You’ve already seen lots of resume hints and tips here. But isn’t the hard thing about resume actually starting…from a very intimidating blank page? It’s like that adage about how to eat an elephant (one bite at a time..and who doesn’t want to eat an elephant…uh oh, I think I just upset Jane Wiedlin…sorry, I won’t eat it…I promise). It’s so easy for me, as a recruiter, to give tips to someone else on writing their resume. But we have the same challenges as everyone else…we have to have resumes too. Thinking back on the times that I have had to write a resume (you are totally expecting a “Heather” explanation on how to do this, right? You won’t be disappointed). I’ve got some recommendations on how to get started:
1) Don’t try to do it all at once. Put a pad of paper and pen next to your couch, next to your bed, wherever you spend your time. If you are anything like me, your mind wanders a bit when you watch TV. As you think of major responsibilities in your position or results you have driven, write them down. At this point, don’t even start to think about format. Just get down every little thing. Don’t worry if it’s a minor deliverable…you can align some of these when you do your bullet points.
2) Know someone that has done the same job as you? Can you ask them for their resume? (Perhaps if they have left your group, for example)
3) If you have a description of the job you were hired into, or one like it, pull it
4) Also pull any info from your HR department that details career development and defines positions or job categories
5) Have a list of goals and commitments for the year?…pull them
6) Ditto with your performance reviews
7) Get all this stuff together and sit down with a highlighter. Highlight the stuff that you think looks like it describes your role. Or phrasing that you like.
8) Then start to make a list of your responsibilities with the most strategic/impactful at the top. Sometimes it’s good to do this on post-it notes because you can rearrange. No formatting yet please.
9) Edit…ideally, your current role is the most detailed. The farther back you go, the less detail that is necessary. It’s likely that you are just writing the portion about your current job because you probably had a resume that you used to get that job that has your previous positions on it. If that is the case, don’t forget to change the tense (Current job=present tense, previous jobs=past tense…we’re talking about verbs here). Make sure your current role is the only one that has the term of employment that includes “to present” (lots a folks forget to make this change). I also see a lot of “till date” which isn’t really proper (and ’til is actually a contraction of until…but I digress).
10) At this point you should have all the verbiage you want to include. Now your goal is to put it into a format that highlights the most important elements and is clear, scannable and well…pretty to look at (I don’t recommend pictures, as I’ve mentioned before). If you don’t have a format that you have used in the past, you are now on a search for something that appeals to you. First, look for resume templates, like these on our Microsoft Office site. This is just for general format. I’m sure there are other resources online that a simple web search would uncover.
11) Consider looking at resumes of people on the internet with similar jobs. Just do a web search using keywords and include “experience AND education” to find resumes (there are other ways to get to resumes but I’m trying to keep this part simple). This might give you some ideas of how you want your resume to look. Also, you might find some verbiage that you want to use…so you can go back and edit what you already wrote…but I like the idea of getting down what your job is (your bullet points) BEFORE you start to look at other peoples’ resumes. Now put the content on the page.
12) Run spellcheck. Walk away for a day…come back…review/make changes (I recommend the walk away thing a couple times during the process…it’s really easiest to do this in little chunks)
13) Find your most detail oriented friend/spouse/whatever and hand them a copy of your resume and a pen. Ask them to be brutal. If you have a friend you refer to as the “grammar police” (in my circle of friends, I’m afraid that’s me), this is the time to buy them a glass of wine. It’s great, too, if you have someone that does not work at your company take a look. They’ll be able to tell you what is real and what is intra-company mumbo jumbo (your ear gets used to it but it sounds strange to the rest of the world).
14) Walk away from said resume for a few days.
15) Look at it again…fresh eyes help. If you still feel really good about what you’ve got, I believe you are finished.
See…that wasn’t so hard…especially if you tackle these steps one at a time. Now that blank page doesn’t freak you out as much.