I bet you thought Step Two was “Write a Resume.” A common misconception is that resumes are “one size fits all,” meaning you submit the same resume for all of the jobs you are applying for. Sometimes that may be the case, but that might not be the best approach. I’ll tell you why.
In this day and age, it may not be feasible for a Human Resources department to view each and every application, resume, and cover letter. Instead, agencies may use software to screen and sift through applications and resumes, by searching for key words. If your resume does not clearly demonstrate that you have skills as required by that specific job, your application could be missed entirely through this process. This doesn’t mean that you should copy the job qualifications list onto your resume. That’s actually a really bad idea. Rather, you should look at the required experience and qualifications of the job, and be creative in your approach to set yourself apart from other applicants.
What should you be doing to set yourself apart from others as you write your resume?
Recruiters want to know that you’ve done your homework on the company you are applying to. Ask yourself some of these questions:
- What is the company’s mission?
- Why do I want to work for this company?
- Why should they pick me above anyone else?
- What can I do for them that other applicants can’t?
- What kinds of traits or skills does this company desire from its employees?
Think about your work experiences, paid and unpaid internships, as well as volunteer and personal experiences. Then ask yourself:
- What have I accomplished that demonstrates that I have the skills I say that I have?
The answers to these questions can go into a professional summary at the top of your resume, before your relevant work experience, specialized skills, awards and honors, and education. You can also answer these types of questions within your cover letter. If you aren’t addressing these questions in your professional summary and you aren’t writing a cover letter to submit with your job applications, I strongly recommend you start. Find out more about the importance of the cover letter in your job search.
As important as a cover letter is, creating a resume comes first.
Here are a few suggestions for creating a resume.
- The top of your resume should include your name, personal telephone number, and email address.
- Tip: Your personal email address should be professional! The ideal email address would be either first and last name, first initial last name, or something related to your first and last name. This type of email address displays professionalism, but also makes it easy for a recruiter to pull up your email address by searching your name. Do not use your work phone or work email!
- Your resume can include the URL for your LinkedIn profile (see Step Four on Social Media and Networking). This is becoming increasingly popular, but, only do this if your profile is updated and complete.
- Your resume should highlight your relevant skills, accomplishments, education, and experience. Key word is relevant.
- Is it necessary to put on my resume that I babysat for two years when I’m applying for a job in Quality Assurance? No. This is a silly example but you catch my drift. Instead, if I wanted to, I could focus on the skills I used while I babysat that would transfer to Quality Assurance positions – such as trustworthy and dependable.
- Unless you are a recent college graduate, it isn’t necessary to put the year that you finished high school or a GED program, or college as this could draw unnecessary attention to your age.
- If you have recently completed licenses, training, or certifications that pertain to the job you are applying for, it may be beneficial to mention the year since this shows recent education related to your job goal.
Format and Layout:
- Your resume should be limited to one page, unless you have more than 10 years of relevant professional experience, then 2 pages max.
- You can format your resume in more than one way.
- If you have gaps in employment, or if you are trying to transfer to a new career, a traditional resume format may be unappealing. Find out more about chronological, functional and combined resume formats.
It’s unlikely you’ll need to start from scratch with a resume each time you apply for a job, so don’t be overwhelmed! You may simply modify your resume for different jobs you are applying to. As soon as you have an idea of what to do and some key points in mind, you might find that it’s easier to write your resume than you thought!
Here is a listly for an online tool for resumes and cover letters. Also included is one way to find in-person help with resumes and cover letters via American Job Centers.