If you’re reading this, we can assume two things about you: you’re a writer and you’re a job seeker. And if you’re anything like most writers, the job application process is quite daunting. Cover letters are a piece of cake. You know how to sell yourself in three paragraphs or less. But resumes are a different story.
It certainly doesn’t help that resume trends keep changing. One year employers want a head shot and cardstock resume paper. The next year, your snail mail resume will immediately be filed through the shredder.
Here are a few tips on how to write a resume for a job. You can edit your resume immediately, using our pointers to improve your chances of landing your next interview.
How to Write a Resume for a Job
The most important tip we can give you to improve your resume is to keep the format clean. If you’re starting your resume from scratch, awesome. If you’re reworking your current resume, then you’ll need to closely examine it. Does it include text boxes and “trendy” fonts? Take them out. Go ahead, do it now. Then go download yourself a clean, no-frills template from a site like Microsoft Office.
The top one-third of your resume is the most important. If we’re being honest, sometimes it’s all the HR department will look at. Once you’re targeted as a viable candidate, your references and educational background will be checked, but before that happens, you’ll need to make the top section stand out. We’ll talk about that in a minute.
Everything below that top third is just details. Those details are important, but your objective is to get noticed. Here are a few dos and don’ts about how to write a resume for a job:
- Do include your employment history. We’ll look at this in a bit more detail later.
- Do include any relevant certifications, licenses or organizations you hold/belong to.
- Do include your educational background, but keep it simple. Usually university degrees will suffice. There’s no need to include high school or grade school.
- Don’t include references. You can provide these as your conversation with your employer progresses.
- Don’t include dates. Your hiring manager doesn’t need to know that you graduated college 46 years ago. Ageism is real, folks. Don’t contribute to it by dating yourself.
Delete Your Objective
“Ask not what your country can do for you…” Maybe John F. Kennedy wasn’t thinking of writing resumes when he said this, but the principle is applicable to crafting your resume.
Your prospective employer couldn’t care less about your career goals. It’s just the truth. “But,” you counter, “my interviewer asked me where I want to be in five years!” Yes, when you interview for a position as an IT analyst, your prospective employer wants to know that your career goal isn’t to build lighthouses.
You already know that the top third of your resume is critical to landing your interview. With that in mind, delete your objective immediately. Just 86 it, no matter how brilliantly written you think it is. You don’t need it.
What you need, instead, is to think about how you can benefit the company you’re applying to. Are you in sales? Your interviewer won’t care that you met your quota each month. Tell her instead how you increased your retail location’s visibility in the community via a local event. Are you an information security professional? It won’t matter that you “completed projects in a timely fashion.” Instead, tell your new boss how you caught that data leak and implemented a new security protocol for Patient Records.
Revise and reword, and make this section count. Give your hiring manager something to ask you in your interview. Instead of filling in the blanks as to what you did, make her ask you how you did it.
Make Your Resume Stand Out
Gone are the days when Elle Woods’s pink scented resume would be immediately noticed. No, that’s actually a lie. That was never a good idea. But one thing we can say for Elle is that her resume did stand out.
You can make your resume stand out, too. Today, job applications are primarily submitted online. This opens a multitude of doors for you to make your own resume unique… how you do this is up to you. But because we like you, we’ll give you a few pointers on how to write a resume for a job which gets noticed.
First, because you’ll probably be submitting your resume through a headhunting site like monster.com or indeed.com, you’ll want to be sure you include keywords which are relevant to the position you’re seeking. Include the obvious keywords, like “customer service experience” or “employee scheduling.” But be creative, as well. Use action words such as “accomplished” or “developed” to enhance your resume.
Secondly, you’re using technology, so make the best of it. Opt for an interactive resume. Include hypertext with links to your portfolio or your LinkedIn profile. You can even direct your email address to connect to you via Skype. Use your imagination, and let your prospective employer see that you know how to use the computer you’re typing on.
Finally, despite everything we just told you, there should still be some measure of simplicity. Be certain that your future boss will be able to glean information about you from just a glance at your resume. She receives hundreds of resumes, and the last thing she’ll do is click a hundred links just to get to yours. Keep your achievements visible. Use the links to showcase the specifics. Just don’t go overboard.
Use your Gift for Writing
If you’re like a million other people, you sometimes feel that you’ve had a bit of a ho-hum employment history. Whatever you do, don’t let this feeling of insecurity translate to a shoddy resume. You are the right person for this job! You can perform the work requirements.
Maybe you’re looking for a job in childcare when previously you’d been a short order cook. That’s great. Tell the boss that you’re familiar with the dietary requirements of those kiddoes, and that you’re also familiar with sanitation practices. If you were a cashier at a big box retailer and now you’d like to manage one, tell HR about your experience with scheduling your fellow minions’ lunch breaks. Even if you only did it once.
Learning how to write a resume for a job isn’t rocket science, even though sometimes it feels that way. A streamlined resume in conjunction with a well written cover letter is really all you need. Be honest with yourself and your employer, use your creativity, and you’ll be sitting in interviews before you know it.