One of the most frequent comments we receive from clients is “I haven’t had to write a resume in years”. It’s really not surprising. How many times do you have to conduct an aggressive job search over the course of your lifetime? Not very often. Writing your resume is not something you do everyday like writing emails or memos. It’s a different kind of writing project with specific requirements and a definite sales and marketing twist. Want to know some secrets from a professional resume writer who writes resumes every single day? Read on!
Focus, focus, focus. A great resume is written to position the job seeker for a specific career focus or goal. “Shotgun resumes” – resumes general enough to hit lots of job targets – simply do not work. Employers don’t hire generalists; they hire specialists, especially in a tight economy. Establish your job search focus before beginning the resume. Once you have a clear focus in mind you can decide how to construct the organization of the resume, deducing what information is relevant. Skills, experience, and achievements that support your focus should get highest priority.
Cut until it bleeds. A resume is not a life history; it doesn’t need to be. Employers and recruiters do not want to read about your hobbies, why you left your previous job, or what you did twenty years ago as a young pup. They don’t want to read about the minutia of your day-to-day work like “attended meetings” or “made phone calls”. They will not wade through pages and pages of information that describes every detail and action of your entire career. One of the most important tasks when developing the strategy of a resume is knowing what to exclude in terms of information. Identifying irrelevant information can be very difficult, especially if you are writing about yourself.
Common sense over ego. What are the highlights of your career as you see them? Many people have earned high degrees or industry accolades that don’t really apply for the goal they are seeking. For example, a client has earned a PhD but is currently seeking an interim medical transcription job in order to afford time to care for an aging parent. The PhD is definitely NOT a requirement for medical transcription and may very well scare off potential employers. The smart strategy would be to leave off the high degree and instead focus on her coding training. It is very difficult, however, for that job seeker to “let go” of her doctoral degree emotionally. She worked so hard to attain it! Exercise common sense over emotions when evaluating what to bring forward in the resume.
Stay current. Resume formats, techniques, and strategies change over time. Professional resume writers are constantly upgrading their skills, gaining continuing education, and attending conferences in order to stay on the bleeding edge of their craft. Know what works and what has gone by the wayside when constructing the resume. Understand the impact of technology on the resume and job search.
Get fresh eyes. If you rely on spell-check to proofread your documents, you are relying on a flawed piece of technology for a very important task. The professional writer knows the value of an objective proofreader and will have a “fresh set of eyes” review the document. You should do the same. It is very easy to miss errors spell-check doesn’t find.
Think achievements. Most people can itemize their job duties – things they are “responsible for”. Recognizing their achievements, however, is something different. What makes an employer pick one well-qualified applicant over the next well-qualified applicant? Achievements! How you have succeeded, made a difference, had a positive influence, or changed things for the better are achievements. These things show you are not only a qualified candidate, but you have a track record of good performance.
Highlight a hidden asset. Competition is very tough these days. Is there one thing that could give you an edge? Maybe it is a second language or an unusual skill. A professional resume writer will dig to find that hidden asset in a client’s background. And don’t think “good communication skills” are an asset! Everyone claims to have them not to mention being “detail-oriented”, “energetic”, and “goal-driven”. Steer clear of those trite, overused phrases unless you want to blend into the crowd.
The definition of a professional is “a person who earns a living in an occupation frequently engaged in by amateurs”. We are all professionals in different things – accounting, social work, technology, etc. The learning curve for writing an effective resume can be pretty steep and often comes at a time when you least expect it – when you are unemployed. These techniques gleaned from the repertoire of a professional resume writer may be helpful. And if you don’t want an amateur writing your resume, seek professional help!