How do I build a strong resume?
This question makes me remember how many hours I did work on my own resume back in the days… until mine was okay.
When applying for any full-time positions I barely changed it. Yet I thought it was great. It was the standard procedure as you find it in 99% of all google results. Personal data, work experience, education. Mostly I still did make the cut and was invited for an interview. However, this would change when I became a freelancer.
I worked in the banking industry on a variety of different projects and especially in the beginning needed to go via recruiting agencies — which is a pain! So I thought I was being smart when I changed my resume a bit and wrote which kind of projects I worked on in the past.
However, there was one thing that was interesting for me: I received a lot of mails from recruiters for project positions “based on your CV”. The only problem was: The majority of those were not even closely matching my skills. It should not take long to figure out why — and the reason was quite simple.
The agencies were simply running a keyword search comparing the job description and all the CVs in their database. My resume of course included nearly everything that came to my mind. I even noted my programming skills of Java and C++!
Not surprisingly I received a lot of offers for a developer position, and trust me I am the second to last person who should be doing that! It is very uncommon that recruiters do not really know what the job is about, they basically publish what they get from the demanding department, make it legally right and add some corporate slang — that’s it.
Probably most people write their CVs exactly the same way like all the others, using some scheme downloaded from the internet or taken from a friend.
Well, good luck with that!
The problem with most CVs
The standard CV is typically just that — a few pages of standard blah. The same CV will get sent to multiple companies, often for position significantly different from each other. Those are exactly the applications which usually do not even get any answer.
They are not standing out.
More importantly, they are often not relevant for companies because they are not targeted.
So, when you sent the same resume over and over again without any results… it is a clear sign that you must change it!
The standard CVs floating around would not resonate with me as well. Imagine you are sitting there reading countless applications for different open positions in a company. Would you really read all of those? Truth is, of course, no. Maybe your resume will get scanned for a few seconds at best — if the computer algorithm ranked you high enough.
Here is a very important thing:
It is your duty to make proper marketing (and a CV is nothing else) for yourself, nobody elses. If you fail at this challenge don’t be surprised when you don’t get results.
The work is actually the analysis
How do you overcome these problems?
First of all, it is important to understand what the goal of a CV is.
Usually it is simply getting you into the next round, whatever that might be — typically some sort of interview. It is very rare that anyone receives a job straight after handing in a CV (although I have seen that as well)!
Let us focus on that. Unless it is a blind application it is important to look and analyze the job advertisement.
- Who is the company searching for new hires?
- What is the position as such?
- What do they look for in potential candidates?
There is tons of possibilities to conduct your research. The internet will most likely tell you a lot about the company, how it is doing, where it is operating, who are the competitor and so on, especially if it is a bigger player. Don’t just restrict yourself to the internet though. Try to find if anyone in your network has or is working for that company and then try get in touch with them. Talk to people (yes, even nowadays!), often somebody knows someone who knows something!
This is also a good way if you are applying to a small company where the internet might not have so much relevant information out there.
The same goes for the actual position. There are always some trends, maybe hot topics and certain developments you need to be aware of. Don’t just literally read the words of the advertisement but rather bring them into context of the company and the market they are operating in.
Once you have a good picture where you applying think why you would be a great fit for the company. What are the skills and experiences you have which could help this company?
You must draw a story of yourself that resonates. This is your chance to decide how you want to be seen by your potential future employer. Before you write anything first think about the image you want to represent in this CV.
Writing a success CV
So, now that you have done all the proper preparation you can actually write your CV.
There is nothing bad with taking your existing one and give it a massive update, but you can simply start from scratch as well.
There are a few general things:
- You should not have any typos or grammatical errors
- Other than that, do not try to be fancy in terms of design
- Keep it simple, structured and clean.
This will not make you succeed, but only avoid getting cut immediately.
But what is really important?
First thing is to simply avoid any unnecessary B/S which is just taking up space but essentially is telling nothing worth mentioning about you and why you are a good fit for that specific company!
When you list your work experiences tell about what you have achieved and not only what your position was. Mention anything that is relevant to the job you are applying for. Hereby you can target your CV towards the position. The same goes for your education. It is absolutely worth to state courses you did if they are supporting your application, even if that means your master thesis does not make the cut!
This will be some work — but once you have a basis future updates are going to be way easier!
Once you have this done chances are you are way over one page. So go through your CV and cut everything not relevant, aim for a one-page CV! I love this tactics because it forces you to only focus on the most important, stand-out facts of your resume and makes it nearly impossible to have unnecessary blah in your resume.
Look at each word and phrase to decide if it is worth having it, if it really adds any value. If not, simply delete it.
The bigger picture
Now you have a solid basis for your CV. Besides all the details there is something else very important.
When somebody who does not know you is reading this CV, do you give a bigger picture of yourself as you had defined it earlier? If you want to be seen as Strategist or a Sales Guru — do all the lines support this and is it clearly the message you are sending? In all the lines you are writing make sure you are designing a consistent image about you.
This is hardly the case in the beginning and will require some additional tweaking.
The trump in applications
You do have now a great CV, but there is another element you can use.
Whether or not required you should provide a cover letter. This is your chance in a few lines to line out anything you cannot express within your resume.
Just please, if you intend to say that “you are applying for this position” and you “would be glad to be considered”… then just don’t write it at all!
Now I would like to know from you — what else it that is forming a strong resume?