Are you discouraged by the lack of attention your resume is getting? Do you have a hard time pinpointing your strengths and highlighting your accomplishments? Maybe you’ve always gotten a job through word of mouth and now you need to resume to do the heavy lifting for you. In this article, you’ll learn how to write a good resume that stands out from your competition. You will also learn where you can find a free resume template and example that will save you tons of time when it comes to writing your own resume.
Writing a resume is no walk in the park. It’s hard to know what employers are really looking for in their ideal candidate, not to mention the length of your resume. Should it be one page? Should it be two pages? And what about capturing your career highlights? You will get the answers to these questions in this article. So let’s jump right into it.
The first step to write a really good resume is to start with a professional structure. Here’s the thing. There’s no right or wrong way to create a resume.
The structure of your resume depends on your background, your experience and the job you’re applying for. Every applicant and every job is different. With that being said, every resume needs to include a few key sections to entice and engage the reader without interruption. So let’s review those sections.
The first section is your contact information at the top of your resume. Include your full name, good contact phone number, your city, state and zip, not your entire mailing address. A really good email address for them to get in touch with you and your LinkedIn url.
The second section you need on your resume is a professional summary. Almost every resume needs one of these. Now, you might also have heard this called your professional statement or a career profile.
Think of this as your 30 second pitch. You’re going to quickly tell the employer who you are, who you help and how you help them. I’m going to show you exactly how to do this. Begin your summary with a professional title. This can be the title of the position that you’re seeking, or it can be a title very similar to the position that you want. Follow this with three key skills. These are skills the company is looking for in their ideal candidate that you possess.
You can find these key skills in the job postings. Then in two to four sentences, explain how your professional background, expertize and talents are the solution the company is looking for. You need to demonstrate how your experience will help the company solve a particular pain point. Inside this paragraph, discuss your specialty and what makes you an expert. Remember, you’re not mentioning what you want out of the position. The summary is all about the company and showing them that you are their knight in shining armor.
Now let discuss few optional sections that you can add to your summary for greater impact.
Career Highlight Section
The first is a career highlight section. This is a bulleted list of some of your greatest achievements that fall under the first paragraph on your resume.
Think of all the awesome things you’ve done in your career projects, accomplishments, awards, recognition and even training. What does your future employer need to know about you to get them excited to meet you? These are some things are going to become your career highlights on your resume. Now, here’s the catch with a career highlight section. If you are a recent graduate or someone just starting out in the workplace, you won’t need a career highlight section. However, if you have more than five to seven years of work experience, I highly recommend adding one to your resume.
Core Competencies Section
The second section you can add to your summary to impress your future employer and to make it past the applicant tracking systems, which will talk more about in just a second, is a core competency section. This is a section dedicated to your skills, expertise and knowledge as it relates to the job posting. This is a short list of keywords and keyword phrases found in the job postings. For example, if I’m applying for a project management position, some of the key words or phrases I might use in my competency section would be leadership, risk management, negotiation, scheduling, critical thinking.
And if I’m applying for a sales management position, my competency section would include words like strategic planning, collaboration, delegation or even calm under pressure. Your competency section should include two to three lines of skills that directly relate to the position you’re applying for. Each skill will be separated by a line. You can also comment below with one to two competencies that you can add to your own resume. Now, with the summary out of the way, which is by far the most important section on your resume, let’s look at some of the other sections you need to add.
Most resumes should include some sort of work experience section, education section and a skills section. However, these sections are going to look different depending on your situation. For example, if you’re a recent college graduate. You might not have much to add to your work experiences. So instead of a work experience section, you might include internships section, you can also supplement your work experience section with things like extracurricular activities or academic achievements.
Now, if you’re a working professional that’s been in the industry for quite some time, your work experience is going to take up most of your resume. And in this case, you might not even need a core competency section, like I mentioned earlier. Think outside of the box. If you’re struggling to fill in a section on your resume or if there’s something that you want to give an extra spotlight to, you might need to create an entirely new section.
Other Sections to Add to your Resume
Some ideas include volunteer experience, accomplishments and awards; Languages, special certifications and technical skills.
Here’s a special note about the technical skills section.
With the times we’re living in, it’s even more important to show that you are good with technology. You need to mention that you understand video conferencing software, that you understand project management applications. And if you’re a seasoned professional, it’s even more important that you add this section to your resume to show that your future employer, that you are good with technology.
