We know that writing your resume for the first time (or even the fiftieth time!) can be difficult to do. It is a process that takes a good format, lots of practice, and a strong understanding of both yourself as well as the position and company to which you are applying.
All that to say, your resume is not just a list of your life experiences, skills, and past projects completed. While yes, they do hold all those components, that suggests that once you write one resume, you can use it for any job interview, and unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
Rather, a great resume features not only the facts about you but considerations of the company, what they are looking for, how they talk about the skills they need, and more. So, our tips for writing a resume often boil down to three starting points or three “R’s”; Research, Reflect, and Report.
So, let’s go through each “R” to show you practical, actionable advice that will help you write a standout resume for your next application.
Research – Learn about the company and the job.
There are several ways you can learn about an organization you are interested in.
- Read whatever literature the company has placed online in their career library.
- Search the company online through Google or the company’s LinkedIn page.
- Not tech savvy? Call the company directly!
Now if you are thinking, what should I ask for? What is appropriate to ask? There are several areas you can request information directly:
- You can ask for any literature they may have about their products, services, or the industry they serve that is publicly available.
- You can find out how the company is structured and ask what qualities the company generally looks for in its employees.
- You can even ask if there are openings in your area and find out the name of the department head and give him/her/them a call. Explain that you are trying to decide whether to apply to the company and ask for their recommendation for the next steps.
We do suggest though if you call a department head directly that you thank them for the information and ask to whom your resume should be directed. This shows not only that you respect the company, but that you value the information and are interested in the position.
The more you know about the position, the better you will be able to sell yourself and target your resume to that position.
Tip: If possible, interview someone who does the same job. Find out their duties, ask if there is on-the-job training, whether they value education over experience (or vice versa), and what kind of turnover the department experiences. Ask what they like about the position and the company. Finally, critically, ask what they don’t like about it. This is a great way to gain insight into not just this role, but how this role functions within the company you are applying.
Reflect – Consider your personal and professional goals.
Now, as hard as this is to hear, your goal is not just to get any job. Of course, we know that people get jobs not just because they like a job, but sometimes they need a job.
However, we also know that people who take jobs they do not like have a much harder time going to work every day, thriving in the workplace, and feeling satisfied with the work they do. All of this can play a role in your mental and physical well-being, which is also important. So, while sometimes you have to take certain jobs, the goal is to get a job that you will enjoy.
After you find out all you can about the company and the position, ask yourself honestly,
Is this what I really want to do and where I really want to be?
Keep in mind that accepting a position is not a lifetime commitment and that entry-level and mid-level roles can be stepping stones toward that dream job. However, your first professional job serves as the base of your lifetime career, and a successful start ensures that future recommendations will be positive.
Report– Effectively highlight your qualifications.
You’ve done the research, and you’ve reflected on what is most important to you. What’s next?
Once you have done your research and completed your self-reflection, use what you learned to promote yourself as a candidate. Most employers devote about 30 seconds to reviewing each resume (one study indicated as few as 6 seconds!), so it is imperative to highlight the most relevant information.
How do you make your details stand out in that short time frame? Two words.
To strategically format your document, make sure the document is:
- Attractive – Yes, clear, and consistent format of items matters. Choose what you want to be bold, italicized, similar spacing, etc., and stick to it throughout.
- Readable – Don’t use a size 8 font to fit everything, focus on content pieces and big points people can see. Remember, you only have about 30 seconds.
Tip: Show your resume to someone you trust and let them tell you what stands out at a glance.
- Informational – You want to use detail but stick to key items you have accomplished in the role, not everything you do. Stick to highlighting actions that are relevant to the position and quantify when you can.
To that end, pay attention to the language used in the job description and try to mirror their terminology. Many companies use AI for a first pass, and they are programmed to prioritize candidates with a high-frequency keyword match. So, using words you see in the job description can help push you forward in the process.
Our final word of advice once you land an interview? Review the job description and the tailored resume version you submitted to the employer. Remember the resume can only get you the interview; the interview gets you the job.