Putting together a good resume takes some time, but the effort put forth will pay off handsomely. Over the years, I have seen a LOT of resumes. I am of the opinion that most people sit down in front of the computer and just start writing. Let’s call that a plan to fail. The more thought you put into the task, the better the results.
The information here is applicable across jobs, as well as industries. I focus on work at breweries, but have used these same principals for Accounting and Finance, Engineer, IT, Project Controls, and entry-level roles with success.
Ok, let’s start with the basics. You’re going to create a rough outline that will include everything you want to show up on your resume. Typically it is broken down into sections like Summary, Experience, and Education. I’ll walk you through the basics and then wrap it up with a sample at the end.
OBJECTIVE vs. SUMMARY
You may see people using an Objective on their resumes. I don’t. The Objective of writing and sending a resume is to be considered for a job opportunity. If Objectives are vague they do no good. If they are too specific, you run the risk of having a reviewer think you are ONLY looking for a very specific role and rule you out of consideration. In addition, you would have to change your Objective each time you send a resume.
My preference is to utilize a Summary. I treat this section as basically a free area where I can get on paper, what I want someone to know about me. I like three to five sentences that summarize your experience, industries you’ve been in, roles you’ve had, and possibly what you may be known for in the industry.
Unless you are just out of college and don’t have any industry experience, you should start by working backwards through your work history and experience. If you ARE just out of college, you start with your education, because that and your potential are really what you want the employer to see first.
So let’s assume you are experienced. You need to start with a blank piece of paper, list every job that you want to appear on your resume. Now you need to think back and list everything that you did in each of those roles (I mean everything). We will narrow it down later, but you really want to dig deep and be able to provide as much information as possible to start with. Typically the longer this process takes, the better the results. The reason is that if you spend an hour and jot stuff down, you may feel like you got it all and start moving forward and thinking about other issues.
However, if you look at it as a project and give it a week or two, your mind will be working in the background while you are doing other things and you’ll start remembering details about your experience. You might be in the shower and remember that software you used, or be driving and remember you won an award for safety. The point being that the more time and energy you invest in this process, the better the end results will be on the resume and in the interview. (I’ll cover that later)
For example, you might start off with something like this:
Company name years of employment
• Arranged products on shelf
• Supervised team
• Managed budget
• Tracked inventory
Now that you have the basics of what you did on paper, now you need to go back and quantify things and add in the details. If you managed a team, how many people were there? If you managed a budget, how much was it? If you improved sales, by how much or what percentage? A good bullet point has you taking some action, shows a result, and indicates how the result was obtained. It takes some effort, but you can do it in one or two lines.
So what you started with might wind up like this:
• Improved warehouse efficiency by arranged products on shelf by category
• Supervised team of 30 Customer Service Agents in 3 call centers
• Managed OPEX budget of $ 2 MM USD annually
• Reduced inventory of slow selling items 30% by tracking sales in Excel and modifying future orders
Pro tip: Each bullet point should start with an action verb. You want whoever sees the resume to feel like you were always doing and achieving something.
Once you have listed everything and then come back through and quantified things, it should be pretty clear which bullet points show some accomplishment on your part versus the ones that don’t make you look your best. So if you have things like:
• Attended meetings
• Wrote reports
Unless you can turn those into an accomplishment similar to what I have below, you can go ahead and get rid of them.
• Led meetings which determined the sales strategy of the organization
• Downloaded data from Oracle and utilized Excel to produce reports used by management to establish monthly goals
Keywords, keywords, keywords! When recruiters search for resumes or LinkedIn profiles for that matter, they utilize keywords to narrow down the number of resumes or profiles they have to review. They use keywords like names of software used, equipment used, standards like IOS9001, types of projects, or things like SOX.
Writing a resume is kind of like playing a game. You should write it so that a teenager can understand what you do. I say that because most recruiters do not have experience doing the work that they recruit for. So your job is to make it as easy as possible for them to understand. Their job is to figure out how a person that does your job would express themselves. Hence, the importance of keywords on both sides.
