Resume writing is a double edged sword. It’s difficult to do, yet critical to do well. It also doesn’t help that writer’s block can feel awfully potent when you open that file on your computer titled “Resume.” All of a sudden, succinctly articulating your work experience can feel as daunting a task as writing the next bestselling novel. It may not be your idea of fun, but if your end result is a well-executed resume that shows you at your best, well, that makes all those tedious bullet points totally worth it.
Here’s how to take resume writing from daunting to doable.
Prepare before you start
Before you start furiously typing away at a word document, take some time to think through what exactly you want your resume to showcase. Before you start writing, you should have the answers to these three questions:
- What do I want to highlight?
- What is the company/hiring manager looking for in an applicant?
- What experiences best display my ability to do the job well?
Once you’ve gathered your thoughts, you’ll be more equipped to narrow down the content of your resume to what really matters.
Make it about you
Your resume is just that— your resume. It’s a way for hiring managers and companies to quickly get a sense of who you are and what you can bring to the table. Although you’re working within certain constraints, you can, and should, infuse your resume with your voice and personality. An authentic voice will stand out in a sea of cookie-cutter resumes. To avoid sounding generic, be sure you read this article on 5 Words You Should Never Use In Your Resume.
Highlight what is relevant
Some of your experiences may be relevant for one job, and irrelevant for another—that’s absolutely fine because resumes should be tailored to the specific job you’re applying for. Yes, that means you’ll end up with multiple versions of your resume. When tailoring your resume for a particular job, Jaime Petkanics, founder of The Prepary, advises: “Pretend you are the one screening for the job you’re applying for, and ask yourself, “If I didn’t have any context other than this piece of paper, would I call me?” If the answer is no, consider why not. Are you missing some of the experience they’re looking for? If so, add it. Is there a skill you don’t have? Go get trained in it! There is NOTHING wrong or dishonest about customizing your resume to a specific job as long as you’re not lying about what you’ve done.”
Pay attention to grammar
In a sea of bullet points, it can be very easy to mix-up verb tenses and repeat words. Make sure all past jobs and responsibilities are written in the past tense, and present jobs and responsibilities are written in the present tense. Remember: If you’re doing it now, present tense. If you did it before, past tense.
Consider the industry
Applying for a job at a startup? You’ll want your resume to reflect the ideals of the startup world, ie: creative, prone to risk taking. However, if you’re looking to land a job at a law firm or bank, you’ll want to stick to the conventions of the industry. Spend some time researching your industry to make sure your resume is aligned with the expectations.
Get someone to read your resume who has an eye for more than just typos. Find a trusted reader and ask them to read your resume with these questions in mind:
- Is my writing clear and easy to read?
- Does the writing sound like my voice?
- Is there anything confusing?
- Is there anything you think I’m missing or should include?
Take your time
A haphazardly written resume will show. This is not the project to put your procrastination skills to work. Carve out multiple blocks of time over a few days for resume writing. Your memory skills are being put to work here, and we’ve all had experiences where we remember something important after the fact. If you’re thorough with your approach, it will show (and hopefully pay off too!).
Once your resume is ready, sign up for an account on Glassdoor and upload your resume to Glassdoor to apply to jobs quickly and easily.