How to create the perfect resume

Money flows in two directions: in and out. There are a ton of things you can do to control how the money flows out, but one of the best ways to exert some control over how the money comes in is finding a job that pays you what you’re worth. And the magic key that unlocks the gate to the job of your dreams? A good resume.

Resume writing doesn’t have to be scary. Here’s how you build a resume that will make hiring managers sit up and take notice.

Before you need/want a job

One of the most stressful parts of resume writing is the remembering. “What have I done?” “What did I accomplish?” “Who was my manager?”

We tend to not think about this stuff until the moment we actually sit down to create our resume. But you can do yourself an enormous favor by creating what resume expert Jessica Hernandez calls a “master resume.”

Basically maintaining a master resume involves keeping track of your career achievements, education, and results as they happen. Your master resume is a constantly evolving log of what you’ve done. So when it’s time to create a resume for a specific job posting, you can pull the applicable information directly off your master resume – no remembering required!

Your resume is a marketing tool

We tend to think of resumes as little autobiographies that say where we’ve been and what we’ve done. “I was here and I did this. Then I was there and I did that.”

Don’t take this the wrong way, but hiring managers don’t really care where you were and what you did. You are essentially a product. Your skills and experience don’t mean anything to a company unless they can help that company solve particular problems or reach particular goals.

Your resume is how you market the product that is you. It’s up to a hiring manager to decide if they want to buy what your resume is selling.

Be what your potential employer needs you to be

When you think about advertisements that have worked on you (and yes, advisements have worked on you, whether or not you want to admit that) you’ll likely find that those ads “spoke” to you on some level. By that, I mean they addressed a real need that you were feeling in a way that made you feel positive about their solution.

Your resume should be customized to each job posting. Use the information in the job posting to understand what the employer is looking for – what their problem is – and then be the solution they need.

That doesn’t mean you say, “I see you’re looking for a copy writer. Lucky for you, I am a copy writer.” Focus on what it is about you and your abilities that will make that company better. Connect their needs with real examples of what you have done to fix similar problems in the past.

Quick tips

  • Format matters. The first impression your resume gives has nothing to do with the words on the page. Be unique (hiring managers see the same resume formats over and over again), but keep it clean, consistent, and easy to read. Don’t get overly creative unless you’re applying for a creative job.
  • No typos. A single typo doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified for the job, but if you’re applying for a competitive job, hiring managers are often looking for any excuse to toss a resume and whittle the pile. Don’t give anyone an easy reason to dismiss your resume.
  • Provide proof. Whenever possible highlight concrete, quantifiable results. Don’t say things like, “I’m a great motivator.” Show – with real numbers and achievements – exactly how good you are at motivating employees. Everyone says they’re awesome on their resume – you need to prove it.
  • Make every word count. Most resumes are completely stuffed with clichéd resume-speak that doesn’t really mean anything. Remove anything that doesn’t succinctly and clearly show your value to the potential employer. Also, those old goal statements you used to put at the top of the resume – “I am a _____ seeking work as a _____” – you can get rid of those, too.
  • Best stuff at the top. Everything on your resume should count – remember, no wasted space – but the top third of the page is prime real estate. Don’t get too stuck on notions of “traditional resume rules” – just value the reader’s time and give them what they need as quickly and simply as possible. Since most people read top to bottom, you need to catch their interest at the top of the page, and never let it go.

Good resumes require effort. You have to show a potential employer that you care enough to try. But if you do put in the time and create a resume that clearly matches your unique abilities to that company’s specific needs, you will stand out and you’ll be that much closer to landing the kind of job you truly deserve.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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