HOW TO WRITE A GREAT RESUME
In this article, I'll show you how to write a resume that shows employers exactly why they should hire you.
Before I started writing resumes for a living, I used to work in HR. I spent many, many hours reading resumes and I can tell you that almost no one writes a good resume. Really! Very few people write a resume that showcases exactly what makes them special.
The old saying "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" is never truer than during a job search. When most people write a resume, they assume that the reader knows more than they really do. Remember that when you send your resume out, it must speak articulately for you. You can't explain inconsistencies, clear up confusion or fill in things that are missing.
So let me show you how to write a resume that makes a powerful sales pitch within 20 seconds.
How to Write a Resume Step 1 - "Know Your Audience"
Most resumes are ineffective because they don't focus on the needs of the employer. This means you can win if you show how you can add value to your target companies.
You can't make a persuasive case for why you should be hired unless you understand exactly what employers are looking for. They are hiring a new employee to solve a problem/ take advantage of an opportunity. This applies whether it's an entry-level position or a senior leadership role. No one just creates a vacancy for the fun of it.
This is why you should not start writing a resume until you have identified the type of companies you are targeting and done some research to understand the needs of those companies.
How to Write a Resume Step 2 - "Define Your Value Proposition"
If you have ever hired anyone, you will know that most resumes all look the same. Deciding who to interview is often a "hit and miss" exercise because there's no way to distinguish between most of the candidates.
The good news is that you can write a resume that grabs the reader's attention by clearly conveying your unique value proposition in lively, interesting language.
Your value proposition is simply those things that make you uniquely valuable to your target employers. Just as marketers summarize the value of their product or service in order to differentiate that product in the marketplace, job seekers need to write a resume that clearly communicates why they can meet employers' needs.
(FYI, in Part 3 of my resume writing course, I show you how you can develop your own value proposition, along with an example of how I did it for myself. Sign up to get instant access to the course.)
Once you have identified your value proposition, you can write a resume introduction that encapsulates your value proposition. NOTHING will help you make an impact as much as this one change to your resume.
How to Write a Resume Step 3 - "Focus on Your Impact"
I mentioned before that the people reading your resume have just one question: "What's in it for me? They want to know that you have made an impact on other companies. That's why the bulk of your resume must be focused on IMPACT, not responsibilities.
Show me what impact you had in your prior positions and I can start to imagine the impact you will have on my business and my company.
Rewriting your resume to replace boring old responsibilities with energetic accomplishment bullet points is a guaranteed way to increase your resume response rate. Take a look at our resume samples to see what I mean.
Look at your resume now and ask yourself whether it is interesting and energetic. Does it convey that you have taken initiative, achieved results and made changes? Do you feel it communicates drive and enthusiasm?
If not, you need to action-pack your resume by rewriting it to incorporate high energy, active words.Once of the easiest ways to do this is to rewrite your accomplishment statements so that they all begin with an action verb. For example:
- Delivered 10% increase in productivity by ...
- Solved challenging coding problem ...
- Reorganized HR filing system ...
- Transformed disorganized office into ...
- Boosted sales ...
- Changed approach to ...
Dynamic, high-energy language like this creates a sense of movement, action and purpose that is irresistible to recruiters who have to read hundreds of lifeless and boring resumes.
How to Write a Resume Step 5 - "Design"
Design is the aspect of resume writing that is most often overlooked by busy job seekers - but it's incredibly important. Your resume will initially be scanned for 20 seconds or less before a decision is made about whether your resume belongs on the "no" pile. In order to make it past that first screen, you need to ensure that your key selling points jump off the page at first glance.
Assume that your reader is VERY busy. Assume that he or she is not really reading your resume, but skimming it quickly. Anything that doesn't "pop" off the page will be missed. Earlier you identified your key selling points - now it's time to create a design that emphasizes those selling points.
Design is a complex subject to cover in a short time, but I hope that these resume samples are helpful. Look at them carefully and see how your eye is drawn to key pieces of information.
Remember, a badly designed resume loses you interviews, so do not skip this stage. Putting in the effort to lay out and format your resume correctly will pay off enormously.
How to Write a Resume - In Summary
Most people do not understand how to write a resume and this lack of knowledge hurts them badly when they apply for vacant positions. This article and the other resources on this website are designed to help you write a resume that sets you apart from the pack. To do that, you need to know your audience, understand and communicate your value proposition, describe how you have made an impact, action-pack your resume and create a resume format that's effective.
To get more tips like these, and learn how to completely transform your resume, sign up for my free resume writing course. We promise never to send sales spam.
Louise Fletcher is the President of Blue Sky Resumes. Louise is also Managing Editor and Co-founder of the preeminent careers blog, Career Hub. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and many of her resumes have been published in the JIST "Expert Resumes" series. She has contributed to many online publications including About.com, Monster.com, The Ladders, and Net Temps.