Writing your resume can seem like a daunting task. It is rather tricky to know where to start to say the least. There are certainly a few things that you will need to bear in mind before you start writing.
Planning is everything; to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail. I know many people who swear by this seasoned mantra for a good number of reasons, the most prominent of which is that it is true.
Writing comes later. A document that so completely represents you as a prospect should be given the time, care and attention it deserves. If that means that we spend more time wearing the proverbial thinking cap then so be it.
This is by no means a definitive rundown of the pre-writing process but, hopefully, it will focus the objective of your resume and streamline the process of writing it.
Start with the end(s) in mind
What do I want to achieve? The resume is a means to an end; it helps you get to where you want to go. Knowing exactly where that is helps massively.
If your dream role is clearly mapped out in your head it is easier to relate your strengths to the requirements of the role and make a case for your employment. In a lot of instances it is not about how inherently ‘good’ a resume is; rather it is more about how relevant it is to the position.
Because we can be anywhere from ‘dead set on working in a particular industry’ to ‘entirely unsure of what the future holds’, our resumes also have to be extra-versatile.
An effective resume is part of a bigger picture. Someone who knows their way around writing one can produce anywhere between 2 and 6 different (or similar) versions. This ensures that each application can be as tailored to the role’s requirements as possible.
For example, a jobseeker may have a ‘flagship’ resume with two alternative adaptations to suit either a creative or managerial position alongside a different version intended for a related role in another industry.
This kind of model shows a well thought out plan that caters for numerous eventualities and takes into consideration the needs of each. Starting with a variety of ends in mind allows your application to be even more specific and multifaceted.
We can go beyond looking good to exactly what they are looking for.
Plan a brand or service
Perhaps one of the single most successful methods of making a commodity seem appealing is by making it distinctive.
A commodity is, by definition, a unit designed to fulfil a certain task. The unit itself has no qualitative differentiation. In other words, all of the units are the same and interchangeable. Examples include currency, crude oil, wheat and coffee beans etcetera.
In order to de-commoditise Coffee beans, for instance, we make them different; we single out traits characteristic to those particular beans that make them dissimilar to others.
In many ways jobseekers are a commodity to the employer. We are units assigned to carry out certain roles and responsibilities. We are a numerous and interchangeable, but, we too have the opportunity to set ourselves apart.
The resume gives us a chance to celebrate the specific combination of skills we have. It allows us to brand ourselves, to step away from being a commodity and towards being a product.
Planning a resume with the delivery of a service in mind comes across as more professional and more compelling.
You need a core idea of what you can offer so you can then go on and build outwards from it. It might be that you are committed to meeting quarterly sales targets.
You can reemphasise this and work around ideas of how you go about achieving your goals.
The key here is continuity. The consistency of a brand is not only an exception to the norm; it is also easier to understand.
There is a very good reason why pretty much every prominent organisation in the world celebrates their brand.
Decide on a Visual Theme
So you should never judge a book by its cover but, in certain circumstances, the cover is all there is. The head of recruitment only ever sees the cover; your resume.
Strictly speaking, a job application should be more of a synopsis than a title page, regardless, it needs to look appropriate.
It is all well and good producing a colourful resume with an array of pictures documenting your graduation party and a chance meeting with your best friend’s dog. It’s whole-heartedly eye-catching yet wholly unsuitable.
It is not impossible to create something that is both striking and professional but, to do so; we need to make sure that there is a continuous visual theme.
This means a splash of colour in a border or under a title section. Perhaps it recurs throughout the document in all the same places with a tasteful combination of saturated and pastel ornamentation. Perhaps there is a very specific, subtle use of the colour red where you might not expect it.
The beauty of designing your visual theme is that it is up to you. As long as it is professional and continuous, you have free reign over a resource many competitors don’t even think of using.
If you are unsure about how to design your resume’s visual layout, our Resume Builder has a choice of 9 different, professional templates to get you started.
Research role and educate
You can never know the ins and outs of a prospective job too well. Going that extra mile to ensure a detailed understanding of how to exceed expectation is appealing to the employer.
During your online job search, you might find that many search engines churn out different iterations of the same role.
Maybe the role is for a different company with slightly different responsibilities and situations, but many of the key requirements remain the same.
Seek out experience in the recurrent skills by any means necessary; develop them into your strengths.
Voluntary work, internships and qualification courses are all excellent ways to galvanise a given set of abilities and diversify your experience pool.
Refining your characteristics with a specific role in mind makes for a very intensive planning process but it does systematically prevent shortcomings on an ability based level.
Any criteria that are prominent enough to appear in the vast majority of adverts are clearly essential to the role and the progression of your career thereafter.
Know what you don’t want
It probably goes without saying that not many people would have particular aspirations to be the Chief of Antarctic sales for Ice-O-Matic™.
Knowing what you don’t want is easily as important as knowing what you do. It is essential to bear in mind what roles and responsibilities you are comfortable with, what distance you are willing to travel and what sort of contract you are looking for.
Are you able to relocate? Do you have appropriate means of transport? Do you have any other commitments that could limit your availability?
Each of these decisions will shape both the writing of the resume and therefore the nature of the role applied for.
It also pays to know the limits of your ability. If you intend to customise your resume to appeal to a certain role but you are unsure about some of the responsibilities that come with it, look into ways that you could improve a corresponding section of your skill set.
Similarly, you could also look for roles that encompass different areas of expertise and start to redirect the planning process accordingly.
In a job market with such an extensive array of choices, ruling out certain roles can be a good thing. Eliminating some of our options allows us to accommodate the needs of a position more specifically.
Wouldn’t it be superb if your CV stuck in their mind because a summary drew their attention to everything that they would need to know?
Obviously, summing things up isn’t everything; don’t claim to be something you’re not. Everything needs to be backed up further along the line. It is about welcoming the reader to your resume-lobby and inviting them into the rest of the document.
To plan the summary we need to select the most relevant qualities you can offer and present them clearly and logically.
If you make it easy for a prospective employer, it is likely they will make things easier for you. Planning the writing process guarantees an organised, succinct and relevant resume.
It quickly and elegantly demonstrates your suitability as a candidate as well as your capacity to communicate your abilities clearly.
Will is a 22 year old graduate from the University of Warwick. He likes expensive coffee, Mexican food and David Attenborough documentaries. You can often find Will on a train somewhere but he is at his happiest pretending to be a rock star or watching football at a bar.