Resume Writing: How To Win

In my last post, “Resume Writing: Why Is It So Scary?”, we reviewed some common reasons on why resume writing can be scary at times. In this post we are going to review some resume writing tips that will make your job application standout. My full resume template is attached at the bottom of this post.

Know What You Want

First, I want you to dream about what your ideal job is. If you could have any job on the planet tomorrow, what would that be? Second, I want you to be honest with yourself. Accurately identify where you are in your career. How many years of experience do you have? What goals have you achieved in your career? What types of companies have you worked for? How many people have you managed?

The first two steps are important because you have to know where you are going. If your dream is to one day be the Chief Marketing Officer for your organization, I want to help you get there. However, if you only have 2 years of marketing experience, then identify what the next job is that will help you build your work experience so that you can eventually reach that dream job. A great way to do this is to go on different job sites such as IndeedMonster, and CareerBuilder to see what level of experience different organizations are requiring for the position you are interested in.

 

Previous Work Experience

Once you have identified the next position you are going to apply for, it is key that you structure your resume appropriately. Begin by listing each relevant position and the time you were there.

It is really key that you only list relevant positions. For example, when I applied for my current position with Human Resources, I only listed my previous HR positions. I did not list jobs I held in college as they weren’t relevant to the job I was applying for. I also had enough HR experience to demonstrate my aptitude.

You might be asking yourself, “What if I don’t have any related experience?” In this situation, list the jobs that are most closely relevant and that really demonstrate your work ethic. For example, prior to becoming an HR professional I worked in a different field. When I applied for my first HR job, I listed 4 work experiences:

  • Job coach for individuals with developmental disabilities
  • Research assistant for an oncology program
  • Summer internship with a brokerage firm
  • Cook at my college’s cafeteria

I listed the job coach position because I was super passionate about it. It was also my most recent job and I wanted to demonstrate that I was working full time while completing my Master’s program part-time. I included the research assistant and summer internship positions because I wanted to demonstrate that I had previous experience working in an office setting. Lastly, I included the cook position because I wanted to demonstrate that I worked part-time during college. While none of these were related to HR directly, you can see that each provided valuable insight into my work ethic and skills that would help me succeed in the job I applied for.


You may now be asking yourself, “What if I don’t have any working experience at all?” In this situation, change the name of this section to “Relevant Experience” and list out previous volunteer experiences that you have. If you are new to the workforce and are applying for entry level jobs, highlighting you’re volunteer experience is a great way to demonstrate your skill set. A lot of the same skills you may have used volunteering through Girl Scouts or at your local church, are easily transferable to success in the workplace. Prior to having a lot of work experience, I used to include my volunteer work as a head basketball coach as well as my treasurer experience for the honor society I was a part of in college. While I didn’t get paid for either of these experiences, both experiences definitely involved leadership and attention to detail.

Responsibilities and Accomplishments

Now it’s time to list out what your responsibilities and accomplishments were at each one. This is arguably the most important part of building out your resume.

When writing out your responsibilities, identify the 10-12 most important responsibilities for that position-it is perfectly ok to have less. However, I would recommend not going over 10-12 as it could appear though you are “trying too hard”. You want to demonstrate that you can describe your impact at your previous employers in a concise manner. It is key that you demonstrate how you have impacted the business for the better (i.e., process improvements, cost cutting measures, revenue generating goals). Where possible, I strongly suggest that you use metrics to further strengthen how you positively impacted the business.

It is also extremely important that you review the responsibilities of the job posting when editing your resume. Where possible, match responsibilities and accomplishments from previous jobs with the responsibilities listed in the job posting. For example, if the job posting states that the incumbent will be responsible for EEOC reporting make sure that you put that in your resume if you have that exact experience. A lot of recruiters will perform keyword searches in the resumes they receive to see if the candidate has experience performing the exact responsibilities of the job.

Education

Next, you are going to put your education level. Some people prefer to put this section at the top of their resume. It honestly is a matter of preference. When I was applying for the entry level job in HR, I put my highest level of education at the top of my resume to highlight it more. However, as I got more relatable working experience in my field I decided to put it after the working experience section. I felt like this highlighted my working experience further.

It is extremely important to ensure that you are transparent with your prospective employer if you have not yet graduated from your program. I have seen people lose job offers because they indicated that they had graduated from the program when in fact they didn’t.

Relevant Skills

At the very bottom of your resume you are then going to list any relevant skills you have. This section should include software programs and any other languages that you are proficient in. This section is key because most jobs require proficiency in certain systems. Additionally, if a job requires someone who can speak multiple languages, you definitely want to highlight that you have that ability.

In conclusion, the key to resume writing is having a well-written, organized, concise account of your professional experience and skill set. Remember, companies essentially hire people on two factors: aptitude and attitude. In order to win at the resume game, you must demonstrate your aptitude. Your attitude/culture fit will be determined if and when you are brought in for an in-person interview.

Check out my recommended Resume Template.

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