How to Write a Well-Organized and Targeted Resume
There is no perfect resume. Perfect is boring. Resumes should be interesting, catchy, and authentic.
When your recruiter looks over it, they should be astonished by the amount of activities you have done so far, but in the same time, interested in meeting you.
If there is no active interest, you will be just “another regular applicant.” And that’s never fun.
According to Harvard Business Review, proficient resume writing is essential when applying for outstanding jobs. In order to get an interview, that one detailed page must be exceptional.
It must highlight your accomplishments, yet it should not excessively praise them.
A well-written resume should contain the perfect balance between humility and confidence.
On top of the aforementioned characteristics, a targeted resume should be concise, brief, clean, and masterful.
It should be carefully designed, easy to read, and error free. Your resume is your business card. It could show professionalism, willingness to constantly learn, adventure, leadership, or quite the opposite: flatness and basic common qualities.
The decision to choose between the two ways recruiters perceive your resume lays in your hands.
So, make sure you take time and put in a lot of effort to create the perfect resume suited for you.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN WRITING YOUR RESUME
The key to writing a successful resume is being yourself. You must show your recruiters who you truly are, and display your best qualities according to that.
Trying to look “better,” “smarter,” or “with stronger skills” will only get you anxious. When you’ll show up at the actual interview, you must be relaxed and comfortable with who you are, not careful about what you say or how you act.
If you try to be someone else, there are two scenarios that might happen: in the first scenario, recruiters could notice your insincere behavior, in which case you’ll walk away disappointed and ashamed of your actions. You will never get the job.
In the second scenario, recruiters do not notice anything odd, you get the job, and might have an awful time at your working place; you do not actually meet the company’s requirements and the company does not meet your personal needs.
The purpose of interviews is to match employees with their best-suited jobs and work environments. If you lie in your resume, you neither give yourself the chance to find a job that makes you happy, nor do you maximize the company’s utility.
They could have hired a better-suited worker in the first place that would have been truly happy with their attributes.
Do not try to be someone else. There is really no point in doing that because all of the above reasons. Here are some crucial aspects to keep in mind:
Emphasize your evolution. Do not be scared to show off. Being proud of your development is not wrong. Do underline your accomplishments throughout the years and do explain how you’ve become the person you are today.
But be fair and honest about your growth! If there are things that went wrong throughout your development process, do not include them, but do not lie about them either, stressing that “things went great.”
For example, if your former job did not give you any satisfaction, avoid developing too much on the subject. State that you’ve been working there for a while, but do not get into any details.
If they ask during the interview, tell them the truth: you did not enjoy working there because X, Y, and Z reasons, and you hope that working for their company is different than working for the previous one.
Do not be afraid to be honest – it’s the only way to get what you need.
Do not be too harsh either. Being honest is a virtue, but do not forget about the society that we live in. We must be act diplomatically. Telling the truth about the former company is different than gossiping about all the things that went wrong.
As long as you did not come straight out with the reasons you quit and explained them to your former employer, avoid talking about this subject in your resume/interview. Be honest, yet fair-play. Everybody appreciates that in a person.
Choose a Resume Type
There are many types of resume formats you could choose from. Each one of them has a specific role.
Find out what you are looking for before picking your favorite.
Here are the main types:
Designed for: people evolving quickly career-wise. If you don’t spend too much time working for one company, this resume format might fit you the best.
Chronological resumes are best for those people applying for a position similar to their last one.
It shows advancement and development throughout the years, giving out all the necessary information requested by recruiters.
- Include all your contact information at the top of the resume. That includes name, full address, telephone number, and e-mail.
- Include a brief description of your goals right underneath your contact details. In the description, include the things you intend to achieve/learn in the near future. Set accomplishable goals! No recruiter will trust an applicant whose resume promises to change the world. It’s too much, and way too dramatic. Keep it short, and think about the most important, yet sensible qualities that you want to improve. There has to be something.
- Include personal work experience in a chronological order, starting with the furthest, and concluding with the latest.
- Highlight your promotions by designing a special section for them underneath each job description. Say your job title was “Sales Manager,” and your tasks consisted in increasing profits, dealing with customers, budgeting, and analyzing progress. You got promoted to “Sales Director.” Design a special section named “Accomplishments” underneath your “Sales Manager” job description, and add the details that contributed to your promotion.
- Include your education in chronological order if you have less than 5 years of work experience.
- Design a special section for your skills. Be brief, don’t spend too much time developing on it, even if you are proud of your results.
Designed for: people seeking to change their careers.
The functional format is not as popular as the chronological one, but there are still many people using it nowadays.
