Resume Primer

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If you’re a job hunter, chances are you have a permanent image of your résumé imprinted in your mind. You may find drafting résumés just as daunting as interviewing for a position.

The repetition and stress of drawing up a résumé can tempt you to just create a one-size-fits-all résumé and send it out, hoping for the best. This approach leaves your résumé poorly optimized to the job you’re looking for, so we don’t recommend using it.

In today’s article, we’ve compiled a few guiding principles to add some structure to your drafting process.

Catalogue your achievements

Before you get to the résumé stage, you should have a catalogue of your achievements from which to draw. You can get this by recording the roles, responsibilities, and achievements you’ve had throughout your career.

Did you complete a project ahead of time or under budget? Record it. Did you successfully mediate a conflict at work? Record it. Did you join your workplace’s Joint Health and Safety Committee? Record it.

This process has the added benefit of helping you remember what you’ve done. Think of it as a point-form professional journal.

You’ll want to organize this career catalogue for future use. I recommend setting it by job position>responsibility>achievements. Here is an example of what that might look like:

Fulfillment Team Lead

Order processing & shipping

  • Oversaw team of 30 shippers during peak season
  • Successfully shipped 30,000 units during two-week period
  • Implemented assembly line process to double productivity

Health and safety

  • Joined workplace Joint Health and Safety Committee
  • Gathered worker feedback to improve accident reporting procedure.
  • Helped communicate updates to staff

You’ve probably noticed that this looks very similar to the job description of a résumé. That’s because this catalogue can act as a master list of your achievements. Your time is better spent customizing your résumé than trying to remember and itemize your accomplishments on the spot.

Make it to order

The catalogue is meant to save you from having to rewrite all your achievements from scratch. Don’t, however, just copy and paste the information. Even in a similar field, no two job postings are alike. You want to use the job posting as a reference point for what you want to find in your catalogue. Find achievements that match what the company is looking for in the posting. From there, tweak the language in your résumé to match that of the job posting.

Use numbers

Wherever possible, back up your achievements with numbers. Which of the below is more insightful?

  • Averaged 130% of company target for customer service tickets per hour

or

  • Regularly exceeded company targets for customer service tickets

The second option isn’t a terrible choice, but the first option gives the reader a clearer picture of how well you performed.

If you can’t quantify your achievements, don’t worry. Just try to be as precise as you can about what you’ve done.

Hunt down keywords

Our world runs on keywords. Job hunting is no different. If you’re looking for a recipe online, you won’t leave out the name of the food. Likewise, if you’re applying for a position, don’t leave out those crucial words and phrases in the posting.

Some examples of keywords would be:

  • Software used in the job
  • Principles like “7 steps of problem solving” or “agile management”
  • Soft skills like “attention to detail”

If a company has written it into the job description, you can expect they’ll want to see those words come back to them.

When you include them, it’s best to add an example to back up your experience. For example, instead of just writing down that you know Microsoft Excel, you can say that you “used pivot tables in Excel to compare average shrink during peek months.”

Proofread

Even with professionals, mistakes happen. Give yourself time to properly vet what you have put on the page.

Use your first draft (yes, there should be more than one) to get the needed information on the page. Use your second draft to tailor your résumé to the job posting and cover your keywords. Finally, you will want to proofread your résumé. Check to see if the software you’re using has a reading function. Microsoft Word, for example, has a Read Aloud function that can help you pick up tiny errors you may miss on your own.

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