Writing a Resumé

by Ashley Wirgau

Whether you’re drafting a resumé for the very first time or revising one 20 years into your career, writing a resumé is rarely at the top of anyone’s list of favorite things. It is, however, a necessary evil that can pay big dividends if you take your time and get it right. Few things in life worth having come without their costs, and the cost of landing that job you’ve been daydreaming of while you’re at your actual job – that’s going to cost you some time on the front end developing a resumé good enough to get you noticed.

So, what’s it going to take to make you stand out? Here are four simple suggestions to help push your paperwork to the top of the pile.

Be Current

Drafting a resumé is a lot like doing taxes – it’s a ton of work and not much fun but will go easier if you keep on top of it. Let it get away from you and you’ll regret the compounded workload required to get it back up to speed. Few of us update our portfolio on the regular, and each year that passes is another year’s worth of work experience to recollect. Give yourself a leg up by keeping your resumé current, scheduling time once a year to revise your file with new skills, achievements, and trainings from the previous twelve months.

As you do this annually, also be prepared to edit down less pertinent information from years past. Technology and best practices are constantly changing. Don’t date yourself by including information that has been rendered irrelevant.  

Be Succinct

It is hard to be concise when creating a document meant to summarize one’s entire education and work history. Many people cover a lot of ground in their careers and, understandably, want to include as much as possible. However, a resumé is intended to highlight the key qualifications for a given job, not incapsulate every detail of an applicant’s life. Brevity is your friend when it comes to writing a resumé, so while you want to create a good synopsis of your qualifications, you also want to keep your audience engaged.

First, decide which resume format best displays your skills and experience. Many take a chronological approach, but others find that tackling their traits from a functional perspective better illustrates their fit for a particular position. Second, make a list of important skills, education and training, work experience, and relevant accomplishments or awards and arrange these items to fit within the given format. Finally, tweak each section until it adequately describes your qualifications as concisely as possible. Resumés for most jobs should stick to 1-2 pages, while those for more tenured employees, academics, or executive level positions may reach 3-4. Less really is more, so as much as you’d like to add just one more page…don’t.

Be Confident

Now is not the time for humility. Your resumé is your first (and sometimes only) shot at wowing your prospective employer. Be bold. Be braggadocious. You know what you are capable of and that needs to shine through to the person calling the shots. This is done by honing in on the successes you’ve achieved throughout your education and employment. It can also be accomplished by utilizing effective language choices when describing these things. Your resumé is your chance to convince people that you have what it takes to do the job, so do your job and convince them.

Be Flawless

Proofreading is never more important than when applying for employment. Misspellings and typos during this process can mean the end of the process altogether. Some employers will assume that lack of attention to detail on a resumé will transfer over to mistakes and sloppy work on the job, as well. Do not give people a reason to toss your chance in the trash. Take the extra time to review your document line by line searching for errors. Then, after you’ve finished, kindly request a second set of eyes to do it all over again.

On top of flawless grammar, your formatting should be flawless, as well. Consistent font type and size are essential for a smooth read as is punctuation usage, bullet types, margins and spacing. If dates are italicized in one section, they should be italicized throughout. If one address uses an abbreviation for a street or state, they all should. It matters less what the stylized choice is and more that the choice is being implemented consistently the entire time to make for a seamless read.

Like all necessary evils, job applications and resumés can be stomach-wrenching in their tediousness and time-consuming nature – but they are sometimes the only thing standing between you and that first job or next job or big promotion or corner office. No, writing a resumé might not feel like the coolest way to spend your time, but landing that dream job sure is.

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