Its format is harder to scan, and the information included here is usually longer than the information included into a chronological resume. This resume format focuses on skills and accomplishments. Recommended for employees with ten years plus of work experience.
- The top of the resume is similar to the chronological format. Make sure to include name, address, e-mail, and phone number.
- The next step is brainstorming. Concentrate on your life experiences and personal growth. Ask yourself “What defines me?” or “What are my best qualities that fit this job description?”
- After you’ve come up with a list of various ideas, link them to your previous positions. How does “reliability” relate to your management experience? What are your main qualifications? What are you good at and why?
- Next, think about your skills. If, for example, you have “software skills,” do they relate to any of your previous jobs? Maybe your Google internship? Make a “skill list,” and relate them to your former work experience.
- Education is rarely included in the functional resume format – that’s because people using it have more than ten years of experience in their work field. Don’t forget to include your professional experience. Include start and end dates, and everything else that you find necessary.
Designed for: people who might be searching for a different field, and have accumulated multiple skills and qualifications throughout their careers.
Mostly used by recent graduates and people with employment gaps, like war veterans, travelers, or freelancers.
The hybrid resume is a mix between the chronological and functional formats. It emphasizes both your results and skills.
- Include all your personal information and contact details again. Don’t leave out anything, as mentioned previously.
- Because this format includes both professional experience and skills, you must be cautious with your resume’s lengthiness. If you keep information as long as you would in a chronological/functional resume, you’ll end up with a never-ending CV. That is disadvantageous, since recruiters do not have neither the time, nor the patience to read through it all. Thus, keep content brief and to the point if you want them to consider your application.
3. Track Your Growth
After you’ve chosen your resume format, it is time to put everything into place.
Your first step should be tracking your record and growth to see where you stand.
Here are some important questions to consider:
- Think about your success. When did you achieve your goals? What was the incentive that you needed in order to achieve them? How can that incentive relate back to your motivation? Why are you a motivated person, and why should the company hire you?
- Think about your productivity level throughout the years. Has it increased? What can you bring to the table? What special qualities do you have?
- Consider your former expectations. Have you met them? Is there anything that you’d have changed if you re-lived your experiences? Are you concerned about a specific skill that you might be missing? Tip: if the answer to the latter question is ‘yes,’ then add that skill that you’d like to improve to your personal description at the top of your resume.
- Remember your rewards and awards received throughout the years. Were you recognized for a special qualification? Where did you excel? How did you experience make an impact in your community (work place/home/neighborhood)?
4. Define Who You Are
“Dig deeper and find the greatest stories of your life,” recommends Harvard Business Review.
A good resume cannot be completed in one night. You must sit down and think about your past experiences. Take time to analyze your former behavior and come up with strong reasons why you deserve to be hired.
“Because I am good at it” won’t bring you any benefits if you cannot justify yourself.
You must have many convincing arguments. Confidence comes with self-analysis, so analyze yourself thoroughly when/before writing your resume.
If you are unable to remember everything, take a paper and a pen, and write down everything that goes through your mind. At the end, select the ideas/stories you consider the most relevant. Some helpful ideas to consider:
- How many jobs have you had? How many projects have you been involved in? Which one of those did you like the most and why? What was your role?
- What were some of the hardest moments of your life that you had to overcome? How do those moments describe your strength and commitment towards your work?
- What goals have you achieved and how?
5. Sell Yourself
Be aware of the fact that you are selling yourself when writing your resume.
Of course, that does not mean that you should lie, or make up facts that are not true – it only means you must think practically. You must become an incredible seller.
“Buying this product will bring you happiness” is what you’ll have to come up with. If your experience does not make you a good product, the company will not be happy enough.
Thus, there’s no chance they’ll hire you. You must be the perfect product they could buy.
And the only chance to become that product is to know how to sell your skills, qualifications, past experiences, and professional results.
Let’s see how you do that:
- What benefits is the company getting from hiring you?
- What’s something new that you could bring to the company?
- How are you going to improve their productivity?
In a nutshell: why you, and not your competition?
6. Do Your Research
If you want to become the perfect candidate for the job, research the company that you are applying to. Follow them on social media, and observe their values, work approach, and accomplishments.
Understand where they come from and what they are looking for in an employee. See if you find any similarities between their requirements and your aspirations and expertise.
If you don’t like what you discover, there is no need to pursue that specific position. You can always look for another job that fits you better. Do not go for the title, go for the position that makes you the happiest. Without happiness, success and enthusiasm won’t last long.
Our research proves that in order to be satisfied with your job, you must meet at least 70-75% of the company’s requirements.
