Updated August 23, 2019
One of the most challenging and time consuming parts of the job search is resume writing. If handled correctly, resume writing can be a quick and painless job search activity. It can also increase the number of interviews you land. You don’t have to be an expert to write like one, but you do have to present an expert-looking resume. In this post we’ll share why resume writing is so painful and 10 resume writing tips that will make your job search easier and more effective!
Why Resume Writing is So Painful
Resume writing is a necessary evil in your career. It can also be a big job search distraction if you find you’re not hearing from recruiters or hiring managers. In addition, resume writing requires you to set aside time you don’t have and then take a mental jog back to [INSERT last time you updated your resume]. If the last time you updated your resume was over a year ago it takes a super-human mental jog or even a mental marathon. Resume writing requires you to write about you, or attempt to craft strings of buzzwords that read nothing like the professional you are. Fortunately, there are some easier ways around this painstaking ritual. I’ve polled my resume writing experts and here’s what we recommend for navigating resume updates with ease.
1. Schedule quarterly or annual resume updates so you don’t forget valuable details
Serious career-minded professionals, strive to stay on top of their career management at all times. However, this is easier said than done. The resume is one key piece of career management that should not be neglected. You never know when a recruiter will come calling for your resume. Recruiters work quick. If you aren’t ready to hit “send” then you may lose their attention. Most people don’t bother with resume updates until they end up in the job search. Then, they scramble to add the most recent experience and fit it all onto 2 pages. In my experience, this never ends well. Most people forget all of the great accomplishments they’ve achieved over the course of a role – especially if the role lasted several years. There are tons of rich details, tasks, and relevant pieces that go into your role. Some of your best content, keywords, and professional branding pieces lie therein. Jogging your memory back more than 1 year will likely result in lost content. This is where regular resume updates can be extremely valuable.
Schedule 1 hour a year to bring your resume to current. If you struggle with an annual memory jog, schedule your resume updates quarterly. Setting aside a few minutes to make ongoing updates will keep you on top of your career. This will also drastically reduce the amount of time spent updating your resume when you find yourself in the job search. If it was a pretty normal year at the office then this should take no time at all. If you experienced a lot of changes in your career then it will benefit you even more to capture everything in writing sooner rather than later. Essentially you will be laying the groundwork for a resume-ready year ahead! Set your calendar alert and tackle your resume. You’ll be glad you did!
2. Save your old job descriptions to present a more polished background
Job descriptions are a key part of capturing your actual experience. Therefore, you’ll want to save your old job descriptions in your career management file. There are a few reasons why old job descriptions help with resume writing. First, they capture in HR-friendly writing, the job you have been doing. This will help to eliminate a grueling memory jog on your part. Second, job descriptions will help to do the writing for you! If your job description was accurate, you are doing exactly what it states on paper. Therefore, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel to capture great content. Finally, the job description will include critical keywords that you’ll need for your resume keyword section and throughout.
Create a gmail folder or paper file (if you’re not yet cloud savvy) for career management paperwork. Once you are hired for your next job, file away your job description for when you make resume updates. You’ll be glad you did! If you’re late to the game and haven’t been saving job descriptions, never fear! Many companies post/re-post the same jobs in which case a simple google search should bring up your old job spec. Search by the exact job title and company name.
3. Use your target job description to communicate fit increase your interview-land rate
In addition to using job descriptions to update past experience, they are also extremely valuable for positioning overall fit for your next job. One of the number one mistakes of every resume I review, is a lack of fit. Professionals at all levels, and across all industries struggle to achieve fit when applying for jobs. Since the hiring manager or recruiter are interested in someone who can do the job, achieving fit is incredibly important. If you’re applying for jobs and not landing any interviews, you’re probably not using the job description effectively. Job descriptions are one of the most under-utilized tools by job seekers. They contain valuable information and keywords, directly from HR or the hiring manager. Hiring managers and HR are skimming hundreds of resumes along with your. If you don’t understand how to read job descriptions and speak to them in your resume or cover letter, you won’t attract their attention. You need to really dig into the text and understand what the job description means.
Before you apply to a job, check your resume against the job description. If they do not use similar language, you are likely not a fit. If you are not communicating your achievements around the job descriptions key requirements, you are also not going to be a fit. Spend time reading the job description and underlining keywords, tasks, responsibilities – anything that seems important to the hiring manager. This is your key to getting inside the hiring manager’s head so don’t take it for granted!
4. Make your resume ATS-ready and avoid landing in the auto-trash
Another reason job descriptions are so useful, is that they help you avoid Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS’s. If you’re applying to jobs online, you will encounter an ATS. An ATS is resume scanning technology that automatically accepts or rejects your resume based on information you provide. The ATS is designed to screen you out and can be tricky to maneuver. However, an ATS is not impossible to outsmart. An ATS is designed to help employers identify and eliminate unqualified job candidates. A type of software application, an ATS assists in managing the recruitment process by sorting through resumes. While human recruiters often conduct an initial review of resumes by looking for spelling errors or missing skills, Applicant Tracking Systems use keyword searches to accomplish the same task.
There are a number of ways to ensure your resume doesn’t end up in the trash. The simplest one would be to check your resume against an ATS scanner. There are plenty of free/low-cost ATS scanner services available.
5. Spruce up your resume’s visual components to attract more recruiters
The job market today is highly competitive which means you will be applying to your next job along with hundreds of other applicants. Before you make it into the hands of the hiring manager, you will likely be subject to a resume screen by a recruiter. Since recruiters scan resumes all day, they have a very limited attention span. Therefore you want to make sure your resume is visually scannable. If it’s not, no amount of keyword crafting will help your resume to stand out from the crowd. Fortunately for you, there are tons of free and low-cost resume templates available online! Be sure to download my template if you haven’t already! Don’t be afraid to add a spruce of color and bring your resume up to modern trends. For a good example of visually scannable resume, see my before and after example (halfway down the page).
