Once you've spotted a great job anywhere online, you need to get your foot in the door. In most cases, your foot is your resume, and every person you've ever met with a job has sincere, if contradictory, advice on making yours shinier than all the others. We've picked out five bits of advice that actually help you plan, write, and present your resume, rather than rely on oldie-but-goody generic advice. Follow along and dig up that dusty old Word file to see what you can do to make yourself more appealing the next time you're stopping at the post office on lunch break. Photo by ceeb.
Start with a big, big list
Far too many of us know the feeling of staying up late the night before a job packet is due in the mail, staring into that blank white word processing window and wondering just what the heck we're going to write. Next time you're starting fresh-slate or revamping, The Simple Dollar blog recommends opening up a plain text editor and just smacking away, entering in everything you could possibly consider a job asset or great resume line:
List the details of every job, including every possible relevant accomplishment at each one. List every organised activity you've ever participated in, and every noteworthy honour you've received in your life. List everything.
It doesn't sound all that simple, until you realise how it ties in with the most powerful part of writing—editing. Run through that gigantic list and kill out the weakest or least-relevant pieces, leaving you with only the strongest stuff you can fit into the smallest spaces. Give an employer condensed flavor instead of a weak one-page broth, and you're a lot more appealing as a hire.
Kill the fluff for more powerful stuff
When you're asked by strangers what you do, do you respond with, "Work in a fast-paced, cross-functional environment providing reliable solutions for clients"? Then you probably shouldn't put that on your resume, either. Too many of us have been trained with Pavlovian passion to jam as many "power words" into our resume as possible. This CareerBuilder article on CNN lists 25 words you should scan your resume for, and, once found, think about what they really say, and whether you can put it in more common-sense vernacular. Saying you're a "people person" doesn't carry as much weight if your resume makes people scratch their heads and yawn.
Use a good template (or grab a friend's)
If you're re-writing your resume for the first time in a long time, or just the first time ever, it can help you move a lot quicker and know what goes where if you've got a solid example to work from. The emurse blog has a helpful set of entry-level samples for most types of jobs.
If it's a higher-level job, however, our commenters suggest (most of them, anyway) skipping the eye-popping design and over-worked objectives and just focusing on experience and accomplishments. If you need a guiding example, why not hit up a friend or contact who's in a position similar to the one you want? Most people are less scared to send you a resume they aren't actively using, and at least you know it worked with one hiring manager.
Make your resume "one page," add more if needed
Ask your fellow Lifehackers if a resume really, truly needs to be just a single piece of paper, and you'll generate some serious discussion, with a lot of supporters on either side. The best advice, though, is summated by reader tk3nomanser:
The first page of your resume should be complete in and of itself. That is to say, it should be a convenient splash page that summarises your skills and desirability.
After that first page, feel free to append as much supporting documentation as you like.
Sound advice. You won't be able to fit your full resume onto one page, but pretend the employer loses all the rest of your packet (and, trust us, they do)—would your first page still work on its own? If you've got references and C.V. material galore, just put it on separate sheets. Photo by J Wynia.
Skip the resume entirely (or write from a different angle)
Marketing guru Seth Godin asked us all a few months ago, "Why bother having a resume?" To our ears, it doesn't sound like a crazy question. If you can pitch yourself on the strength of a complete, relevant project or a reputation you can call on, putting together a resume might not only be unnecessary, but it might prevent you from being a distinguishable pick in the eyes of a manager.
If you're not quite there yet, or feel bound by honour or HR requirements to put something together, consider re-writing it from a new perspective, as suggested by the Brazen Careerist blog. That means focusing on what you actually did rather than what your responsibilities were, and giving the employer a reason to ask follow-up questions in an interview.
Those are some of the best tips we've seen 'round this here internet for revamping or renewing a resume. What writing tips or must-keep information has stayed on your resume for the long haul? Just as important, what "tricks" can you be sure don't work? Let's hear it all in the comments.