So, research it well, and make sure you feel comfortable applying! If you decided to go for it, design a resume that meets their needs.
Creating a one-size-fits-all type of resume will be neither prolific, nor respectable. Different companies have different requirements. Thus, applying for one company will differ greatly from applying for another.
Another good method to research your company is networking. Making connections is a smart way of receiving insights from current employees.
These connections will open new doors for you, and will develop your perspective on the company’s features.
You might discuss and comprehend company’s policies better, and decide whether they fit your expectations or not.
More than that, networking helps you make new friends that might be willing to give you good recommendations in the future (and that’s always a good thing).
Tips on how to network:
- Keep an open mind
- Chat with random people
- Be sincere
- Do not keep score or track of how many new connections you make. Just do it.
- Treat your new connections as friends, not as “contacts”
- Keep an on-going relationship. Follow up as often as possible.
7. Use the Right Words
Recent CareerBuilder studies show that 68% of today’s hiring managers spend less than two minutes on average reviewing each applicant’s resume. More than 17% of them spend less than 30 seconds on average scanning one CV.
With such a short amount of time spent reviewing your resume, how could you possibly impress your recruiter, and determine them to invite you to an interview?
The answer is word choice!
If you choose your words properly, you can emphasize your distinctiveness and prove your value beyond question.
The best techniques to choose the right words:
Avoid passive voice. Use action verbs. According to the aforementioned study, the best resume terms to use are verbs such as “achieved,” “improved,” “trained,” “created,” “increased,” “managed.” You can see how all of the verbs presented above describe an effective action that took place in the past. The actions described are booming, influential, and most of them prove strong leadership qualities.
Choose a theme. If you are a hard-worker and an arduous, committed employee, emphasize these qualities by choosing words such as “passionate,” “involved,” “persistent,” “determined,” etc. The above qualities prove that you are a good listener and great at taking commands and executing orders. That might be what the company needs!
If, for instance, your leadership qualities prevail your personality features, adopt a different theme. Use words such as “problem-solver,” “manager,” “proactive,” “front runner.” You should look up the company’s requirements first, and then customize your skill set and choose a theme according to their preconditions.
Refrain from using clichés. Clichés are boring, useless, and cheap. There is no need to include them in your resume. Avoid words that overestimate your actions or results.
For instance, using words such as “specialized,” “experienced,” or “certified” are very common. Since they’ve been overused, they’ve lost their power. These words do not deliver any “special” message to the recruiter. Using them makes you “one of the other applicants,” which can be disappointing.
Use smart keywords. Instead of using clichés, focus on finding the right keywords. They will drag the recruiter’s attention, and even though their review time is short, your resume will certainly stand out.
- Search for the job ad again and get inspired from there.
- Be concise, do not use general words such as “marketer,” or “recruiter.” Explain words thoroughly, do not leave any room for confusion.
- Scatter keywords throughout the whole page, do not use all of them in one paragraph.
- Fit words into the right context. You can’t use keywords wherever, they must make sense in the context.
- Do not overuse them. It will be obvious that you’re trying too hard. Include a decent number of keywords. Too much of anything is never healthy.
Watch out for grammar mistakes. Using the right words without spelling them correctly is ridiculous. Pay attention to your grammar, and if you don’t know a specific word (but it “sounds fancy”), do not use it.
Do not try to impress your recruiter with something that does not define you. As I’ve mentioned before, be yourself, don’t be a copy-cat.
8. Include Evidence
We’ve briefly covered the “Accomplishments” section of your resume, but we’ve mostly talked about formats and technicalities. Now let’s see how you can display your work performance, and prove your impressive skills.
Follow the next steps.
Step #1: Brainstorm
While your brainstorm ideas, don’t try to put anything into perspective, just think.
Look over “Track Your Growth” section above and build on that. We’ve covered great content and questions.
Consider other questions as well:
- How have you improved your team’s productivity in the past?
- What’s something that proves your expertise in your work field?
- Is there anything that you’ve done towards decreasing costs and increasing profits at your former company?
- How would your former employer describe you? Would they be able to give you a good recommendation?
- Have you ever come up with a new, original project that has influenced your career?
- How has your creativity developed throughout your career?
Step #2: Choose the good examples
- Think about the time when you had to solve a difficult problem or make a challenging decision.
- What was the problem, and what was the solving process?
- Describe the outcomes and explain how your problem-solving skills helped you in your decision-making process.
- Expand on the impact your decisions and actions had at your working place.
