I choose you! How to build an effective resume by destroying the one you already have

September 17th, 2015

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from working regularly with 30+ recruiters (or from changing jobs five times in five years), it’s that building a clear, concise and focused resume is critical. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reviewing resumes from applicants, friends and relatives, it’s that most people have no idea how to do that.

It’s not any of our faults. Most of us spent high school and college learning about mindless tScreen Shot 2015-09-17 at 10.40.15 AMrivia with no practical value instead of actual life skills. The good news? Building a resume that effectively tells your story isn’t actually very hard. Before we talk about the mechanics of how to do it, let’s talk about why we even have resumes.

The core purpose of a resume is to convince the person who is reading it that you are someone that they want to speak to. 

That’s it.

Anything else is noise and distraction – the biggest enemies of a resume. You’ll find that removing these two factors is the key theme of my plan to make your resume great.

Hiring managers review tens or even hundreds of resumes for positions. During their first pass, they are going to spend somewhere between 10 and 60 seconds on yours.

Key, key thing to note here. Nobody is going to read your entire resume, and nobody is going to remember more than 3 things from your resume. Write your resume with that in mind.

Here are my rules for building a successful resume:

  1. Impress. Imagine you have 30 seconds to impress someone with information about yourself. Is what you’re writing on your resume something you would mention? If not, trash it. No hiring manager is going to be wow’ed by the fact that you know how to use Outlook, Facebook or that you successfully “crafted sandwiches” at Subway (unless you’re applying to craft sandwiches somewhere else). I look at the inclusion of line items like those on your resume as a major red flag. “Wait, this person thinks that knowing how to use like posts on Facebook is a skill that is going to get them this job?”
  2. Be Relevant. I hinted at this with the Subway comment. Do not include – or at the very least deemphasize – anything that isn’t relevant to the role you are applying for. You are not going to convince anyone that you’d be a great marketer by telling them about how you made photocopies and distributed the mail.
  3. Be concise. More is not better. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Remember, the goal here is to give the hiring manager a reason to call you. Your resume needs to give that person a reason that they can articulate to another person. Take out the nonsensical space fillers and include only things that you could plausibly see someone saying to their coworker as they explain to them why YOU are a great candidate that they need to spend time and money pursuing.
  4. Be ready. Be prepared to tell a story about anything on your resume. Literally anything. If you don’t have a story that makes you look good about that line item, do not include it.
  5. No errors. Have multiple people proofread your resume. It should have no spelling or grammatical errors and have consistent tense, if you “managed” one thing, you shouldn’t “manages” something else.
  6. Make it pretty. This should be obvious, but it’s not. Some people have pretty resumes (Jason Toff’s is one of my favorites), some have ugly ones. Have a pretty one. It’s worth it the extra time or money.
  7. Remove distractions.
    • Your home address can only be used to screen you.
    • Nobody cares what high school you went to – many professional jobs require a college degree now
    • Don’t include anything that you don’t want to do going forward. This might be something like working the graveyard shift, cold calling, or any other generally miserable monotony.
  8. That’s it. By following these rules, I have a resume that I’m fairly happy with, but I’m always looking for ideas for improvement. You’re welcome to use my template (click here to download the word doc).

    What’s your best tip when building a great resume? Let us know in the comments below! Have an idea for another post? Tweet me @wesyee.

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