There are also a slew of DIY resume building services available. However, it’s important to discern each application situation individually, when deciding whether or not to use a highly stylized resume-builder resume. Otherwise, you may be committing fatal application errors unknowingly. There are some times when a designer resume is absolutely not appropriate so be aware.
When deciding which resume template to use, consider a few things. First you want to make sure your template is ATS-optimized. Second, you want to ensure that it is attractive to the recruiter’s eye. Their eyes are the ones that count most. Before you consider running your resume by a close friend/colleague for feedback, search for a recruiting contact to take the first scan. They will be able to tell you whether or not your resume works at first glance. When in doubt, be sure to download my template from this blog post sidebar – which contains both ATS optimization and recruiter scan power!
6. Eliminate fluff and beef up your bullets to communicate results
Bullets make up a significant part of your resume. Yet in my experience, they are usually the weakest read. Most job searchers just add a list of day to day tasks without focusing on results. Hiring managers and recruiters typically know what jobs consist of in terms of tasks. However, they don’t know how you performed those tasks better than your peers. They also don’t know how you performed those tasks in a way that thrilled your boss and landed you the promotion. It’s worth taking the time to rework your bullets into high impact, results-oriented statements.
Focus on achievements and not on the task. After reading through your current list of bullets, ask the question, “so what?” This should prompt you to complete the sentence with a result. If you are struggling to come up with your results, recruit the help of a more senior professional. Someone who is more senior will have a stronger sense of what is meant by “results” and be able to prompt you accordingly.
7. Download a user-friendly grammar and spell checker to do the work for you
Your resume is your one chance to create a stellar first impression. It’s important not to waste that chance with a careless typo. While you may be a grammar guru, I still encourage finding a tool that checks your writing on auto-pilot. We live in a world where we are constantly shooting off emails. The last thing you want to do is make a spelling error while communicating with a key networking contact or hiring manager. This would likely jeopardize your chances of being considered for the job. The same goes for your resume. One error and you will lose a valuable opportunity. It’s totally not worth the risk!
You may not be the perfect speller, but fear not! There is a great tool available to help you overcome resume typos. One spelling and grammar tool that I recently discovered and LOVE is Grammarly. Grammarly starts to work immediately after installing the free version on your computer. To my delight, it has worked out much better than spellcheck. Grammarly corrects your spelling, grammar and other writing mishaps across Gmail, WordPress, Linkedin, and Google Docs, to name a few…
8. Commit to one resume and stop all the rework
One of the biggest traps for job searchers can be resume writing. This usually happens when you ask your friends or family to conduct resume critiques. Since none of these folks are professional resume writers or recruiters, you’ll end up getting never-ending resume critiques. As a result you will start to write and rewrite your resume after every critique. You will also start to feel overwhelmed and confused. Ultimately, you will be spending way too much time on a low-value activity that will never prove fruitful in your search. The reason it is not a good idea to have your resume reviewed by friends/family is this: they are not hiring managers or recruiters. Therefore they will be giving you their opinions instead of solid hiring guidance. If you are receiving a resume critique from someone very senior, keep in mind they may not be aware of all the latest trends (and things like ATS’s).
Resume writing is very subjective. It’s subjective to the reader, therefore it can be tricky to get it exactly right. However, professional resume writers (especially writers with hiring/recruiting expertise) know how to see your resume through the hiring lens. Professional resume writers write across all industries and are very adept at getting this part of the job search right! If you want to spare yourself hours upon hours of frustration, have your resume reviewed by a professional writer. Send your resume and a copy of your target job description to [email protected] for starters! Then, create 1 master resume as your go-to template. Tailor all of your other resume versions using strategic resume tailoring best practices.
9. Brush up on all the latest resume trends
Resume writing has changed over the years. If you’re still using the template from your college career services department, you might be missing out on the latest trends in resume writing. Hiring has changed and so have resumes. Therefore you need to present a resume that is on-trend. Without knowing the latest resume trends, you will look like an out-of-touch candidate. This can be especially damaging for 50+ job seekers hoping to combat ageism.
Skim the headlines of the NG Career Strategy Blog resume category for the latest in resume trends. Other trends people seem to miss out on? Be sure your resume has a Keywords section. Omit the Objective section and replace with a career summary. The biggest offender is that of your references. Never include “References available upon request.”
10. Hire an expert to write your resume and avoid all the hassle altogether!
The easiest way to avoid spending way too much time on your resume, is to hire someone to write it for you. This can be a difficult bullet to bite especially if you’re one of those people who likes to do everything yourself. However, the benefits of hiring someone to write your resume for you might be just the solution you need. If updating your resume is causing you to drag your feet and keeping you from leaving your job, you’re better off outsourcing this task. In addition to getting out of this dreaded task, you’ll save a ton of time and energy. Just think: you won’t be second-guessing whether or not you are doing your resume justice! You may even be able to write off this job search expense next time tax season comes around.
If writing isn’t your thing and especially if you are making a major career change, save yourself the trouble and get someone to do it for you! Investing in a professional resume writer to create the perfect brand and set you apart from the competition is a worthwhile investment. Most professionals are not equipped to create this unique marketing document that continually evolves with the hiring landscape. It can be a life changing experience as it will accelerate your job search in ways you’ve probably never experienced! Do your research and find the best resume writer for you. Then, give it a try!
If you want to be fully prepared to apply for jobs, with a keyword and ATS-optimized resume, check out our best-selling package, The Works. It covers all the bases—resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and a 30-minute phone consult with one of our resume writing experts—to give you the best chance at getting hired.