In a perfect world, all of us would keep our resumes constantly updated, just in case. The reality is, most of us completely ignore that important piece of paper until the day we need it … which, incidentally, is just about the worst time to be working on it.
Nobody likes writing a resume. Of course, there are services you can pay to do that for you, but most of us decide to tackle the tedious job ourselves. That’s actually a good move: the fact is, no one knows you as well as you; and since every single resume you send you be tweaked and tailored to the specific job you are applying for–yes, every one–you’re going to be doing a good bit of writing on this thing anyway.
With so many different elements influencing what goes into your resume, however, it can be hard to know where to start. We suggest getting a rough draft of information on paper (or screen) as your first move. Don’t worry about making corrections, getting the wording perfect, or any type of formatting yet: just start typing. As you go, there is one particular question you need to keep at the very front of your mind: who are you talking to?
Getting Past the Gatekeeper
The goal of a resume isn’t to get you a job–it’s to land you an interview. Unless you’re applying to a very small company, the person who first sees your resume is highly unlikely to be the person you’ll be reporting to … and that means your first job is to get past the gatekeeper.
The person–or these days, often the software program–that first culls your resume out of the slush-pile of responses wants a certain specific set of information … and probably won’t wade through a ton of superfluous prose to get to it. This isn’t the time for tons of relevant-but-unnecessary details, it’s the time for a concise, hard-hitting sales pitch.
Think of it as the difference between a television commercial and a technical manual: you may actually want to look at the specs before you buy … but it’s that 30-second spot that piques your interest and make you want to dig deeper. Your resume should be more like the TV ad.
The work history on your resume should feature two or three key jobs that evidence your progress within your given field. Present your experience in a reverse-chronological order, with the most recently held position containing the most bullet points and older job positions containing only a few summary bullet points.
Cut to the Chase
When writing bullet points for your job history, again focus on what the recruiter or HR expert wants to see. Make every sentence count–don’t waste valuable real estate on your resume listing basic responsibilities that someone in your position would already be expected to perform, or communal tasks like keeping the kitchen tidy.
The two things you want to emphasize here are a history of progress within your field, and quantified achievements to support the idea that you excel at your job. Bullet points are best, and keep them concise. Again, there will be time for details later.
Qualify and Quantify
In this day and age, even our “smart” technology is becoming context-aware. Why should your resume be any different? Providing a context to quantify your experience helps give the reader an accurate understanding of the scope of your achievements. Talk briefly about past employers, summarizing key details that paint a picture of the companies’ size and scale. Use hard numbers to demonstrate how you met/beat sales targets, how you increased production, or the size of the team you lead.
Putting your work into context gives the reader a greater understanding of who you are and what you’re capable of accomplishing. Successfully engaging the reader is the crucial first step in getting called for an interview.
Obviously, there’s more to landing your dream job than simply targeting your resume … but a highly targeted piece will certainly have a positive impact. You want to make sure that the first set of eyes on your resume can clearly see your experience and achievements. And since very few people actually take the time to do this, targeting your resume can quickly put you head-and-shoulders about the crowd.