How to Write a Resume That Doesn't End Up in the Trash
by Luis Rocha
Nov 15, 2017
Six Second Rule.
Having an impressive and easy to read resume is one of the simplest ways you can improve your odds at scoring that sweet office job. It’s also one of the hardest. A resume is meant to be an anthology of your collective skills relevant to the job you’re applying to. Recruiters, however, have a lot to sift through and will only spend an average of six seconds looking at your resume before tossing it in the trash if it isn’t up to snuff. With this in mind, it’s crazy important that you make a good first impression in those precious six seconds. Here a few easy ways to do just that.
Keep it simple, stupid.
Say it with me now: “keep it simple, stupid.” Oftentimes, applicants try to reinvent the wheel and cook up what they consider a revolutionary new format for the resume. They throw in six different fonts, two infographics, and 3 columns with poor data architecture. A recruiter takes one look at this and, realizing he needs to read a manual on how to even decipher this thing, tosses it in the trash.
Your resume should follow traditional formatting conventions. Find a basic but attractive template online and work from there. As far as content goes, it should quickly communicate the following:
- Who you are
- What you know how to do
- What you've accomplished
- Where you learned how to do it
Many people include an “objective” section, where you give a brief blurb about the kind of job you want and why you want it. I personally think you can leave it out, as you can go into greater detail about this in your cover letter and connect it to that specific company’s mission (we’ll talk about cover letters more next week, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter to stay up to date).
Summary: Who You Are
You summary section may also be referred to as your elevator pitch. It is a blurb that tells a hiring manager about the value you bring to the company in the same amount of time you’d be on an elevator with them. This section should convey the following: what your title is/will be, what you’re skilled at, why you enjoy what you do, and perhaps a small quip that extends on who you are or the attitude you bring to the job.
As you learned last week, I love speaking in analogies using cartoon characters as examples. So this week let’s take a look at what Spongebob Squarepants’ summary section might look like:
Head fry cook with over 14 years of experience in managing operational aspects of fast food. Skilled at creating burgers that are healthy, delicious, and filling. Possesses a strict adherence to health standards and an excellent attitude. Committed to the satisfaction of the diner.
The customer is always right.
This is the perfect summary. Spongebob gives all the necessary details while humblebragging himself towards another 6 seconds of a recruiters attention.
Skills: What You Know How To Do
List anything you can and have done that will help you crush this particular job. Tailor it to the role and the description on the job listing. For example, if the job listing states they are looking for someone who can work a deep fryer, and you have a basic understanding of a deep fryer, well you better freakin’ list it under your skills! Spongebob may be more proficient in using the grill, but if the job listing doesn’t explicitly state grilling as a necessary qualification then it is of less importance.
This is a great place to keyword stuff. Oftentimes, the first person to read your resume is a recruiter or HR Manager who doesn’t know how important certain skills will be in your day to day. They will possess a very basic understanding of the role and the jargon surrounding it. Throw in any industry buzzword into your list of skills AS LONG AS ITS HONEST. Don’t advertise that you’re proficient in Excel if you’ve never opened the app (you know who you are).
- Bikini Bottom Food Handler's Permit
- Expert on the grill and deep fryer
- Skilled in utilizing different kinds of knives, appliances, etc
- Neat, clean, professional appearance
Experience: What You've Accomplished
THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE RESUME. This is where you detail your past work experience including: where you worked, what your title was at that job, how long you worked there, and what you accomplished. Notice it says “what you accomplished” rather than “what you did”. A common and costly mistake that applicants make in writing their resume is giving a basic overview of their duties at a previous job rather than the way they CRUSHED those duties. Of course Spongebob grilled burgers while working as a fry cook at The Krusty Crab. Duh! What’s more impressive is how he managed and delivered thousands of grill orders at once for a mob of anchovies with no prep time.
Have a little fun in this section. Humblebrag. Name drop. Toot your own horn! Any job worth having is going to a competitive applicant pool, so be creative in finding ways to tell this company that you shine amongst the competition. You may not think you did anything remarkable at your last job, but I promise you that if you take some time to reflect you’ll realize the depth of your contributions.
The Krusty Krab Fry Cook: 1999-2017
- Entrusted with top-secret, proprietary recipes worth millions of dollars.
- Operated large-volume cooking equipment including grills, deep fryers, and griddles while never having an accident on the job.
- Consistently received top scores from the county Health Department in sanitation, health, and safety.
- Once served a mob of thousands of hungry anchovies by cooking hundreds of burgers a minute without messing up a single order.
Education: Where you Learned How To Do It:
This is very straightforward. Where did you receive your training? Was it university? A trade school? Both? List it here along with the dates you attended, field of study, and any notable accomplishments you made while attending.
Self-study has become a more viable form of education in recent years. However, when you’re self taught with no experience in your desired field you’re in a bit of a puzzle. The key here is to really focus on your skills section as well as showcasing your abilities through personal projects. This will be easier for self-taught developers than say self-taught marketer, but you can always find pro-bono clients and develop online case studies based on the way your services helped them. Get creative!
Bikini Bottom School
Bachelor’s Degree, May 1993
- Graduated with honors
- Captain of School Band
- Founder of School Cooking Club
How to Tailor Your Resume to the Role
A recurring theme I’ve been trying to drive home throughout this post is to TAILOR your resume. You should be re-evaluating your resume each time you send it off and compare it to the job listing. Doing this is quite simple. Thoroughly read through the listed requirements and responsibilities. Any time you come across something you have experience in, add it to your resume wherever possible.
For example, a job listing for a position as a social media manager might state that your daily responsibilities include drafting and posting Twitter and Facebook content, while another might say that you’ll be in charge of pushing content already written by the marketing team. For the first listing you’re better promoting your creativity and intuition for high-performing content per platform. You’ll want to showcase posts you’ve created that have generated a lot of revenue or engagement in a previous role. For the second listing, you should put an emphasis your managerial skills and the way you have a proven history of balancing multiple projects with multiple deadlines at a given time.
Think about what a company is explicitly saying they WANT in their job listing and mold yourself to that role.
A resume is a small but instrumental piece of the job-hunt puzzle. It sums up your entire professional existence. You are now armed with the knowledge that will prepare you to create an amazing resume that will guarantee you a callback. You will be able to avoid the common pitfalls and oversights that inexperienced job-seekers make.
For added inspiration, below is a link to my resume that got me my current job. Notice the way I follow the tactics above. And yes, I sent it off WITH A TYPO! Oops! Just goes to show you that a strong enough resume will get you an interview every time. Click here to see my winning resume.
I realize that there are more components towards getting you dream job and I plan to lay out a blueprint for you to help you land that job. Make sure you subscribe to my e-mail newsletter or follow me on Instagram or Twitter to keep up with my blog posts and get more tips towards accomplishing your dreams and getting that career that you already deserve.