Step #3: Show them numbers
“After you thought about your results and brainstormed various ideas, it’s time to quantify your results,” says Kevin Cordell, hiring manager at New York Times. “The problem you solved must have had a quickly-approaching deadline,” or “the great idea you had must have been difficult to implement.” Employees love hearing about this.
- If you implemented a new program, how long did it take to make it happen? How did you come up with the necessary items? How did you fundraise?
- If people did not show up to your presentations, how did you change that? What actions did you take? What original ideas did you come up with?
- If your team was inefficient, how did you determine them to work harder? What techniques and incentives did you use?
Giving good examples and quantifying results is very important. It shows responsibility and evidence that you are doing a great job, and that you are a valuable asset.
Remember, you always have to sell yourself to the company, so they must be aware of your accomplishments in order to recognize your success.
9. Create Your Outline
Now that you have an idea of what to include in your resume, how to emphasize your accomplishments, and how to brainstorm ideas, it’s time to create your outline and fill it out.
- You should choose one of the formats described above: chronological, functional, or hybrid.
- Pay special attention to the top of your resume. As I’ve mentioned before, you must include all of your contact details, and a personal description. The latter influences your recruiter’s willingness to proceed further with the reading. Thus, put some effort into making the “About you” section concise. Tell them who you are, and then point to the exact section they should look at if they’re looking for X, Y, Z qualities.
- Number your sections so it’s easier to point at them.
- Change your Yahoo! e-mail to a G-mail account.
- Include your special abilities at the top of the page. Answer this question: “What can I offer?” and answer it in the Summary section.
- Depending on the format, design your work history section/experiences and qualifications section properly by ordering them chronologically.
- Highlight keywords (Bold).
- Avoid writing about your soft skills. They’ll evaluate your personality and people-skills during the interview. To get there, you must show your best hard skills first. So, emphasize those in your resume.
- Use bullet points to describe the main ideas of your work performance or past experiences. Do not use long paragraphs. Ideas should be short and compact in order to be effective and easily readable.
- Include specific dates and details about your position. Writing something like “Manager at Samsung” is not enough. You should write something of this type: “Manager (include type- sales, HR, where?) at Samsung,” “your office’s location (not all the details, just the city and country if applying for a job overseas),” and “start/end dates.” Be specific! They must know whom to contact in case they want to check on you.
- Control the length of your resume. If it’s too long, they won’t read it, yet if it’s too short, they’ll think you don’t have enough experience to work for them. Make sure you keep a balance between the two. Find the middle ground. I’d say make it no longer than one page, but not shorter than 3 thirds of the page.
10. Final Step: Proofread It
Proofreading your resume is the most important step of the resume writing process.
If your spelling is inaccurate or your grammar incorrect, the company might not even look over it after they’ve notice the first mistake. Checking it and making sure it’s accurate is crucial.
Tip: do not revise your resume on the same day you’ve finished writing it. Leave a day in-between, concentrate on other tasks, and come back to it later.
Proofreading requires concentration and a lot of time, so you’d better be prepared for that or contact one of the best paper writing services, and they’ll give a professional advice.
- Use your computer’s spell checker while you are writing. That makes it easier to proofread afterwards.
- Choose a font that is easily readable and comprehensible: Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri.
- Don’t even think about using other font color than black.
- Print your resume before starting to proofread – read it like a hiring manager would. Pay attention to every detail.
- Use your finger to go over the lines. Highlight every mistake with a pink/yellow marker.
- Use a pen to change word order if that’s the case. Cross out the sentences you find useless. There should be nothing useless in your resume. There’s no space for that.
- First, focus on the information presented (that’s when you want to change words and phrases, cross out material). Then, go over it again, and this time, concentrate solely on your spelling.
- Check the small words like “of,” “on,”, “it.” People tend to interchange those sometimes.
- Check punctuation.
- Do not confuse words that sound similar (“effect” and “affect”).
- After you’ve manually corrected everything twice, go back to your computer and make the necessary changes.
Because this part is so important, you’ll want to ask for feedback. Send it to a close friend or a family member, and ask them to proofread it again.
Listen to their advice objectively, and if they’re right, make the proper modifications one more time. If you changed your format, double check it again and make sure it looks good.
Resume writing is not easy, especially when you want to have a well-targeted and organized content.
As a whole, the main key points to keep in mind are: be yourself, choose the resume format that suits you the best, track your growth and define who you are, do your research, use the right words, include evidence, create an outline, proofread your content, and don’t forget to sell yourself!
Respect all of the above and you’ll have one of the greatest resume on the job market.
About the author
McKinsey & Co, the Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Co, also known as the MBB in short or the “Big …