Imagine you are sharing an elevator with someone capable of landing you your dream job. You only have thirty seconds. What would you say? You probably would not talk about your high school paper route. Rather, you would likely talk about all the things you have done in your life that qualify you for that position.
Your resume should not be very different from your “elevator pitch.” Recruiters often spend less than two minutes reviewing a resume. So you better make sure it quickly and easily telegraphs exactly who you are and what you are looking for, while toning down less relevant information that can be distracting.
Here is how to do it.
1. The Planning Stage
Before you put the proverbial pen to paper, you need to outline your “story.” This will take a little digging and some thinking. Learn what you can about the position, i.e. the qualifications and skills required. Next, consider everything you have done or experienced that relates to those qualifications and skills.
2. Summarize Your Skills
Many people often argue over how to start the body of your resume. Should work experience go first or should you talk about your education? It is becoming increasingly popular to start off with a “skills summary” statement. Think of it like your elevator pitch. This summary statement is a great way to set the tone of your resume and begin crafting your desired narrative. Include meaningful experiences and career/education highlights directly relevant to the job you are applying to.
3. Revise and Tailor Work Experience
There is no cardinal resume rule that requires you to list every job you have had since the lemonade stand you opened on your parent’s driveway. Again, your resume should tell a story. J.R.R. Tolkien did not go into any lengthy details about Frodo’s favorite clothing or early childhood. It was simply irrelevant to the story. Rather, Tolkien focused only on the details that brought the tale to life. The same goes for your resume.
Do your work experiences and corresponding descriptions align with the role you are applying for? Or are they better suited to another position? For example, if you are looking to get into marketing, but your earliest jobs were all in sales, you may be doing yourself a disfavor by including them. In such a case, you do not necessarily need to remove all your sales experiences, but rather, make sure less relevant experiences occupy less space than what directly relates to your intended position.
4. Show, Don’t Tell
Show, don’t tell is a writing technique that uses language to help the reader experience a story through thoughts and senses rather than summaries or descriptions. For example:
5. Connect the Dots
A story needs a beginning, middle and an end. It is not enough to simply highlight all prior work and education experience related to the position you want. You must connect all the dots that link your skills, experience, and education together. This will show how you have progressed to where you are now. Darth Vader’s redemptive defeat of the Emperor is more significant if we understand his childhood on Tatooine, his tutelage under Obi-Wan Kenobi, and his fall to the dark side.
Think of it like this. How did your education prepare you for your first internship? How did that internship get you ready for your first job? How do your skills and passions support the career journey you are now on? Guide the reader through your resume, helping them see how you plotted a course to their doorstep.
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