There are people who will put together a list of keywords in a distinct section of the resume, but my preference is always to have the keywords in the sections where the topic was actually utilized.
Always be proud of your service to the nation. I always find it useful to include your MOS as well as your job title from the service. You never know if another Devil Dog will be reading your resume.
Listing your rank E-4, O-2, or whatever rank you achieved helps other vets by giving them an idea of what you may have been responsible for.
Make sure (if true) that you list that you were Honorably Discharged.
Pro tip: Make sure you break down all the military jargon and turn it into civilian speak. For example, not everyone knows what OCONUS is or which Navy Ships are CVs, CVNs, LPHS and LPDS.
You’ll want to include the school, university, or college attended. Normally the year of graduation or completion is included. Then you would have the degree or certification earned. If your grade was between 3.0 and 4.0 you should add GPA and list that. Otherwise, skip that issue. Now, do you have anything that makes you stand out? Did you graduate cum laude, or make it onto the dean’s list? That should definitely go there.
A lot of times, people tend to stop with just the basics. However, a lot of traction can be gained if you had an interesting internship or school projects that can be related to the job you are seeking. For example, if you had an internship with a major brewery, you should add that. If a school project had you develop a marketing campaign for a beverage company that would be quite relevant and interesting.
ODDS and ENDS
Certifications and Licenses
Are you licensed to drive a forklift? If you’re going for a warehouse role that would be significant to add.
Are you an MCSE? Depending on the technology in use, that would be highly relevant.
Do you speak more than one language? You never know who may be seeking someone with that skill. So, if you speak two languages, you might say, “Bilingual – English and Spanish” or something like that. Both bilingual and Spanish would be keywords.
Are you a member of any professional organizations? Some examples would be the
American Society for Quality (ASQ) or the Project Management Institute (PMI).
One last thought as you decide what to include or not to include on your resume.
You NEVER want to provide any of the following:
• Date of birth / Social Security number / Photo of yourself / Passport number / Driver’s License number
Remember that once this leaves your control you have no idea who might wind up with it and what they might do with the information.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
You’d think I wouldn’t have to mention this, but alas, there are those who leave off this crucial information.
My suggestion would be to have your name in bold, centered on the page. The next line would be BOTH your phone number and across the page would be your email address.
Please refrain from using any email address that you find cute, or could be misconstrued. You potential boss will view this, so you really don’t want to start off with a bad impression.
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
And while you are considering first impressions, have you listened to your voicemail lately? Does it give the right impression? Would you want your boss hearing that message before even meeting you?
I know what you are thinking…….and you’re right. (Kudos if you can name the TV show I got that from) I left off the street address.
I do that for two reasons. One is that it would take at least one more line on the page. I’d rather use that space to provide more examples of experience or training. The second reason is that once this document leaves your hand, you have no idea who will see it, and where that information may go. I’d rather wait until I am in the offer stage and have the company that is making me an offer ask for my home address. Nobody needs it at this stage.
So, once you have everything you want on paper, and feel it is a good representation of yourself, how should it look? Typically, you want one to two pages, but if you have tons of experience (that is relevant and shows strong achievement) there are no actual hard and fast rules.
My recommendation is to just use a plain word document with no images or graphics because they can get jumbled up in the ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) that companies use and then the formatting gets messed up and the document you worked so hard on doesn’t look the way you intended.
The preferred format for the resume is bullet points. Why? Because people who review resumes are scanning for things that relate directly to the job and catch their eye. Scanning a block of text like a paragraph isn’t as easy as scanning bullet points. Remember, while this document is all about you, they may be going through 50 to 100 documents, so you need to do as much as possible to get them to focus on you and your achievements.
Pro tip: I added the definitions to the acronyms regarding the CDL Certifications. You never know the background of the reader, so you want to make sure they understand the information you are providing.
Pro tip: make sure your dates all line up along the right side of the page
So those are the basics my friends. I do run into some folks who just don't feel they can get all of this correct, or would just prefer to have some help. So, IF after reading this you still feel that you need help, I am offering Resume Preparation Services.