Resumes can definitely be tricky. If you have been out of the job market for awhile, you may not be aware of current trends and expectations. Conversely, if you are first time job seeker, you may feel like you lack the experience to develop a competitive resume.
Given the degree of ambiguity, resume writing and editing allows for a certain degree of creativity. Use this to your professional advantage. The amount of creativity will vary from industry to industry. You may want to do some additional research to determine what is considered acceptable.
While there is some room for individuality, some aspects of drafting a resume will never go out of style. Think of yourself as a brand and your resume as your pitch deck for potential investors. You should frame your work experience in brief, crisp writing. Your resume will also always benefit from a clean, modern format and some descriptive storytelling.
As you shop the job market, here are 5 tips to get you to the interview phase:
“Your resume serves as your personal brand ambassador, so spend the time and energy to make sure your brand is well represented.”
1. Cleanliness is Next to Godliness.
You want your resume to have a smooth, clean look with the right amount of balance. You do not want someone to feel overwhelmed having to read through your resume. Realistically, a hiring manager who is assigned the task of reviewing resumes will probably not spend more than 30 seconds on your resume. Structure your resume in a way that directs their eyes to your most appealing skills, experiences, awards, etc.
2. State What You Can Do, Not What You Want.
If you still have an objective section underneath your header, delete it. You want to highlight for your potential employer what you can do for them. So, you want to highlight your skills in a qualification summary section. This section is a high-level overview of the skills and experiences you do not want to be overlooked.
3. What’s in Your Toolbelt?
Also near the top, you may want to emphasize your skill set. This establishes what you bring into a role. Pro tip, you may want to refine this section for the particular job posting. Some employers use applicant tracking systems that look for relevant keywords to advance a candidate. To make past this resume purging process, you want to identify buzzwords and key phrases from the job posting to incorporate into your resume.
Note, soft skills are great, i.e. “quick learner”, “great attitude”, and “hard worker” However, you want to include more hard skills on your resume. You may need to do some additional research to determine what hard skills are valued in your profession. For example, you may want to review LinkedIn profiles of similarly situated professionals for guidance.
4. What have you Achieved?
Your resume also needs a section that highlights awards or achievements in previous work experiences. As you progress in your career, the awards and professional achievements you include your resume will change. However, find something that speaks to the character of your work and dedication to excellence. For recent college grads, this may be highlighting an experience with a campus organization, which is a legit experience for this point your career.
If you have trouble thinking of an example, try to reflect on what others say you do better than anyone else or what do you believe is your “superpower”? This section is meant to allow you to talk about strengths during the interview process.
Now, you definitely need a section where you discuss previous work experiences. Note, you do not have to list every job you have ever had on your resume. Remember, you are crafting a story to sell your brand to potential investors. You may want to highlight relevant work experiences and simply list other work experiences in another section or simply not include them at all.
Also, use a few lines to write a story for hiring managers. This a good section to use those buzzwords and key phrases from the job description. If possible, you may want to highlight instances of using some of your hard skills as a part of regular job duties. This is also a good place to distinguish yourself by hinting at other examples of your workplace accomplishments.
However, remember to use clear and concise writing. Depending on your resume format, you may want to use simple sentences or bullet points for this section.
Remember, the goal of your resume is to start a conversation between you and a potential employer. Your resume serves as your personal brand ambassador, so spend the time and energy to make sure your brand is well represented. With the right strategies in place, you can easily create a resume that will get you to the interview.
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André Cotten is a native Mississippian. He is currently an attorney based in Washington, DC. HIs current legal practice focuses on advising financial institutions about regulatory compliance issues.