought – assuming you have no or a minimum number of skeletons in there.
On the other hand…
If your resume is going to play a key role, then you do need to get it right. And by right, I believe simple is best.
First, understand that there are tremendous resources available to help you. A great place to start is your local library. But if all those resume guides seem intimidating or outdated to you, start by considering the following points.
You should always begin by conducting a self-assessment. Take a weekend and thoroughly examine what you have done. And by the way, just make it very straightforward; for each job you have held, answer the following questions:
- What were you most proud of during that time?
- What was your legacy, or impact, on your work unit?
- And if you were not there, how would they have been affected?
If some of those answers are hard in coming, a good source can be a confidante, or even your spouse. Ask them if they remember what you bragged about. Also, look at your past evaluations and use the good comments that your supervisors wrote about you. This is all fair game.
And don’t forget letters of recommendation and written “attaboy’s or attagirl’s,” these are all good sources of information that can be used as testimonials later during your interview – again as backup to your statements on the resume.
On the issue of testimonials, Kevin Donlins of Guerrilla Resumes uses testimonials in a novel, yet impressive way. He actually incorporates testimonials into his Guerrilla Resumes format. In this example, take note of how Kevin included John’s recognition awards into the resume – this is also how he generally recommends putting in the testimonials. Can be very powerful.
Once you have all this information, you must then begin the critical task of distilling it down to what needs to be in the resume and what you need for backup. Again, have backup information that you can use during an interview to “validate” what you wrote on the resume.
Your mission is to pull out 2 to 3 very specific, quantifiable things you did, that only you could have done for each job or position you have held. And those accomplishments – by the way – should relate to the job you are applying for.
Yes, that would mean having a tailored resume.
This exercise pulls together 99% of your resume. Because after the accomplishments, everything else is fluff.
Although I might pretend to be – I am NO guru – so please take anything I say with a grain of salt – OR a pillar, as the case may be…
I think the basic format of your resume should be:
Header – name, address, contact info
Summary of Qualifications – basically your written elevator speech
Reverse chronologically listing of your jobs – brief, specific position description with no more than 3 concise and quantifiable accomplishments
As an option:
To my mind, the last 3 are fluff pieces that you can add if it’s relevant to the job you are applying to me.
As for the meat of your resume, assuming that you have decided on the format, consider the following:
- Your results and accomplishments must be quantified. Hiring managers need to see specific results. You should not think because you “only managed 2 people and increased sales revenue from $59,000 to $81,000 while increasing gross margin from 18% to 27%,” that the numbers are not impressive; therefore you would be better off being vague. So what if you did not save the company $120 million (if you did, great, write it down), your accomplishments are in context with your job. Be specific.
- You should write your resume for the hiring manager to read. Unless you’re blindly mass mailing out your resume or applying online; it should not be “stuffed” with keywords because you read that all resumes are “scanned” into resume scanning software. You should never write your resume for software. Mostly because a resume built around keywords reads funny and weird – to me. Still, scan through the job ad or posting, and pull out a few, important keywords. Sprinkle the keywords around so that they sound natural.
- Particularly if you are older, you should make note of your computer skills or technical knowledge on your resume. Industries move fast and believe they are always innovating (even if they still stuck in last century), so their main concern with older workers is that the worker is not current. Your resume should immediate remove that one little barrier. Convey the sense that you are still on the “cutting edge.”
- Always use action verbs. More specifically, use action verbs that show you were front, rather than in the middle – or hopefully not, in the back.
Finally, before you do anything else, have someone you trust to be brutally honest review your draft resume. You should join a job club and ask for their opinion. You should also take all criticism with a grain of salt. Do not constantly revise your resume from one person to the other and back again. Once you are satisfied with your resume, tweak it here and there; but keep wholesale revisions to a minimum.
That is until you either get a job – or determine the resume is not working.
By the way, you can also head over the resume writing section for more info and guidelines for more of my th0ughts plus suggestions on where to go for expert assistance.