A well-written resume that gets results needs to be targeted and it needs to be exact. It will not just trot out your past work record and duties. It will say, “This is what I can do for you,” and that is what will get you the interview. A resume can’t be generic. It needs to be written with the specific job in mind and rewritten for each new application. Preparation is crucial if you are to write the best resume possible every time. Resume writers need to organize their facts, create an exhaustive list of achievements and prepare their references ahead of time.
Get Your Facts Straight
The first step to writing a resume is to assemble the specific details of your employment and education histories. Keep in mind this is material is not specifically what will go on the actual resume you send. This is simply the starting point. Start at university and work your way forward, writing out every single detail you can think of. Be sure all dates are correct, even if it means checking through your old records. Make sure you list all degrees, jobs held, duties and any other relevant information you can think of. You will need all this for later. The last thing you should be doing when trying to write a high-quality targeted resume is going back and trying to remember specifically when you started and left an old job. All this information should be gathered first. Once the bare bones of your resume are ready, it’s time to flesh it out.
Create Your Achievements Database
In the past, job applicants could send one generic resume for every job. These catch-all curriculum vitae just listed past employers, job titles and duties. Recipients would need to read over these lengthy lists of past responsibilities and decipher whether the applicant could do the job at hand. In today’s tough job market, a better approach is needed.
Rather than list past duties and leave it up to the reader to figure out if what you’ve done proves you qualify, you need to come right out and illustrate that you can indeed do this job. The way to do that is to avoid listing past duties altogether. Instead, you need to list your accomplishments. What this does is it tells the reviewer exactly what you’ve done as opposed to simply listing a vague job duty and leaving it up to them to figure out. For example:
“Managed automotive parts department” is bad. It doesn’t say anything. Was the department busy? What management tasks did you perform? How many people did you manage? No idea.
“Implemented ‘Just In Time’ auto parts inventory strategy, which decreased unnecessary inventory by 80%, saving $75,000 annually” is much better. Why? Because it lists a concrete achievement. It tells the resume reviewer that you are results-driven and can accomplish something great. It is also quantifiable. You’re not just saying “I reduced inventory and saved money.” You are telling exactly how much you reduced and how much you saved. This is what and achievement looks like and your resume needs achievements, not tasks performed.
Now that you understand what an achievement looks like, you need to know how to put these in a relevant resume. The way to do this is to create an “achievements database.” Brainstorm all past job duties, which you listed in step one, and then translate them into every quantifiable accomplishment possible. Do this for university achievements, too, especially if your work history is a little light. You should end up with a fairly large list of accomplishments. This is the base you will draw from for every resume.
When it is time to write your resume, pull out this list and compare your achievements with the requirements in the job listing. Highlight the accomplishments that relate to the duties specified. When writing your targeted resume, you will list these relevant accomplishments first when describing a past job. You will use bulleted lists and if you can’t list more than three relevant accomplishments per job, feel free to fill out the rest of the list with the more impressive achievements. Just be sure to list the relevant ones first. This will get their attention and the reader will say to themselves, “this person is EXACTLY what we’re looking for!”
Contact Your References
A final word on resume preparation: contact your references. Even if the job listing doesn’t ask for references on your resume, you need to prepare them anyway, because the company will call them. Think of co-workers and associated past and present who would have the best things to say about you and contact them ahead of time. Be sure you have current contact information and tell them they may be called for a reference. References prepared ahead of time will be ready to say something nice while references caught off-guard may grasp desperately for details and fail.