You’ve spotted a job that is perfect for you.
You want it so much, you can almost taste it. Here’s the glitch. Your resume is out of date. You couldn’t send it to any respectable employer.
And you don’t know how to write a resume. You couldn’t do it even if your life depended on it. Which puts your resume writing skills into the same league as underwater water polo skills.
That is, non-existent.
WHAT TO DO?
You decide that you shall not be defeated by a collection of words. You shall write a resume. You’ll do it well. And you’ll do it yourself.
You fire up a brand new Google tab. You search for “how to write a resume”, or something to that effect. And you find yourself drowning in endless lists and opinions which promise to show you how to make your resume stand out.
You quickly discover that most of them are – sadly – embarrassingly generic.
Which is why today I’m giving you a resource which will help you write a winning resume and receive a much better response to your job applications – even if you’ve never written one before.
(If you truly get stuck with writing your resume for the first time and decide that you’d rather invest your money than time into fixing it, consider using my resume writing services).
1. START AT THE END.
The first major section of your resume is your profile.
It’s also the main sticking point for most people who try to write a resume. To get yourself unstuck, skip the profile; leave it blank until the very end.
Instead, begin writing your resume by planning out a structure (a skeleton of sorts). Next, fill out the peripheral sections (education, board roles, etc).
(Bonus Read: How To Include References On Your Resume – The Right Way).
Finally, zero in on the job descriptions, ensuring that your achievements are constructed correctly (more about them in a moment).
Once all of the other sections are in place, write the profile; treat it as an exercise in summarising who you are as a professional.
2. MEASURE YOUR WORDS AGAINST YOUR USP.
Cull words on your resume ruthlessly.
Each word on your resume should serve to activate your brand story. Since it’s impossible to avoid space-hogs like prepositions and articles, instead hone in on your verbs and adjectives.
If you’re applying for senior positions, remember to use high-impact verbs:
As for your adjectives, avoid buzz word fillers such as:
- strategic thinker
They’re overused, which means they make you look the same as everyone else.
3. WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE.
While we’re on the topic of words, I recognise that the advice I gave in Tip #2 above has the potential to create the opposite problem.
Yes, you want to position yourself as a superior candidate. And yes, you want your language to be potent and impactful. But sometimes the line between being authentic and arrogant is a fine one.
If you’re using too many three- and four- syllable words, or overly flowery language, you might come across as pompous. Which could disqualify you from being in the running for a role you want.
Instead of saying…
“Conceptualised novel IT operating model, utilising model to effortlessly streamline divisional operations and drive exceptional cost-savings.”
“Designed innovative IT operating model to streamline division, increasing efficiency by 41% and delivering $200K in cost-savings in Y1”.
Bottom line: as you write your resume for the first time keep your language fluent, yet direct.
4. STICK WITH THE FACTS.
Besides being your brand in a bottle, your resume is an ideal career fact sheet for recruiters. So it needs to strike a balance between aspiration and reality.
And yet, your resume is just the beginning of your personal branding story. The colour and flavour you’re dying to share is the stuff of other online channels such as LinkedIn, and/or your personal website.
Sporting a fluffy, self-serving objective statement? Ditch it. Replace it with a fact-based headline that targets the role you’re seeking, buoyed by relevant skills or achievements.
“CPA & MBA-Qualified CFO.”
Also consider adding a brief summary that encapsulates your most recent and relevant career history.
When writing your resume, exclude information which will distract recruiters from your USP. (Sharing that you spend your free time attending Star Trek conferences might not work to your benefit).
The character Joe Friday in the classic detective series Dragnet, was famous for one line: “Just the facts, ma’am“.
Follow his advice.
5. QUANTIFY YOUR SUCCESSES.
As you are writing your achievements, keep three words in mind:
These three words should guide how you articulate your responsibilities, skills and achievements.
Try including the responsibilities that best represent your most relevant and impressive work. The rest are likely boilerplate. Same goes for skills.
Focus on those directly required for your function and level, as well as your desired role. But above all, express your accomplishments in hard numbers that reveal impact, while also sharing broader wins for each role.
6. CREATE A STORY.
Before you begin to chop and spice, it’s important to get grounded in what you stand for. It’s called your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
Ask yourself what you do that no one else does, why, and for whom. Knowing this will help you determine what’s in and what’s out for your resume.
Also, tailor your USP to the position and the industry. Your resume shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all.
7. WRITE LIKE A MARKETER (OR A POET).
The best marketing copy is, dare I say it, like poetry. Each word packs a punch. Has a reason for being there.
Buzzwords, long-winded sentences, adjectives for the sake of it are like empty calories in your diet.
What’s that – you’re no David Ogilvy or Wallace Stevens? Doesn’t matter. With practice, patience, and the discipline of measuring each word against your USP, you’ll polish your resume like a diamond.
8. DON’T LIST EVERY JOB YOU’VE EVER HAD.
Understand the needs of your potential employer. Then go back to your USP. What is it that you can uniquely provide to satisfy their needs? That, in turn, will help you decide how to position your job history.
It will also help you decide what you should include, and what you should scratch.
Other things to consider: Don’t go too far back with jobs, as it may make you seem too senior (read: old).
Oh, and don’t do anything silly like cutting and pasting your job description into your resume, or use words from the job description you’re interested in. Be unique, because you are.
9. DESIGN FOR ONLINE.
It’s critical to remember that your resume may never be printed. In fact, it’s most likely to be perused on a smartphone while your millennial recruiter is multitasking.
Think contemporary, clean, easy-on-the-eyes for your design. Put your most important information at the top of the visual hierarchy, and let the rest flow from there.
10. SPREAD THE LOVE AROUND.
Don’t feel the need to cram everything into your resume. That detail you were dying to add? Put it on your LinkedIn profile. Or better yet, on your personal website.
Like all the great brands around today, yours needs to be disseminated across a number of touch points. Allow each one to tell a different part of your brand story.
Remember, your humble (but soon to be amazing) resume is just one piece of your personal branding pie.
Learning how to write a resume takes time. As with most things in life, it’s possible to take shortcuts, but these tend to come back and haunt you – through lost job opportunities and rejection letters from recruiters.
Do it properly the first time – it requires a greater time investment upfront, but it’s one which will pay dividends sooner.