Are you looking for a new job, or hoping to make a big career change? It can be daunting to stare down a blank piece of paper and start your resume from scratch.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to put that blank page aside for a moment, and get organized. Do some work before you sit down to create your resume, and you’ll wind up with a more polished and persuasive final document.
This step-by-step process will help minimize your stress and maximize your results. Here’s how to write a resume:
Suzanne Lucas – aka The Evil HR Lady – suggests beginning your process with a brain dump.
At Inc, she describes the process, speaking specifically to a job seeker with 20 years of experience (although the steps will be the same, regardless of how long you’ve been working):
Sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil (or a computer if you must, but I find brainstorming works better with paper), and create columns for each job you’ve had over the past 20 years. It doesn’t matter if one of those jobs was cleaning toilets at the Circle K and you never intend to put that on your resume. Write that job down too.
Include any volunteer positions as well. Did you coach your kid’s soccer team? Teach Sunday School? Campaign for a local politician? Remember, you may or may not end up using these on your final resume, but the idea is to get everything down.
Don’t worry if your list includes a lot of seemingly disparate jobs. You’ll edit everything down later, first for your generic resume, and then for specific job applications. The goal at this stage of the game is just to remember everything that you can do … so that when it comes time to impress a hiring manager with specifics, you won’t wind up selling yourself short.
2. Quantify Your Accomplishments
Now, go through your list and add the cold, hard facts. Numbers and percentages are more persuasive to hiring managers than general statements, so it’s best to be as specific as possible. “Increased sales by 10 percent last quarter” is better than “increased sales last quarter.”
3. Pick a Resume Format
If you’ve never written a resume before, or have only used a chronological format before, you might be surprised to learn that you’re not locked into one resume type. Depending on your work history and the types of jobs you’re applying for, you might opt for a:
Chronological resume: This is the standard resume type. It’s focused on your work history, and generally lists your jobs in order, most recent experience first. This is a good choice if you have a few years of relevant experience under you belt and no significant gaps in your work history, but typically not a good choice for new grads or job seekers who have lost their jobs for one reason or another.
Functional resume: Want to sell your skills right off the bat? A functional resume might be perfect for you. This format often begins with a summary statement that includes your skills and accomplishments. This format works well for those with a lot of gaps or zigzags in their career path.
Combination resume: What it says on the tin – a combination of chronological and functional formats. This lets you emphasize your skills while also showing off a solid work history.
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4. Use a Template
Now it’s time to open up that resume document again, but don’t worry: it won’t be blank for long. That’s because you’re going to start with a generic template instead of a pristine page. Templates, which are available for free from a variety of sources online – for instance here, here or here – can help you organize your thoughts and avoid getting psyched out. And since you have all your brainstorming out of the way, it’ll be easy to fill in the blanks.
5. Edit, Edit, Edit
Now that you’ve got everything plugged into your template, it’s time to trim the fat.
What should you cut? Anything that doesn’t help you tell the story you want hiring managers to see. For experienced workers, that might mean older jobs that make their experience look dated. For most of us, it means jobs that are unrelated to the kinds of jobs we’re seeking.
For example, your summer ice cream job is helpful when you’re fresh out of school and trying to show hiring managers that you can manage other part-time workers and be responsible for balancing your cash drawer, but once you have a few years of experience as an accountant, you can probably drop it from your CV.
6. Personalize Your Resume for Each Job
Once you have this standard resume buffed and polished, it’s time to tweak it for actual job applications. This is something that you’ll want to do each time you apply, to make sure that you’re emphasizing the keywords from the job description.
Remember: hiring managers want to interview candidates who want this specific job, not just any job. The more you can adapt your resume to the position, the better your chances of getting the call.
7. Proofread Your Final Product
Before you click “send,” make sure your resume is polished. Proofread it several times yourself, and then ask a trusted friend to do the same. Make sure it’s consistent, accurate and typo-free, and you’ll make the best possible impression on the hiring manager.
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