- Determine the focus of your resume. What kind of job or jobs will you be targeting? Your resume must target your desired career goal with precision. Job-seekers tend to forget that employers review resumes extremely quickly — often in just a few seconds. An employer taking such a quick glance should be able to immediately grasp what you want to do and have a sense of the value you can contribute to the organization. Your resume must focus on key strengths that position you to meet a specific need and target specific jobs/employers. In other words, employers give little consideration to one-size-fits-all resumes that aren’t focused on a job’s specific requirements.
- Decide whether you will need multiple versions of your resume in your quest to target different types of jobs. Since specifically targeted resumes are much more effective that “general” resumes, you may need more than one resume if you are open to more than one type of job. At the very least, you’ll want to tweak and customize your boilerplate resume for each job you apply for. See our Cover Letter and Resume Customization Worksheet. You may also need more than one resume format. While chronological resumes are the strong preference of most hiring decision-makers, you may be in a situation in which a chrono-functional resume would be more effective — or you may want to experiment with both formats. Read our article What Resume Format is Best for You?
- Identify the audience for your resume. Will it go primarily to recruiters? Directly to hiring managers? Will you use it mostly for networking and career fairs? Each audience will require small tweaks in your resume presentation. For example, you’ll probably want to stick to one page for networking and career fairs. For recruiters, provide substantial information about each organization you worked for and your reporting relationships. Research the preferences of your target audience.
- Brainstorm your accomplishments and results. Your resume must — with a future-oriented flavor — emphasize results, outcomes, and career-defining performance indicators. Using numbers, context, and meaningful metrics (e.g., previous years’ performance, competitors, counterparts, forecasts/projections/quotas, industry trends), the resume must paint a picture of you in action — meeting needs/challenges, solving problems, impacting the company’s big picture, growing the business, enhancing revenue, and driving profits. Concrete, measurable accomplishments are the points that really help sell you to an employer — much more so than everyday job duties. If you can achieve the important step of identifying your accomplishments, the rest will fall into place as you work through the remainder of this article. Read our article For Job-Hunting Success: Track and Leverage Your Accomplishments and use our Job-Seeker Accomplishments Worksheet to help.
- Compile your employment data. For the experience section of your resume, you’ll need the name of each employer, location (city and state), and dates of employment (starting and ending month and year). Resist the temptation to refer to employer-supplied job descriptions in composing your resume; job-description language is the antithesis of accomplishments-rich verbiage that makes a resume effective.
- Develop a branding message that you will execute not only in your resume, but also in all your other job-search communications. Today’s resume communicates a brand relevant to targeted employers. The branding expressed in your resume captures your career identity, authenticity, passion, essence, and image. “Branding is… best defined as a promise,” says my partner, Randall Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers,”… a promise of the value of the product… a promise that the product is better than all the competing products… a promise that must be delivered to be successful. Branding is the combination of tangible and intangible characteristics that make a brand unique. Branding is developing an image — with results to match.” If you have not already developed a personal brand for your job search, do so as you prepare to craft your resume. See our article Branding Your Resume and our branding resources.