In this day and age, it’s very easy to assume that writing resumes has gotten easier. I mean, the number of resources on the internet are astounding. There are resume templates for just about any job out there, resume editing services and even resume assistants. The other day as I was editing a friend’s resume, I noticed that Microsoft Word now has Resume Assistant powered by LinkedIn, which shows you recommendations and real resumes samples to help you through the process. Given all these resources, why is it that people still do not have good resumes?
It got me thinking … writing a good resume requires a LOT of work, commitment and iterations. Let’s not kid ourselves, resume writing is not the funnest thing to do. And contemplating through all the things you need to write is exhausting and daunting. Did you know that 75% of candidates are eliminated by their resume alone? This is an astounding number for something you have control over. There are no shortcuts to having a good resume, you must put in the work! And honestly, once you take the time to write a good resume, it makes editing it in the future so much easier. Plus, you gain such good skills that you can start helping others through this process.
So what are some important things you MUST do to make sure your resume is ready for the limelight and for that next job?
1. Your entire resume MUST signal the job you are looking for. Given the large number of applicants for any position, make sure that your resume shows that you ARE the right person for the job. So what are some ways to let a potential employer know that you are the right candidate? Your degree (hopefully within the area you are pursuing), class curriculum, class projects, previous and/or current work experience, volunteer work, personal interests and projects. People assume that simply mentioning that you have graduated with a degree in Computer Science (for example) means that you can code in Java, C++ or whatever other programming language. NOT TRUE. You need to go beyond this and really show that you have knowledge in these programming languages. Talk about any class, work or personal project that allowed you to code; what did you build, what programming languages did you use, what was your role within that project, what quantifiable impact did you have etc. Make it easy for the recruiter to know that you are the right candidate for the job. Why else should a recruiter give you a chance if they don’t know what you know? According to The Undercover Recruiter, recruiters spend a average of 3:14 minutes reading a candidate’s resume and they have generally made up their mind within the first minute. This means you need to give them the nuggets they are looking for. If you are currently in the job market, make sure your entire resume signals and talks to the job you are looking for.
2. ALWAYS show impact and use specific examples from your previous and/or current position. What does this mean? As you think through your work and/or project experience, it’s very important to have quantifiable impact. People love numbers, so yes, you’ll need to think though what metrics and numbers your task or job moved.
In addition, you must always start each sentence with a verb. I remember learning in grade school that verbs are action words. How else do you talk about your tasks and responsibilities and not use action words – verbs? Here are some examples from my own resume that show impact for the work I do. You’ll also notice each sentence starts with a verb:
- Grew the customer and partner facing blog – Virtual Blocks – from 20K visits per month to over 70K visits per month by creating a regular content calendar that was used by all product teams, curating content and promoting the blogs through social media and digital channels
- Created and maintained a log of system issues for final system acceptance (a major milestone in Accenture’s systems development process); coordinated efforts with 6 different functional areas to ensure that all major concerns were captured, prioritized and addressed, which resulted in final system acceptance
- Coordinated the development of an extensive operations and maintenance manual for a major health and public service client which was adopted as a training guide by the entire organization (>1000 employees)
Am not saying that my examples are the best, however, one of the things you always want to do is start with a verb and then quantify your impact. In my opinion, this is the hardest and most tasking part of a resume … and where you should spend the most amount of time. It takes a lot of iterations, but when done well, it makes a huge difference.
3. You MUST have your resume reviewed by someone. A second set of eyes goes a long way to make sure that you have put your best foot forward. I still do this. On all my previous resume drafts, for Accenture, MIT Sloan for my MBA, and while applying to VMware – I had a couple of good friends review these drafts. Make sure whoever you select is someone you trust and one that can provide the right advice and can catch the seemingly small things you might have missed. According to The Undercover Recruiter, 59% of recruiters will reject a candidate because of poor grammar or a spelling error. Even though these mistakes might seem small, they indicate a candidate is sloppy and hasn’t taken time to proofread their resume. That’s why, for us, AdviceMaves makes so much sense. We want to provide you with trusted peers who have been vetted and who can help you succeed in your career path. Don’t be afraid, start to leverage the power of the community to help you get ahead.
4. Learn to use all resources available to you. There are so many resume resources to help you get started; from sample resumes, to DIY sites, to blogs and to resume builders. Leverage these resources to help you through the journey. Look through other people’s resumes, see how they sell themselves, which words they use .. see how they quantify their impact. This will greatly help you know how and where to start- especially if you are struggling through this process. Don’t plagiarize other people’s resumes, but simply use them as a guide. The Muse is one great site I’ve seen offer a ton of resources and advice on resumes, cover letters, career advice and coaching services. You should also check out Indeed.com for tons of sample resumes.
5. Take pride in your resume and embrace the process. There’s no denying that writing resumes requires a lot of hard work and patience, so it’s naturally easy to procrastinate or simply not feel like doing it. Give yourself time and embrace the process. You don’t have to do everything in one swoop, and if you were to spend an hour each day working on it over a period of 7 days, imagine the transformation. Don’t be hard on yourself, Rome was not built in a day and if you want to eat an elephant, eat it one bite at a time; I cannot help but think the same goes with your resume. Learn to embrace the process.
You’ve probably gotten the sense that employers and recruiters will disqualify you for seemingly small things on your resume. Don’t be one of those people. If you are in the job market, I empower you to look through the list above and start making changes to your resume. Write a good resume first, then start job searching, it make such a big difference. Don’t cut corners and start sending out your less than complete resume and then get frustrated why you are not hearing back. Of course resume drops have to be incorporated with networking, but am telling you that not one person on your network wants to send your crappy resume around. And as you go through this process, remember to include your correct contact information – email, phone and updated LinkedIn profile. Check out our blog on 7 Ways to Make Your LinkedIn Profile Stand Out for tips. Also make sure to use a professional email address. 76% of recruiters will reject a resume if it has an unprofessional email address. This is such a high percentage so you want to make sure you don’t get disqualified just for your email address.
And if you need a set of eyes to review your resume, I am more than happy to help (for free). Make sure you do the work first before sending it to me. Let me be the person that simply checks to make sure it gets that squeaky polish. Feel free to reach out at email@example.com. Also, let me know your thoughts about this blog in the comments section!
Author: Anita Kibunguchy
Anita Kibunguchy is a co-founder for AdviceMavens and has an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management. She currently focuses on awareness and go-to-market strategies for a Fortune 500 B2B data center and cloud solutions company. In her spare time, she loves to hike, cook and host friends & family! Follow her on Twitter @kibuanita