How to Write The Perfect Resume
So you want to learn how to craft the perfect resume, eh?
Well first, let’s dump the word “perfect.” There is probably no such thing as a “perfect” resume.
What you want is a resume that gets you to the next step – either that phone or face-to-face interview.
In this respect, a great resume grabs attention from the outset and make you unique. It must be better than the others being submitted.
So, let’s get you some of that.
Lesson 1: You Are a Product and You’re for Sale
Here’s the first concept you have to accept. You may not like the idea of being a commodity for sale, but that is what you are right now. No time for sensitive snowflaking.
You need to learn a bit about marketing a product.
The hiring manager (or whoever) is your customer.
They are not particularly interested in things like your sorority/fraternity affiliation or the fact that you were prom king or queen.
Tell them instead – what is your value proposition?
What can you do for this company or organization? You have read the posting. You probably understand the details of the skills contained therein. Focus on this – it’s called a “pain point” in marketing.
Everything that you’re even thinking about putting in your resume, other than your contact information, had better relate to what your customer wants.
Here’s your first rule: It’s not all about you. Actually, it’s never about you.
Before You Write One Word
You’ve got the job posting. Read the detail. Take out a piece of paper and pencil and list the skills and educational/background requirements.
Next to each one of these, list what you have that meets those things. If you’ve got something to put next to almost all of them, you’re good. If not, move on.
Resumes that can’t meet requirements are trashed, and you have just wasted your time.
Show the recipient that you can follow instructions – it’s a job skill.
If they want a particular format; should they want you to email it with a specific subject line; if they do or do not want a cover letter. These are the little things. If you can’t get them right, who will ever trust you with important things – not this guy or gal.
Putting Together Your Killer Ad
A resume is divided into three parts – sort of like an ant – a small head, a large thorax, and a small butt.
Here’s how that should look on paper.
The Small Head
Contact Information: This is simple – you name, your email address and a phone number in a phone that you intend to pay the bill on. As long as you can spell and double-check for typos, you got this.
Note: No one cares where you live – leave the address off.
Objective or Summary: This is a statement that speaks to your career goal if you are a beginner or to what you have accomplished if you are seasoned with experience. The problem with these is that they become “all about you” unless you are very careful with wording. And most of them are written badly.
If you write an objective, then focus on what the company needs not you.
BAD: A graduate in computer programming with C++ and Java skills, seeking a position in software development that will lead to a management role.
GOOD: A skilled C++ and Java programmer looking for an opportunity to help an organization develop and deliver custom software.
See the difference?
And here’s a news flash: These are rarely read anyway. If you are what everyone lovingly calls “entry level” and you don’t have much of a thorax, then you might consider an objective statement – it will take up a few lines and make your resume look less “thin.”
The Thorax – Resume Body
If you are a soon-to-be or recent grad, you may or may not have relevant experience, so you’ll have to get a bit creative.
Go back to your list and see what you wrote down that relates to the skills in the job posting.
Paid or not, any experience you have had that shows a skill needs to go in – you don’t have much. So here are some examples:
- Did you use your programming skills to design a website for your fraternity/sorority or a piece of software that somebody is actually using?
- Did you have any projects during your coursework that you can display in a portfolio on your own site or blog? You can describe the project and provide a link for more detailed information.
- Did you freelance in any of the skill areas? Describe what you did and what benefit it was to your clients
- If you’re looking for a position as a marketer for a non-profit, did you fund raise for any club or organization while in school? What did you do and how much did you raise? Be specific. (You can embellish here too – who’s to know?)
Some Big Do’s and Don’ts For Resume Writing
- Hit on “soft skills” if they are listed in the posting. But if you don’t have anything specific to backup your claims of “leadership” or “communication,” just leave them out
- Fast food is not relevant unless you were promoted to some type of managerial position and you are seeking positions that require related management skills.
- Never include a position from which you were fired. Newbies in the job market are expected to have gaps in employment. If you make it to the interview stage and are asked, be prepared with some reasonable explanation – it doesn’t have to be the truth necessarily – it just has to be reasonable and unverifiable.
- Leave politics out of the mix, unless a specific organization you know to be of your same leanings. Organizing protesters for a march on Wall Street and including it in a programming resume to a bank is probably not the best idea. On the other hand, Greenpeace will love it.
Customizing – It’s What’s Up
If you haven’t figured it out yet, here it is in bold print – Every resume must be tweaked for the position and the organization. You insult hiring managers with generic resumes.
The Small But – Ending your Resume
You don’t have much else to include, so this is the place for your educational background and any certifications you have earned. If you have one or more college degrees, skip the high school information. Everyone assumes you graduated high school
DO NOT end with the statement, “References available upon request.” They already know this.
Resume Design 101
Designs should be appropriate for the organization to which you are applying (remember: customization).
You can check out some examples below: