Resume writing can be an intimidating task, no matter what stage of the career you’re in or how many times you’ve done it before. Writing a resume from scratch can be extremely overwhelming, especially if you’re doing it after not needing a resume for a long time.

In this article, I will show you how you can break down this herculean task into seven simple steps, not just to avoid overwhelm, to come up with a masterpiece of a resume.

Quick side note: if you’d like a quick, two-page resume cheat sheet, which breaks down exactly how a marketing manager was able to double the initial offer they received, you can get your own copy by submitting your information right here:

 

Step one – Analyze Job Listings

Look for job descriptions for the kind of positions you’re interested in. This will help you address key employer needs. What key problem does the employer want you to solve? Jot down your answer to this question. At the end of this exercise, circle back to your notes. Have you ensured that your resume speaks to this employer’s need?

Second, it’s important to study job listings for keywords. Keywords are the gateway to an ATS-compatible resume. To ensure you pass ATS screenings, carefully read the job description. Copy and paste keywords and phrases you believe are most important for the job position. Are there any that overlap with your skillset? Jot those down; you’ll need to sprinkle those throughout your resume and use the content in your professional or educational experience to “prove” that you have each of those skills.

 

You can refer to this article to learn the difference between hard and soft skills and learn how to create an ATS-compatible resume.

If you’re struggling to keep your job search focused on one area, this article might help you break it down to exactly what you’re looking for.

 

Step two – Take Notes

Write down all the basic information you’ll be needing to complete your resume:

  • Choose a format: This is the format I recommend. This is a traditional no-nonsense format. It keeps things simple and focused on what the employer is looking for.
  • Contact information: Your contact information must include your name, email address, home address, phone number, and a link to your LinkedIn profile. If there’s any link to your portfolio or personal website, you include that too.

Places of employment and the dates: Google the companies you worked at and copy and paste information from their Wikipedia or About page into your rough draft. Working in a tiny bit of information about your target company into your professional experience can give more weight to otherwise anemic accomplishments. However, you have to make sure the information you provide is aligned with the company you’re interested in. If you’re unsure on how to do this, follow this detailed guide on how to write company descriptions for your resume.

Step three – Red Flags

“Red flags” are issues that can really handicap your candidacy if not dealt with properly on your resume because they tend to slow the reader down and draw attention to perceived imperfections in your candidacy. Here are some of the most common “red flags” job seekers have to deal with in this current job market, as well as the best way for dealing with them on your resume:

  • Demotions

If you’ve been a victim of company cutbacks or branch closures, you might want to hide your demotion. The first thing you need to do is get rid of dates. For example, if you were hired as a branch manager and later demoted to a sales executive, instead of dating both the positions, you can put something like this:

Hired as Branch Manager (short summary of duties here)

Accomplishments as a Branch Manager (list your achievements as branch manager here)

  • Employment Gaps

The best way to address employment gaps is by filling them with activities such as volunteer work, taking up certifications or courses, managing family assets or estates, or working on soft skills via groups like Toastmasters. Here’s a short article that I wrote on framing your experiences during employment gaps.

  • Job Hopping/Career Change

Employers are wary of hiring job hoppers because they come across as flighty. An effective way to prove to employers that you are loyal is to look for recommendations from your workplace and paste them at the bottom of your work experience. Here’s a detailed guide on soliciting the strongest possible recommendations from your previous bosses.

Step four – Accomplishments

Creating an impressive experience section is critical to enticing readers and keeping them engaged throughout the hiring process. The more quickly you can make the case that you are a highly skilled professional, the more leverage you’ll have during the salary negotiation process.

Create yourself a clutter of information you can put to use. This could be anything you can think of – anything that can be of use – for instance, a project you might have worked on, a specific problem you might have resolved, or goals that you helped achieve. Such concrete examples help establish authority over the skills you have mentioned earlier.

The list of keywords you created at the start will come in handy here. While you can get away with simply listing out the “hard” keywords, you should try to use your accomplishments to prove that you have the “soft” keywords. For instance, if you see the keyword “building successful products” as a soft keyword, you can prove that you have it by referring to a product you helped create in the past.

If you’re struggling with thinking of your accomplishments, here’s a complete guide on how to dig for them.

Lastly, don’t discount your volunteer experience. Volunteer experiences can really make the case for your hire or even help you get that promotion you’ve been looking for. Here’s a detailed guide on how you can use your accomplishments to better showcase your experiences.

Step five – Visual Center

Recruiters usually spend less than ten seconds on a single resume before moving onto the next one. It’s critical to grasp their interest using your visual center i.e. the top one-third of your first page.

The main objective of the visual center is to gain the reader’s attention in the shortest span possible. For that to happen, you need to focus it on the most relevant and important skills and accomplishments. If you’re having a hard time figuring out which part of your profile would be most enticing to recruiters, this article will show you how to make the perfect first impression using your visual center.

Step six – Education Section

If you’re a fresh graduate, in addition to your degree, you might also want to write down your most significant and relevant projects, internships, and subjects. Skip back to step four to learn more about how to “mine” your internships and projects for accomplishments.

If you have more than three years of appropriate work experience, you only need to mention your degree and university along with the year of completion of your degree.

On the other hand, if you believe your experience is not sufficient, you might want to fill out your education section in detail, too. Information such as your thesis, awards, scholarships, and even extracurricular activities can be highly beneficial, but only if they relate to your career goal. How do you know if these are going to be relevant to your reader or not? Skim through the list of keywords you created at the beginning.

Step seven – Reordering

The order of the information you include in your resume is largely flexible. You should reorder it according to what you think is most important. For example, if your volunteer experience is more relevant to the position and company you’re interested in, it should go at the top.

Similarly, if you’re a fresh graduate with little experience, you’re better off starting with your education, as that is your most relevant asset.

Apply the same criteria to content within experiences and other sections.

Following these simple steps will help you break down the mammoth task of writing your resume into smaller sections that can help you create a quality resume in no time.

 

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