Writing a resume is a chore for most people. I know this because whenever I do an online search for the term ‘how to write a resume’ or ‘writing a resume’, I come across someone tweeting “ARRRGH I hate writing my resume” or “I have been trying to write this stupid resume for weeks. I hate it!!!”
Being the intuitive person that I am, I therefore deduce that resume writing is not something more people enjoy.
Me? I love it!
For me, writing a resume is like a complex puzzle. I have all this information about my client and I have to figure out the best, most effective way to present it. If I get it right, my clients get the jobs of their dreams and that’s pretty cool.
So over the next week or so, I’m going to share with you some of the inside secrets to success when it comes to resume writing. I hope that my suggestions will make you rethink that hatred for resume writing and awaken some of the enthusiasm I feel when I start a new resume writing project. So let’s get started.
How to write a resume #1 – feel their pain:
When you’re struggling with how to write a resume, you’re likely focused on yourself. You have questions like ‘how do I explain this gap?’ or ‘how do I show I have the important skills?’ or ’should I explain why I left this job after such a short time?’
These are all reasonable questions, but it’s this focus on YOU that gets in your way. Because your resume isn’t about YOU.
I know that sounds nuts, but if you’re focused on you, you’re missing the point.
If you want your resume to grab the attention of employers, it needs to be about THEM.
The most important question to ask when you’re writing a resume:
There is one question I ask myself at the start of every resume project and it’s this: What do my target employers want?
You need to answer this question before you think about writing a word. Because the answer to this question will guide you as to what you should include and exclude from your resume. It will help you decide what to do about that gap, or which skills to highlight.
As an example, one current client wants to go back to doing something she last did 8 years ago. Since then she’s had several contract and freelance jobs and run her own business. To ensure that employers see her highly relevant past experience, I structured the resume so that all those freelance and contract jobs were rolled into her consulting business. I then kept that section relatively brief and only highlighted the assignments that were closely related to her target positions.
By doing this, I was able to get 8 year-old experience up on to page 1. I also created a strong profile with headlines that described that older experience in a way that would appeal to target employers because it addressed their main concerns.
This new resume has given my client a real shot at her dream job for one reason and one reason only – we thought about the needs of target employers before we started to write one word of the resume.
How do you know what employers need?
If you’re staying in the same industry, you will already know this. Think about the most successful people in your field or in your company … what do they do?
Think about your industry… what challenges is it facing?
If you know the company advertising a vacancy, research them to find out all you can about their goals and culture and market position.
But if you’re aiming to move into a new field, you’ll need to do more research.
Read all you can on forums and blogs and company websites and industry association websites. Tap into your network and talk to anyone with knowledge of the industry. Reach out to social media connections to see if they will share their knowledge. Scour the web for job postings and note any common themes.
Next comes the good part!
Once you know the answer to the question ‘what do my target employers want?’ you are ready to start thinking about your resume strategy. It’s that strategy that will get you interviews. It’s that strategy that will guide you as you make decisions about content and layout and font choice and all that good stuff. And developing that strategy will be the subject of my next post in this series.
Louise Fletcher co-founded Blue Sky in 2002 after a career as an HR executive. She admits to being a ‘wordnerd’ at heart and loves to write. She developed the Blue Sky resume approach, has written two books, and has been a featured expert for sites such as Monster, The Ladders and HR Guru.