Want to know how to write a resume that separates you from your competition? Follow the guidelines in this article.
As a senior corporate leader for many years, and later, as a small business owner and management consultant, I have reviewed countless resumes, and I have also submitted resumes as a job seeker. I have learned that there are principles that must be included when writing a winning resume.
And, as you will see, free “cookie cutter” templates and samples that abound on the internet are only partially useful in writing a great resume. They will not differentiate you sufficiently. The real key is in constructing the resume as a strong sales and marketing piece.
Whether you are senior manager, a college graduate, own your own business, are looking to change careers; or are using a resume within your own organization, everyone will benefit from a current, well written resume. There are many different resume types and each is served by a slightly different format, but they all should follow similar principles.
Let’s start with a question: what is the purpose of a resume? If you answered something that sounds like: “to capture all the things I’ve done in my career so an employer will see just how good I am and hire me for a zillion dollar salary”, you would be wrong! If you answered, “the purpose of a resume is to get an interview” you would be correct! Your resume is a strategic marketing document that makes an employer want to call you in for an interview.
Mindset and Preparation
Before you pick up a pen to write a single word, you need the right mental preparation for writing a resume. Be thorough about this because many times people take important things for granted – we use a 21 point questionnaire to make sure we have captured all important information.
Organize all of the relevant information – write down a list of:
o Problems that you have solved
o Character traits that make you different and effective
o Work history
Put yourself in the employer’s shoes – Today an employer gets hundreds of applications for a single advertised job. So how do you think they will they make their choices of which person to interview? If you answered, the first lines of the resume, usually the objective, have to catch her eye very quickly, you would be right again! You want your resume to be remembered. Make it easy to see how you are a good candidate for the job.
Have a very specific objective in mind. The resume should be written for the specific job that you are trying to get. This will help you write a resume that includes keywords that match the job description, and makes you look like a tailor-made prospect for the job. Always remember though to be truthful in whatever you say.
Be ruthless about excluding, or de-emphasizing job experiences that are not relevant, or not helpful, as long as it doesn’t create a large gap in employment history. For example, a part time job at McDonald’s may not be helpful in landing a statistician’s job after graduation.
If you are over 50, you may want to exclude very early jobs that are less important. This strategy can make your resume look more current, minimize any obstacles, and increase the probability of getting the interview. As an alternative, extract the skills that you learned from the excluded jobs and put them in a qualification statement. Be selective about what you include, but be truthful.
Plan to include a “Power Cover Letter” that is addressed to a specific person in the company, and in it, highlight the most impressive parts of your resume that are important to your employer. Since many people do not do the cover letter, doing so, can set your resume apart, communicate why you are different, and enhance their interest in your resume.
With these principles in mind, you need to also write a resume with style.
For resumes that are submitted electronically on job boards, some of these style points will not apply since they force you to squeeze your information into a specific, impersonal electronic format. And because of that it is even more important to write your resume using the above principles in mind, and then format it especially for electronic submission.
Resumes submitted online are usually parsed and read by computers that look for specific information. They score these resumes and reject those that do not meet certain criteria. All this is done before the resume is read by any human.
These software systems – Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) ignore some of the creative formatting, and subheadings that are advantages in hard copy resumes. It is therefore important to format these in a way that is optimized for computer scoring.
We use the Preptel System to test our version of the electronic resume for computer compatibility before submitting it.
I would recommend that you avoid these electronic formats if you can. Do some research and send a hard copy resume on quality paper and matching envelope, directly to the individual in the department where you are seeking a job. It helps if you know someone employed there, that is willing to be positive about you, and that you can reference in your cover letter.
In any case, when they receive it, they will forward your resume on to the right people. If the company insists that you follow their electronic submission guidelines, do so, but you may have already succeeded in establishing yourself as a person who takes initiative – a nice little character builder image boost. Submit both a paper version and an electronic version if you can.
Hard Copy Style Points:
· The basic components of a resume include:
o Job objective (what you want to accomplish)
o Experience (where and when you worked what jobs)
o Accomplishments (what you achieved)
o Capabilities (your skills)
o Education (your schools, majors, thesis)
Format these components so they fit your personal experience, e.g., a college graduate with little experience should highlight his education first. Generally, Job experience in a chronological format works best if there is uninterrupted employment. If there are interruptions you may want to change the format to highlight your accomplishments and capabilities first, and then an experience summary.
Be specific throughout – include concrete, quantifiable information particularly in the accomplishment summary
Use action verbs, not passive verbs wherever possible, i.e. use: “trained sales people to increase revenue” instead of “my department’s revenue’s increased”
- Use white space to focus the reader’s attention
- Use Fonts that are easy to read
- Spell and grammar check your document
- Use bullet format to highlight the most outstanding achievements
Use small blocks of text (A guideline is no more than two lines in a bullet or four lines in a paragraph)
Never do or include this stuff:
- Bright colored paper (white, off white, and light gray are fine)
- Cheap paper
- Small fonts (less than 12 pt.)
- Multiple fonts
- Your picture
- Salary expectations
- Personal data
- Reasons for leaving last job
Finally consider getting a behavioral style assessment that will highlight characteristic traits that will give you something to talk about either in the resume or in the interview. A DISC assessment highlights your traits in leadership, working with others, steadiness, and how you deal with rules and regulations. They are inexpensive and give you great insights into your own behavioral style.
Learning how to write a resume is an exercise in personal marketing, and it can give you an edge over your competition that could mean getting that job you’ve always wanted – you know – the one that also earns you more money to do the things in life that you want to do.
I hope you have picked up a few ideas for how to write a resume. If you are feeling like you need additional help in writing your resume, you can always have a professional resume writer write your resume or bio.