Posted on 1 November 2007

How to Write a Perfect Resume (My Final, Final Answer)

Written by Robert Merrill

Topics: Uncategorized

I have been getting emailed, tweetered, and even asked in person what a “good” resume looks like, and how not to suck at it. My advice is generally the same, and I thought I had blogged all of this, but I guess not.

The shortcut? Read Manager-Tools’ incredible audio-cast on the topic, Your Resume Stinks, and download their sample resume as a starting point. Seriously, these guys are gurus, and have much more experience than me. Everything else I say is built off what they say, so GO THERE FIRST.

However, since I am a supposed expert on this area (and I do have some opinions…) I am going to write more about this, in case you care to follow along. So, for the two of you still reading, here goes:

  • 10 recruiters/resume coaches/hiring managers will tell you 10 different ways to write a resume.
    Seriously. This is absolute scientific, statistical fact… kindof. But don’t worry. It’s not your fault, it’s just that resumes are not an exact science. They are extremely, highly, tremendously individual and personalized.
  • Your time and attention to making your resume perfect is inversely-proportional to the perfection others will see in it.
    True. No matter how much time you sink into the font-kerning of your resume, you will never, ever, ever, no-never have someone “appreciate” your resume for what it is. SO STOP PERFECTING IT.
  • Simple resumes work better than complex ones.
  • Ignore the advice. Use all the pages you need.
    Digital trees are not being killed off. Simple resumes are the best (see above), but telling your whole story is more important than having it fit all within 8.5 x 11 inches of my screen.(Do put it all on one page, however, if you’re applying to a company where they consider “email” and “www website browsing” to be “emerging markets”. P.S. If you are applying there, why are you reading my blog. It’s still 1995 for you… this won’t be published for 12 years!)

  • If your “Objective” statement sounds like the following, delete it NOW and never look back:
    “I want a great job at a forward-thinkin, profitable company that values their employees, where I can make a meaningful contribution in exchange for an above-average salary.”
  • Having a tagline or “mantra” statement is a good alternative to (see above) an “objective” statement.
    My favorite tagline ever is Peter Abilla’s, which he shares on his LinkedIn profile:
    “Massively parallel & *strong* bias for action.” It tells you right up front something of what he’s about.
  • Tell the truth always on your resume.
    There is nothing wrong with having employment gaps on your resume, or not finishing college. There is something wrong with lying about it.
  • Relevant work experience is more-important than all your work experience.
    Be selective here. If you are changing directions in your career (again)? Tell me why, (see objective statement) and help me see how your previous experiences are related to what you’re trying to do now. But, if you can’t relate them, kill them. Label this section “Relevant Work Experience” and leave that shoe-sizing specialist job at the mall you had off of the page.
  • Be unique.
    Sure, the pink hair you had in college is unique. This is not what I mean. On your resume, tell me the things nobody else on earth can claim about your job. For more on this, check out the cast I mentioned before (way up there) . For example, don’t tell me you “analyzed corporate databases for errors”. That sounds as boring as it probably was, and everyone else who will/has ever work(ed) there in that role did the same thing.

    • Did you discover anything that ended up saving/making the company money or time? (Well, you can’t make time, I think… if you figured it out, please call. I have money to invest!)
    • How much did you save or make? NUMBERS with Dollar-signs and percentages are very, very attractive in resumes!
    • Tell me about projects you took on that were bigger than your role, but you accomplished them.
    • Show me that you work with your managers/leaders (not a renegade!), but that you are prone to take on more than you probably should (and show marked success), and any hiring manager will sit up and pay attention!

That’s about it for resume-specific advice. Here’s a few bonus prizes though, for hanging in there:

  • Blog.
    You don’t have to, but why not? Come on, everybody’s doing it. Go to Blogger or WordPress and go! Choose a topic of choice that you’re passionate about and write something about it at least once a week. Heck, if companies like CareerBuilder are rolling out tools like CBWorkspaces (a self-promotion platform for you) then you (hirable talent that you are) should pay-attention. Blog Hint: Linking-to and posting relevant comments on other people’s blogs is the best way to get people to pay-attention to YOURS.
  • Be Sociable.
    Fine. Blogging isn’t fun for everyone. I’m over it. But, if you’re not going to blog, you should at least get on LinkedIn or Facebook. Remember, LinkedIn is your living professional profile, Facebook includes the stuff you do, and your personal life (and your “friends” can write stuff on your facebook page that you may not want employers to see). Carefully measure how much you want to intermingle them. Hey, it’s your profile. Rock it.

WHAT AM I MISSING???? Please comment, below

3 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. John Groth Says:

    I liked your outline on resume writing. After all this time applicants still don’t get it. Worked many years supervising staff that hired over 400 people a year. Ranging from engineers to warehouse workers. Resumes came in with typos corrected with crayon-really.

    Couldn’t agree more to quantify achievements on resume. The one thing I liked to see on the resume was an applicant who showed they took initiative. The fast food worker who suggested coming to work 30 minutes earlier so they could clean the parking lot when no cars were present; would always get a second look, an interview and probably would get hired.

    Besides initiative, we liked to see an individual who worked well with others. Experience working on teams with good results, or success with customer service issues were always a plus.

    Of course, the effective resume starts with proper career planning, whether it’s a first job, career change or promotion up the career ladder.

  2. robertmerrill Says:

    @john, thanks for your comment. I agree completely that candidates need to determine what they want to become. Waiting around for the right job to fall on you isn’t what anyone says they’re doing, but either writing a resume half-way, or trying to one-size-fits-all your resume into many different jobs is really the same thing.

  3. Robert Merrill Says:

    Just pulled up this posting from the archives to share with a remarkable candidate who has an forgettable resume. Is your resume remarkable or forgettable?

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