Your resume is your first marketing tool to present yourself to your potential future employer. Sometimes, it’s your only tool, so it’s worth taking the time to make it great. A great resume is the one that best reflects who you are and what you are looking for. It is also a clear and fair representation of how your experience sizes up to the job that you are applying for.
First things first: What are you trying to achieve?
It’s not (always) hard to find a new job, but it’s often really hard the find the right job. And everyone’s definition is a little different.
So, what do you want to achieve? Write it down. Stuck? Try it in a question format. For example, “How do I find a role in the pharmaceutical industry that allows me to leverage my outside sales experience in my current industry but offers a better base salary than I currently have, has formal career development plans, and a will give me a chance to work with a team of people who are passionate about what they do and the clients they serve?”
Go gather some data.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, hit the web and find a few examples of jobs that meet that need. It doesn’t matter who, what or where, you’re looking for good job specs that reflect the roles and responsibilities that you want in that ideal next job. Try to find 3 that really speak to you. You’re not (necessarily) going to apply for these jobs; we want a visible goal in mind while you’re updating your resume.
Now, ask yourself, ‘Why are they ideal’? What motivates you in the job description? Why does it appeal, at least on the surface?
Now that you’ve set the frame of reference, it’s time to switch gears a little and focus on you and your resume.
1. Review your existing resume in light of the next job you’re looking for.
Highlight the points you want to carry forward on the new version and cross out the stuff that just doesn’t make sense anymore. If it’s not relevant to what you do now and what you want to do going forward, then there is no sense in highlighting it in the resume.
2. Gather content for the updates.
You’ll need to get the information that you can use to build the core of the resume. Typical sources include current job descriptions, performance evaluations, project descriptions, company websites and even job postings that your current employer has posted for jobs similar to yours. If all else fails, look at your calendar for the last 12 months. Start by writing little blurbs about the jobs, the roles, responsibilities, what you achieved. Be specific and give metrics. The person reading your resume has to understand the size and scope of your job and they have to be able to assess your fit to their vacancy very quickly. Don’t waste your time being overly verbose; they won’t read it.
3. Stack the content.
Ok, you’ve got the information on your roles, achievements, key successes, awards, training, etc. Now you have to set it up in a way that is clear, concise, and focused on metrics that will speak to what you specifically did and the result. If you get stuck here, take a look at each position and write answers to the following questions:
- What was my role?
- What was the context?
- What did I do?
- What was the result?
4. Set the structure for the resume.
There are a ton of resume formats out there. Google them all you like to find one that suits your style and the structure of your work history. What I want to share with you is more about the impact that you want to make when someone is reading your resume.
If you are applying for a job though a posting website, there are a few hurdles that your resume will have to jump over before you get to the first interview.
- Use Keywords. If the company is using recruiting software to manage candidate applications, be sure to include any key words that accurately describe your work experience and that will match the key words identified for the job.
- Keep it focused. At the first screening, the recruiter will spend less than 10 seconds reading your resume. In this very short read-through, your resume needs to communicate key points: namely, do you have the knowledge, skills and experience to do the job that they’re looking to fill? The recruiter will spend the most time looking at the top ½ of the first page. Use this space wisely.
- Differentiate. Recruiters will spend more time on resumes that hold their attention: someone who has done something slightly different, someone who stands apart from other candidates…so long it’s something that also fits in with the company’s values and culture. This is a chance to include some information on the resume that might not be exactly in line with the current job spec, but complements it somehow.
5. Write your ‘intro’ (again and again and again)
Job postings are questions.The employer is asking a question to the talent market. “We have a problem. Can you help us solve it?” Your job, in writing your resume, is to answer the question by telling them about how you can help solve their problem.
You should adapt the introduction section of your resume for each job that you apply for. You may also revisit areas of key experience to highlight and flesh out areas that are directly related to job they are looking to fill. The good news is that, the rest of your resume is so well structured by now that you will have no trouble adapting your objective or key qualifications section to hit key points on the job spec.
6. Review and edit.
Give the document one final review for clarity and to be sure that you answer the question, “Why should we interview you?” Have you answered the question that they asked in the job posting?
7. Finalize and save.
When you’re happy with the edits, save the file using a file name that will allow you to easily recognize what it is, who you sent it to and when you sent it. For example, John Doe applying for something at Acme in January 2014 would read: CV JD 2017 01 Acme.PDF. With this file format, you can sort by file name and see what you’ve sent out when and to whom.
Congratulations you’ve done it! One last bit of advice: get into the habit of updating your resume every time you change positions or once every year, just after your annual performance review.