Seven Ways to a Great Resume
Are you tired of applying for jobs and hearing nothing back?
It’s not you. It’s your resume that’s the problem.
I’ve helped countless friends get the job they want by giving them the courage to rewrite their resume (CV if you’re British) from the heart. These are my best tips.
1. Know what you want
Companies like to hire people who know what they want.
Before you write the first word of your resume, you need to figure out:
What am I good at?
What do I want to experience next?
Thinking is hard work, I know. Deep thinking like this, especially so. Many people skip this step and just start sending out CVs as they are, but this is a mistake.
Sending off resumes aimlessly may make you feel more productive, but the person reading it will instantly tell you don’t have a clue what you want to do next and skip your resume until they find someone who does.
So how do you work out what you want to do?
Switch off your phone, go somewhere quiet, close your eyes, and imagine yourself doing the work you love.
What does your dream job feel like?
In my experience, most people know what you want to be doing deep down, but are too afraid to imagine it in detail. Perhaps because your ideal job is radically different from the life you’re living now. Or maybe you’ve been told it would be impossible to make a living from.
It is too easy to listen to those who trample on your ambitions, or make excuses about the economy, age, lack of proper education, etc. People only say these things to make themselves feel better about their own lack of success.
You can find unlimited reasons not to apply for your dream job, but you will only be truly happy (and wealthy!) when you take a leap of faith and go for it!
2. Hook them with your introduction
The person hiring you may see a hundred resumes a day, so the first few sentences must grab their attention. It doesn’t matter how wonderful the rest of your resume is if nobody reads it.
Use the introductory paragraph to describe yourself and what you’ve achieved so far.
Now that you have taken the time to work out what you want to experience next, put this in your introduction. You don’t have to specify an exact role, but you do need to convey your desires.
For example, you could write “I want to use my French and German skills” or “I want to manage a friendly team of people who value each other”.
Help the employer to see you are the perfect fit for the job.
3. Show, don’t tell
Everyone is “a good team player”, “a fast learner” and “hard working”. But using these generic phrases makes you look lazy.
Tell a different story instead.
Give examples of how you’ve helped colleagues, how you’ve learnt something quickly, or that time you gave up a weekend to help the company move offices.
The more specific you can be, the better.
They would much rather read “I volunteer at a homeless shelter every Saturday night” than the empty-sounding “I am resourceful under pressure”.
Go through all generic-sounding phrases that could apply to anyone and replace them with specific examples.
4. Cut the corporate jargon
If your resume states that you like to “dynamically increase stakeholder participation” or “collaborate on multi-disciplinary initiatives”, then you will be right at home in a company that spews out this sort of meaningless garbage.
But I’m guessing this is not the kind of job you really want. So cut it out!
If you want to work with real human beings, write like one.
Confident people who have mastered their subject use plain English. People who don’t know what they are talking about use flowery corporate-speak to mask their lack of deeper understanding. Resist the urge to copy them.
5. One page is perfect
Your resume should fit on one sheet of paper, no exceptions.
No matter how many jobs you have had in the past, there is no law forcing you to document your life history - thankfully.
You only have a few seconds to show a busy person your best work, skills and qualifications. What are you most proud of?
Yes, some employer may ask questions if there are gaps in your resume, but you can fill in the details during your interview.
Remember: Every word in your resume exists for one purpose: to get you the job you want! If anything is not serving this purpose, take it out!
6. Eliminate potential concerns
Put yourself in an employer’s shoes for a moment.
Anticipate any concerns they may have and address them in your introduction.
For example, if you’re not a native citizen, say so in your introduction. Let the employer know you have the legal right to work in the country.
As a French citizen applying to a British company after Brexit, you could start by saying: “Hi, I’m Jean Paul. I’ve been living in London for 12 years and have Settled Status.”
If you don’t know the native language, describe the steps you are taking to learn it. Be detailed - don’t just say “learning German” - everyone says this. Instead say that you are taking German classes and listening to podcasts.
If you are applying for work in a different city to your home address, state up front that you are willing to relocate.
Anticipate any concerns an employer may have and try to soothe them.
7. Don’t be afraid to be you!
If you are funny, be funny on your resume.
If you are creative, make your resume look unique.
If you are an artist at heart, say so and include a link to your work.
If you went travelling, explain how the experience changed your life.
Not every employer is going to appreciate your authenticity. But do you really want to work for a boss who doesn’t? Hell no!
You only want to work with great people on your wavelength. People that allow you to be your full self. Don’t settle for less.
Bonus mini tips
Confident people write short emails. Insecure people ramble on and on.
Write for busy people
Get to the point. Edit everything, then edit it again.
Make it easy to read
Lay out sections carefully with plenty of whitespace.
Send as a PDF
This way you can be sure it looks the same on Macs and PCs.
Write as an equal
Phrases like “Thank you for taking the time to consider my request” sound ‘fake-formal’ and carry an air of subservience. Write confidently in a friendly tone.
You don’t really want a job. Nobody does. What you really want is to be happy.
That means you have to find a job you love that doesn’t feel like work.
If you feel you are trying too hard and not getting anywhere, stop!
Take a breath, and think about what you really want to do with your life. Give yourself permission to day dream. What did you want to do as a child? What would you do today if you had unlimited time and money?
It’s only when you stop listening to other people, and stop doing what you think you should be doing, that life will flow easily for you.
Trust your own feelings. There really is no other way.