Let’s get it right out there: Crafting a killer resume is hard.
For many people, it’s insanely hard. (This, by the way, is why the entire professional resume writing industry exists.)
I’ve worked with PhDs, MBAs, CEOs, PMPs, RNs, BS’s, and just every acronym in between. We’ve worked with Olympians, Fulbright Scholars and front-line service providers who are out there hauling ass every day to make big things happen.
And for each of these people, when it comes to writing a resume?
They get stuck.
So why, exactly, are resumes so hard?
Well, first many people don’t understand the game of job search. They don’t understand how their resumes are reviewed—by both automated scanning software, and by human reviewers.
And second, resumes are hard because a lot of people cringe when it comes to writing about themselves in a way that truly showcases their talents and strengths to a hiring manager or recruiter. We’re taught to be humble, share credit and not over-toot our horns. And this flies square in the face of constructing a compelling resume.
So how can you put your best foot forward when you sit down to construct (or revise) your next resume?
You can start by fully digesting the five fundamental truths about resumes:
1. It’s a marketing document, not your autobiography
Your resume isn’t your autobiography. It’s not a list of all of the duties and responsibilities you’ve held since your first job – it’s a marketing document.
When you design your new resume, keep this top of mind. Your goal is to create a marketing document that’s going to entice a certain audience to make a purchase decision. In this case, we want them to make the “purchase decision” of inviting you in for an interview.
2. It’s about them, not you
At the beginning of this game, the hiring manager doesn’t care what you want out of this deal.
That might sound harsh, but it’s the truth. When businesses hire new employees, they’re doing so because they need someone to come in and help them make more money, or fix something that’s broken, or grow into new markets, build things for them, or make their lives easier.
They aren’t hiring you because they want to fulfill your dreams or help you buy a nicer house, car or vacation in Cabo. They’re hiring you with the intention that you’ll satisfy a specific business need.
Certainly, they will care – once they love you and see how valuable you are. But at the front end, you need to keep your resume (and your cover letter) focused squarely on what you can walk through your next employer’s doors and deliver.
3. It needs to be strategic, but not blatantly inaccurate
Most of us have blips and bloops along the way in our careers — Jobs that we wish we didn’t take. Gaps that we’re not sure how to deal with. Degrees that we didn’t quite finish.
Plenty of us have small or even enormous issues that need to be considered and strategized on as we develop our new resumes. However, strategizing around a career mulligan or a gap isn’t the same thing as “flat out lying about what the real situation is.” No matter the circumstance, you cannot fabricate stuff on your resume.
If you do, you may lose out on a job that was about to be yours– or even fired if it’s discovered after the fact.
4. You can be professional without being stuffy
Somewhere along the way, life trains us that we have to write resumes in this entirely terse, dull and overdone tone that, in a lot of instances, says very little about our true talents. You very well may be a detail oriented professional who thinks outside of the box and has a proven track record of success, but that says very little about your true talents.
It’s OK to find different, compelling, conversational – yet still completely on-point – ways to spell out the stuff that you’re best known for, most proud of and can walk through the doors of your future employer and deliver. In fact, it’s more than OK because that’s the stuff that’s going to catch their attention in a sea of blabbery, say-nothing resumes.
Also, you really can lose the big, pretentious words and phrases, in most instances. If you do this right, your resume is going to be reviewed by a human. And most humans are conversational by nature.
Thus, It’s OK to talk to them like real people.
5. A great resume makes the words earn their spot
The magic of a Ridiculously Awesome Resume is that it says what it needs to, without being too brief or too wordy. When you err on the side of brevity in a resume because, say, you’re trying to keep it to one page (yet you’ve got more than a page worth of experience) – then the decision maker can’t easily figure out what you’re all about and why you make perfect sense for the role.
And, if they can’t figure that out, you go right to the NO pile.
Likewise, when you babble on or stuff the resume with way too much information, you make it hard for the reviewer to see very quickly how and why you’re a solid match.
So your goal when you construct a new resume is this – Make the words earn their spot. For sure, say what you need to say – but make every word earn its spot.
Certainly, there are other ways to finesse and fine-tune your resume so that it emerges as an incredible, on-point and powerful tool to help you land your next job. But keeping these five fundamentals top of mind through the development process will help you stay focused as you create something you’re truly proud of.
And, if you’re interested in more in-depth guidance…
I’ve created an online course, Weekend Resume Makeover to help you craft the perfect resume. Learn how to quickly develop or update your resume, customizing it for any job opportunity.
Interested? Come on over and check it out.