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Resume Writing (Part 1) - Career Mentorship Series

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thedakar

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Looking for work sucks. The part that sucks the most; applying.  The thing that sucks the most in applying? 

THE RESUME!

Resumes suck.  You have to write about yourself which; unless you have lots of training, are blessed with the skill, or are a narcissist... , feels awkward at best and impossible at worst. You have to condense YEARS of experiences to a single page... and precious space is wasted with just your name and contact information!  If you learned how to do a resume 5 years ago (or more!) the things you learned are outdated!  Advice varies from source to source - do this, not that; make it colorful, stick to black and white; fancy vs plain; AHHHHHHH!

No worries, I am here to muddy the waters even more! (#sarcastic I kid, I kid!)

Resume Writing (Part 1)

I am going to share the advice I give my clients when I do career mentoring and consulting.  Why should you care? I have 5 years of experience mentoring people transitioning between careers, handling a few thousand clients in that time.  So far, no one ever called and told me I was wrong... so that should be good enough! In all seriousness, I am just one person - you should take anything I write with a grain of salt.  Do your research, consult other resources, and find what feels right for you.  In the end, that is what this is about.  Getting YOU to show up on paper so that a COMPANY wants YOU.  

Resume vs CV

Quick clarification: What is the difference between a Resume and a CV?

In the United States your resume is a single page document that highlights what you believe are your most pertinent and meaningful skills or experiences in relation to the job you are applying for. 

A CV (short for Curriculum Vitae; latin phrase meaning "course of my life) is a document that outlines damn near EVERY skill and experience relevant to any job or career.  My shortest CV is 5 pages long. 

I like to explain it as the Resume is the thing you use to get the organization interested in you solving their problems; the CV is the thing that shows them the toolbox you have to solve their problems. The organization (company) is looking for the right person who is going to solve their problems. If they are asking for resumes and you want to work for them, you gotta be ready to play the game!

What about the Interview?

We are not going to talk about the interview in this blog - all you need to know is that anything you put down on paper you should be ready to talk about. So don't lie, it will just bite you in the bum later.  

Resume Basics:

  • One Page - recruiters spend an average of six seconds looking at a resume. No novels!
  • GRAMMAR and SPELLING - get it right, 
  • Highlight the MOST impactful items - cut the fluff
  • Quantify as much as possible
    • ex. "Supervisor of Accounts Receivable" should be "Supervisor of 15 member Accounts Receivable Team"
  • "third person" - no "I," "me," or "my"
    • ex: "I directed XX projects" should be "Directed xx projects or "I was supervisor for my office of 10 employees" should be "Supervisor for 10 person office." 
  • Context of the experience - city, states, country (if not same as job), and for how long
  • No Jargon  - even within the same career field, jargon can can cover up your skill or make you look unprofessional.  
  • Name Drop and Title Drop like you are on Instagram - You WANT to brag on a Resume.  You WANT to catch their eye.
  • The Resume and the Job should Match - if it doesn't match, why would the company be interested?
  • Google your Name - Recruiters (80% of them) will do an internet search on the names of the potential candidates. What will they find when they do?

One Page - The resume is a brief (aka, short, concise, quick) look at your relevant skills and experiences. You have 6 seconds to create enough interest that the recruiter wants to find out more. Depending on the job post, there might be HUNDREDS of applicants. You have one quick look, so make it count and don't send anything more than one page. I would also suggest that you send the document as a PDF.  Everyone using a computer can open a PDF, and the PDF locks in the formatting / look of your resume.  This prevents your sharp looking modern layout from becoming an indecipherable scramble. Oh, and name the thing FIRSTNAME_LASTNAME_RESUME or similar so it's easy to find and easy for the receiver to identify.

Grammar and Spelling - Nothing undermines your resume claiming you have "attentionn to dettail" and "Strived four excellencents" by using poor grammar and misspellings... Take the time to get it right.  If you are not sure, use some of the free online tools to check (e.g. the Hemingway App or Grammarly). Then ask a human to read it. Then read it again, just to be sure. 

Demonstrate Impact / Quantify as much as Possible - What did you do, how did you do it, how well did it work? You are trying to show that you can handle the job and the challenges it presents.  Businesses run on metrics (basically measurable goals) so if you talk in metrics, this can help them see your worth in a language they understand.  It also makes your claims verifiable. They can ask you questions about it, they could check if they really wanted to.  Most importantly, it separates you from the 400 other candidates that said "Supervised Swing Shift." 