Besides work experience and education, the goal of your resume is to make you look like the best person for the job. So get creative to make sure you get that message across. You should also order your sections in a way that looks nice, but that also puts your most important information at the top. This should be your contact information and then your summary, but then the rest of the organization depends on you and which sections are strongest for you.
Build a Resume that is Readable
The second step to write a really good resume is to build a resume that is readable. This means to make it readable to applicant tracking systems or ATS and to real people. Let’s talk about ATS first so most employers will run resumes through an applicant tracking system.
This helps them quickly weed out candidates that don’t meet specific criteria for the position. Now, you might be the most qualified candidate, but if you don’t present yourself well and if your resume is not properly formatted, it could be rejected before anyone even looks at it. The good news is for applicant tracking system, the formatting just needs to be simple. So don’t use things like tables, columns, text boxes or graphics. Instead, use clear, consistent headings, paragraphs and bullet points.
It’s as easy as that. And when it comes to the human reader, we also want to see simple formatting. This includes a font style that is easy to read, a font size that isn’t too small and isn’t too big, and then margins that fit your content nicely and of course, no typos or misspelled words.
Tailor Your Resume
Step number three to write a really good resume, and that is to tailor your resume. Your resume should be tailored not only to your industry, but for every job you apply to. So start with the resume that is tailored to your field of work or to the field of work that you want to go into and then make a copy for every position that you will apply to. For each job, study the job, posting carefully what words and phrases jump out to you?
What words and phrases are they using multiple times in the job posting, for example, if the posting mentions teamwork four times, you should definitely make sure that the word teamwork is included in your resume at least once or twice. This will match your resume with what the company is looking for, and it will show your future employer that you are the ideal candidate. Tailoring your resume will also help it get through the applicant tracking systems more easily.
I want to share an easy method with you for tailoring your resume quickly. Remember when I mentioned earlier your professional summary and I mentioned the professional title and then I also mentioned the three key skills. If you tailor nothing out of just these few things to match every position you apply for, this will quickly grab the attention of the hiring official, letting them know that you are the perfect fit for the position and signaling them to keep reading.
Develop Results – Driven Achievement Statements That Are Quantifiable
Step number four to write a really good resume, and that is to develop results driven achievement statements that are quantifiable. Once you have a really good structure with all the key components of a standout resume that is tailored, the next step is to create results driven achievement statements that are quantifiable. Remember, you’re not just listing the tasks or the job duties you performed in the past.
You’re listing the results of the tasks you performed. And if you can quantify those results, that’s even better. Any time that you can show that you increased or generated revenue, decreased expenses or cut costs, made a client or customer happy, led a team to victory or even increased productivity, then do it. Let me give you a quick example. You could say hired and managed a team of eight project managers or you could say hired and managed a team of eight project managers successfully implementing a new database solution ahead of schedule.
Notice the first example only tells us the task, but doesn’t tell us the result. Now, let me give you a quick example you can use to compose your own results driven achievement statements. You’re going to start with an action verb, then describe the task, then emphasize the result. I like to call this ATR (action task and result). I want you to evaluate every bullet point on your resume and do your very best to make them results driven and put the cherry on top by quantifying each bullet point.
Keep Your Resume Updated and Relevant
Step number five to writing a really good resume is to keep your resume updated and relevant. The workforce has changed a lot in the past few years, and especially in the past year. You need to show that you are relevant and that you can adapt with the times. If you were laid off because of an economic downturn or because of a company hardship, don’t be ashamed of this. Resume gaps, unemployment and even firings are much more possible today than they were a few years ago.
And if an employer sees this on your resume, they’re much more forgiving and understanding than in years past. That being said, you absolutely need to show hiring officials and recruiters that you’ve been busy and how you’ve been progressing. For example, have you taken any part time or temporary work? Have you done any volunteer or contract gigs to keep your skills up? Have you taken any online courses or learned any new skills? These things show your potential employer that you’re committed to what you do, that you’re self-motivated and that you’re adaptable to unexpected circumstances.
This is especially important with so many companies hiring for remote positions, not to mention my seasoned professionals out there. As I mentioned earlier, you have to show that you are good with technology for any job that requires remote work. You need to show that you know how to use things like Zoom, Google meets Google Docs and even slack. These kinds of skills media show up in your resume. And if you don’t already have these skills, make sure you learn them so that you can add them to your skills list.
Even if you don’t have all the skills that the position is requiring, you can still add on your resume at a time that maybe you had to learn a new technology.
Note that a good resume doesn’t go far without a great cover letter.
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Thumbs up Professor Heather Austin.
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