“A computer is like an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules and no mercy”

Tuesday, April 21

Top 10 Keys to Writing a Brilliant Resume

For those of us who are looking, or those getting ready to look, it's time to update your resume. Since I have a LOT of recent experience with this, I thought I'd share the benefit of my hard gained wisdom.
  1. Make your resume unique. I don't care if you use crayon or write it on a napkin (though I don't necessarily advise this for IT guys, it would be terrific for a pre-school teacher or a bartender), do something to make it really jump out. What do I use on mine? Since mine is rarely seen except via digital image, cool paper doesn't matter. I used a lot of weird layout formats, tons of cells, etc. Make it unique to you, don't just use the default format or templates in Word. Everyone does that.
  2. Your resume is an ad. That's right, it's not a record of what you've done or what you know. Your resume is the way you sell yourself. Treat it like an ad you'd see online or in the paper. The more interesting you make it, the more likely someone will stop to read it.
  3. Make it interesting, but keep it professional. We all like lots of little tid-bits about what you did at Acme Industries, but honestly, what does playing on the golf league do to help you land that IT job? Make sure you don't use contractions. Write your resume as if you're going to be graded on it in college.
  4. Know your target audience, and aim your resume for them. I personally keep several copies of my resume. I've got one formatted for Office 2007, one for 2003, one in Open Office, one in .txt, some with cover letter, some without, some with references, some in .pdf. All of them have one thing in common. I've got sections setup in them that I type for each company I apply to. I don't shotgun out the same resume to everyone. I go for headshots by tailoring each one.
  5. Before shooting off that resume, be sure to do a little research. As I said in #4, customize your resume for the company to which you are applying. Do a quick web search to discover more about the company and their culture, and alter your cover letter and resume to fit.
  6. Don't confine yourself. If you're like me, you've done more than work 45+ hours per week. There are many, many more hours that you've been doing something other than work, yet most would never consider putting that stuff on a resume. Once you've figured out what your potential employer is looking for, see if any of your non-work activities can match up. If Sunday school or your former gang are the only places you have had a chance to demonstrate your special gift for teaching and leadership, fine. The point is to cover all possible ways of thinking about and communicating what you do well.
  7. A great resume has two sections. Most resumes are just a list of what skills you have and what you've done. *YAWN!!!* Smack yourself on the forehead if you've done that. Now, go back and make an assertation (hehe, he said a$$!) section. This is where you really sell yourself. Make your assertation section your ad. Hint at some things. Leave the reader wanting more. Leave them with a bit of mystery. That way, they have even more reason to reach for the phone. The assertions section usually has two or three sections. In all of them, your job is to communicate, assert and declare that you are the best possible candidate for the job and that you are hotter than a picnic on Mercury. All the boring stuff that backs up and proves you can do the stuff you say you can is in the evidence section.
  8. Be sure the objective is to the point. Do not use fluffy phrases that are obvious or do not mean anything, such as: "allowing the ability to enhance potential and utilize experience in new challenges." An objective may be broad and still somewhat undefined in some cases, such as: "a mid-level management position in the hospitality or entertainment industry." Remember, your resume will only get a few seconds attention, at best! You have to generate interest right away, in the first sentence they lay their eyes on. Having an objective statement that really sizzles is highly effective.
  9. Get excited about writing your resume. Most people know you have to have one of these things to get a job, so they see it as an obligation. They look forward to creating/updating a resume about as much as they look forward to doing their taxes. As competitive as today's job market is (and it's going to get worse before it gets better), your effort and desire to make a great resume really show up there. If you want to stand out from the nameless horde, be sure to get fired up about writing it. Make it fun, use those creative writing skills we all know you have (otherwise, how would that boring 500 page tech doc have gotten completed?).
  10. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, EVER USE COMIC SANS MS!!!!!! Everyone and their mother hates that font. If you feel tempted to use it, stop. Walk slowly to the door. Open the door. Place your hand on the jam. Slam the door. Repeat until the desire to use Comic Sans MS goes away. Trust me on this, you'll thank me. In my last job, the VP of HR loved this font and used it every opportunity she had (and probably still does). People IGNORED everything that came from her as a result. Everyone HATES this font.
Good luck and shoot me a message if you want to talk further.