What can you quantify? Just about anything. Imagine you figured out a way to save 15 minutes on a daily task at your last job. 15 minutes a day, 260 working days a year (on average for office workers) is 65 HOURS a year saved.  That is a week and a half of work time saved.  That is a big impact.  "Redesigned daily workflow process to save 65 man hours per year." 'Shaved 2 days from employee onboarding process, decreased new employee training time by 25% while maintaining required skill levels of new recruits." Maybe even "Employee of the Month 4 times in the last 2 years." It doesn't have to be HUGE if you can quantify it.  

Third Person - You have limited space, so cutting out pronouns frees up those precious characters. It can also help declutter your resume. It ties back into "One Page" and 6 second look; the impact needs to pop out. Also, recruiters know you are talking about you... if you were talking about others, why would it be on YOUR resume? It time for you to focus on YOU - you want them to hire YOU, right? So focus on your impact and drop the pronouns. 

Context - Where did you do these things? When did you learn the skill? How long have you been a member of that organization? If I am reading a resume and I can't answer these questions with what's in front of me, the resume fails to do its job. This is the crib notes of your work history. Everything is laid out in a way that makes it easy to digest. It should be self contained - no extra research required to understand whats in it and why I should care. 

No Jargon - Jargon means both shorthand for certain items or processes AND acronyms.  You might think "worked swing shift" is universal, but do you want to bet your job on it? It is really easy to fall into the trap of using "industry standard" phrases - its industry STANDARD, right? Well, no. If you are trying to move outside of the industry, you have to generalize.  Assume the person knows nothing about your industry or job. If a 10 year old couldn't figure it out, it's too much jargon. One exception to this rule; if the job posting SPECIFICALLY notes desired technical skills or processes (Information Technology is heavy on this, as is health care) and you have those skills, LIST THEM! Does it say "Skills in AJAX, SQL, C++ highly desirable"? Yah, you should list those highly desirable skills exactly as mentioned.  

Name, Title and Award Drop - I find the hardest part of resume writing is trying to make myself the focus. This is especially difficult when you consider that very rarely do you accomplish anything without a team of some sort supporting you. Yet, you have to remember that the company isn't hiring the team, its hiring YOU. If you can't tell them why you where a strong part of the team, then maybe the team is better off without you?

If you worked regularly with the CEO or the Senior Executive, say so. It can help show you know how to interact with higher ups and or valuable clients. Where you recognized for outstanding customer service? Did you receive incentive awards? Win best sales person of the month? Did you climb from back room stocking associate to shift supervisor in a year? TELL THEM! You WANT to brag on a Resume.  You WANT to catch their eye. 

The Resume and the Job should Match - This is basically the Custom vs Generic Resumes debate. You should have a generic resume at the ready at all times. When ever you have the time (even if it is only a few minutes) you should ALWAYS customize your resume to the particular job you are applying for. Why should anyone care about your resume if the information isn't relevant? How do you look on paper if you are spending most of the page highlighting things that are not relevant to the position in question? I have spent HOURS on single resumes for a single job posting.  Why? I want that call for the interview, don't you?

Google your Name - I guarantee you that if your resume makes it past the first round and gets a second look, your name is going into Google (because who uses Bing?) and they will click on a few links. 80% of recruiters admit they do.  The other 20% are lying... So Google your name and see what pops up. I had a client where he had the same name as a man that was arrested for child abuse from the SAME STATE. We figured this out and actually addressed this issue on his cover letter. "If you were to conduct an internet search on my name, please be aware that there is another individual having the same name as I who is far more likely to be on the top of your search results. Please visit my linked in page (hyperlink) where I have links to verified articles and background information for your consideration." Suddenly, he started getting interviews... (I wonder why!)

Step Up Your Game!

Resumes are hard. I work on them professional, so I have a bucket of tricks to make it easier, but in the end, there are not shortcuts for a quality product. You have to make the time to make it work. if you can't find the time to make YOUR resume right, why should an employer think you are going to give it your all at work? Even when it's a "sure thing," or you "know the hiring manager," do you really want to have your first impression with a new company be a half-assed project?

These are just the basics, so use the power of the internet and look for other resources to guide you.  There are blogs for specific industries, tips for specific positions, and more. Leverage articles on Monster.com, Forbes, Linked In, etc. Look at resume templates (dozens of them) and pick the right one for your situation.

Be proud of your resume. If you are proud of it, you did it right.

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