“Can you help me write a resume? I need to get a job!”
This is the question high school students asked me on a daily basis back when I was Coordinating two high school College and Career Centers just a couple of years ago.
Whether applying for a job, college admission, or a scholarship, students needed help creating resumes and cover letters that would stand out in a sea of other resumes and cover letters – some days this was the biggest part of my job.
Advising was my first job out of college, so my understanding of the world of work was limited to a handful of part-time jobs that I worked during high school and college, and most of what I knew about how to write a resume and cover letter came from my Professor the last semester of college.
I quickly realized that I still had a lot to learn, so I turned to the web and have been accumulating a collection of books, articles, and blog posts on how to write compelling and successful resumes ever since.
For Thought #8, I wanted to share some of my favorite resources and tips on how to compose a resume that will standout and leave a hiring committee with a positive impression of who you are personally, and why you are the best candidate for the job.
1. Feel an Employer’s Pain
One of my favorite workplace bloggers is Liz Ryan. I’ve been influenced most by Ryan’s ideas about “human-voiced” resumes and responding to a prospective employer’s “pain” (See “How to Write a Human-Voiced Resume“).
Essentially, Ryan’s experience is that no hiring manager wants to read a resume that sounds like it was written by a robot because that’s boring. Also, employer’s aren’t going to be moved by an applicant that can’t understand their “pain”.
The solution to a cookie-cutter resume is putting oneself in a hiring manager’s shoes and figuring out what problem(s) they lose sleep over at night that you could solve. Once you’ve done that, use your resume to convince an employer you’re a real person with a record of solving problems – trust me, I know that’s easier said than done.
Start by ditching the outdated Objective Statement and replace it with a brief (2-3 sentence) Professional Summary statement that conveys your personality and addresses the types of problems you fix.
2. Emphasize Accomplishments Over Daily Responsibilities
What goes in the work history section of a resume? Hint: It’s not your roles and responsibilities.
If you learned how to write a resume by reading a career planning book from the 90s, or you’re one of my seniors from way back when I was just getting started, you’ve probably been taught to discuss your daily roles and responsibilities in the work history section; however, think about this: what are you really telling a potential employer about your talents and abilities when you list your daily roles and responsibilities?
Many workplace bloggers agree that resumes make a lasting impression when they discuss accomplishments and not daily roles and responsibilities (see “5 Ways Your Resume is Like Everyone Else’s (But Doesn’t Have to Be)“).
Instead of saying something generic like, “Helped graduating high school students with 4-year college applications,” try, “Supported 50 eligible high school seniors prepare competitive 4-year applications; 35 student gained admission to their first choice school.”
3. Use Competencies Section to Beat Resume Databases
If you’re using resume databases like Monster and Indeed, and your resume doesn’t have the right keywords, it’s likely to get lost in the resume database void, which means it’ll never be seen, which means you’ll never get that interview, which means no new opportunity to grow and do what you want to do.
The solution is including a Core Competencies section. Martin Yate, author of the favorably reviewed Knock ’em Dead Resumes, tell us, “think of your Core Competencies section as an electronic business card that allows you to network with computers.” In this section of your resume, you’re able to use single words and short phrases to list all the skills you’ve acquired that are relevant to a target position and display them in a format that’s easy to read by employers and computers alike.
Be proactive about adding to the Core Competencies section of your resume as you come across keywords in job descriptions that reflect your capabilities – do this exercise and your resume is bound to outperform the competition in those pesky resume databases.
Composing the perfect resume is tough; however, use the tips outlined here to help you create a resume that stands out and lands you the position of your dreams.
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