One of the hardest parts of looking for a job isn’t the looking part. It’s what happens during preparation. In particular, writing a great resume can be an incredibly stressful feat.
Imagine this. You’re asked to put an entire summary of your life down on paper. But, it must fit on one or two pages, or it won’t be read. It must be 100% accurate, or you could be fired by your future employer. It must tell the story of every career victory, or no one will take you seriously. It must not make you look too old, or too young, or you could be perceived as incompetent. Oh, and it should be up to date – always. You never know when someone might ask for it.
For these reasons, it’s often easier to help someone else with their resume than to begin to revise your own. But, when you do begin, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
First, remember that there’s no one way to write a resume. Every person has their own opinion of how resumes should look, so it’s unlikely everyone will love yours. Find a layout you like, and solicit friends for feedback. If each person is giving you the same feedback, listen. If nine out of ten people love your resume and number ten doesn’t, listen to the first nine.
Think of your resume like a Google search results page. When you’re searching for something on Google, you only read down just far enough to get what you need. Hiring managers are the same way. They’ll scan down your resume and will stop at some point when they feel like they know enough about you. Be sure the most important things are listed first.
Work to minimize distractions. If you’re concerned about your age, remove your college graduation year. Consider dropping off your early jobs that no longer apply. Use an up to date e-mail address by staying away from AOL and Comcast emails. If you’re applying at an organization that is not affiliated with a particular religion or political group, consider reducing indirect references about faith or political party.
Don’t be shy. Give yourself credit for everything you’ve achieved. And, use numbers to quantify your results. For example, a military veteran may have something on their resume about how they managed a team. But, if you ask them how big the team was, you’ll learn they were managing 300 people. To the veteran, this seems completely normal. To an outsider, not only is this not normal, but it’s incredibly impressive. Quantifying your results helps someone in another industry or job function to understand what you really did.
And, most of all, avoid grammatical errors. This is a tough one, as there is so much of your life packed onto those few pages. It seems like a tiny mistake shouldn’t matter very much. But, you’d be surprised at just how often a hiring manager will toss a resume in the garbage over an incorrect verb tense, or a random word in the wrong place. Even when writing isn’t part of your job, you’re judged on it. Run your resume through spell check, read it out loud to yourself, and ask a grammar buff friend to take a look.
As painful as putting together a resume is, the good news is that it’s part of the preparation process. It’s done ahead of time. And, you can get help along the way. There’s no reason your resume should do anything other than add to the case that you’re the perfect candidate for the job.
Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.