HOW TO WRITE THE PERFECT RESUME FROM SCRATCH

THE CAREERS EMPORIUM

Hey, you superstar you. I'm guessing you've nailed the look of your cover letter by now you're here because you're searching for a little inspiration to write your resume. You need help and you're wondering if there's someone who can just write the thing for you. Urgh, it's so uncomfortable writing about yourself don't you think?

Well, it's about time I share my top career coach secrets with you and top tips on how to write a perfect resume.

Before we get stuck into it, I think it's important to define the difference between a resume and a CV. Let's break it down peeps.

RESUME OR CV

The two terms Resume and CV interchange a lot but they have very, very different personalities and purposes.

The CV is like your well to do, accomplished uncle. He's formal, grandiose and often long winded (please don't let me get stuck with him!). The CV includes a super detailed account of every single job you've worked in with precise dates and footnotes (often referencing formal stuff like white papers and journals). It's more commonly used in Europe and the US and designed to create a sense of depth to your knowledge, skills and experience. CV's have their place and are really important in some industries like like health, government and education but let's be honest, most of us don't have time to read the back of our cereal boxes let alone time to study 10+ pages of a CV. If you don't need to write one, write a resume instead! 

The resume is the leaner, cooler aunt to the CV. The resume is charming, likes to compliment you (without the cheesiness) and is super engaging. Like the sound of The Resume? Well then, let's work through how to write it from scratch and trust me, by the end of this you'll be taping these babies to every announcement pole in your town! And stay tuned for a little surprise I have in store for you which will blow-your-mind... 

STRUCTURE OF YOUR RESUME

The structure of your resume is essentially made up of these sections:

  1. Personal Contact Information
  2. Personal Bio
  3. Employment History
  4. Qualifications / Education
  5. Personal Interests
  6. References

The length of a resume should be no longer than 2 pages long. Anything longer than this and it begins to lose it's punch. If your industry is driven by qualifications or you're a brand new graduate, you can swap the order of 3 and 4, highlighting your Education before your Experience.

If you are after a bit more info on the resume framework, I have actually done a video discussing it. So feel free to have a look at it now or after you have read the rest of this post.

writing your bio 

Think of your summary as the blurb you scan through at the back of a novel. Ask yourself, would you want to read on? The bio is the section right at the top of your resume. It's often categorised as 'Professional Summary' or 'About Me'. It's also often the hardest section to write. You may be facing questions such as, 'first person or third person', 'formal or informal', 'how long should it be?'.

My general rule around this is to always speak in the first person, keep it informal and in your voice and tone and it should be no longer than a good paragraph long. 

Now let's dive into 5 key questions you should be answering in your bio. Or in other words, what a hiring manager wants to be reading about you. 

  1. What do you do for work? eg. Social Media Manager
  2. What personality traits do your peers love about you? eg. are you the knowledge source, are you the one who pulls actions points together, do you get stuff done
  3. What skills do people come to you for? eg. you're the marketing guru or you can financial model the crap out of sales performance targets
  4. What do you LOVE about your job? eg. the project you're working on, the company culture, strong leadership mentors
  5. What are you looking for in your next role? eg. stability, more challenges, opportunity to lead

Once you have all of this scribbled down, it's time to create an articulate and purposeful personal statement. The hard bit is done! You've just created the perfect framework for your bio. Here's exactly what I mean:

I am an enthusiastic Social Media Manager (1) and also the knowledge source to my peers and stakeholders on all things digital marketing (2). I am often the go to for financial modelling and keep our team on top of our sales performance targets (3). I am attracted to working for organisations who value leadership and a learning culture (4). My next role will hopefully present me with more challenges and the opportunity to lead and influence decision makers (5). I am looking forward to what this next chapter is going to bring.

One thing to remember is keep your flowery words to a limit. When there's too many descriptive words it starts to read a little like a Shakespearean poem. Just keep it real my friends, use your voice and use the framework I've just provided you. Trust me, that's the winning formula right there :)

I have conveniently done a video all about the resume bio below. So check it now or after you read the rest of my post.

dates are important my friends

Always, always list your most recent job at the top of your resume. If it takes 3 scrolls to find what you're currently up to then that's eating into the average time a hiring manager spends on a resume. Have you heard or read those disgusting statistics on how long is spent reviewing a resume during a hiring process? The worst part of all of it is... it's really, really true :( You want your most recent experience to be the first thing seen. Get your resume organised and do a little house keeping on it. My general rule of thumb is to summarise experience older than 10 years old, or take it out all together. 

In my case, 10 years ago I had just graduated with a Bachelor of Business Commerce and was working part time at Country Road (a retail store in Australia). I spent my 8 hour shift folding clothes with a clipboard and dusting overpriced crockery. Is that going to add any value to the type of work I'm doing now? Will it help me score my dream role? Probs not peeps. It goes. So go on, time to hit the backspace button on some of your past jobs, don't be shy - your resume will love you for it! 

    experience and achievements

    Your experience is the hero of the entire document. You need to highlight your knowledge, skills and expertise in a way that fit your dream role. Let's jump right into it whilst taking into account the points above! So each section in your resume is going to look like this:

    Date

    List your most recent job at the top. Date it like this Month /YY - Month/ YY or Current ie. March 2014 - Current

    Job Title

    If you have a really strange job title that no one outside of your organisation is going to understand it's 100% ok to simplify it. My title was once 'Associate' when I was working for a Big 4 Accounting Firm. That could mean a lot to you or it may as well read I did 'blah'. I ended up modifying my title to 'Assistant Accountant'. This helps your hiring manager understand what you do a little better AND it gets the keywords. Pro tip: Keywords are super important when you're apply to a big company running big recruiting systems. The systems can pick up and highlight keywords to the recruiter that's looking at your resume. 

    Responsibilities

    Don't copy and paste your position description in here peeps. It's boring and well pretty freakin' obvious. Instead answer these questions and talk about it in your voice and tone:

    1. What were you hired to do
    2. What do you do on a day-to-day basis
    3. How do you contribute to the company's overall vision/ goals/ objectives

    Want more tips on how to write you job experience? Check out this video...

    Achievements

    This section here my rockstars is what's going to make you look better or worse. It's the bit that makes you look expensive. Answer these questions to get the competitive edge:

    1. What awards or recognition have you been presented with?
    2. What key project have you been involved in within the last 12 months?
    3. How have you made a difference to decisions made?
    4. Why are you such a valuable team member?
    5. What legacy are you leaving behind? Think about systems, processes, practices, culture and behaviours. How have you influenced this during your time here?

    Answer these my friend and you got yourself one fantastic achievements section. This will set you apart.  

    WRITING ABOUT YOUR EDUCATION

    UNIVERSITY, COLLEGE OR TAFE

    If you were a super brainiac and went to University, College or Tafe this is where you can be proud of your hard work and academic achievements. List your qualifications in order of the most recent BUT I want you to list your higher education only. By higher education I mean a Degree, Diploma or Graduate Certificate. Here's how to list it in your resume:

    University, Qualification, Major or Honours, Date

    eg. 'Melbourne University, Bachelor of Business, Accounting, 2007'

    HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION

    It's totally ok to talk about your High School education so long as it's within a 10 year period. Anything over this period gets a little weird. When you're listing your high school education format it looks like this:

    School, Level Completed, Year eg. 'Wesley College, Yr.12 , 2002'

    OTHER

    Please don't include every single internal course you have completed with your company unless it's relevant to your role or industry. Recently I read a resume where the first 3 pages where all internal accreditations from the same employer. Not a great look people.

    Instead think about certificates that may be relevant like, if you're a School Teacher a First Aid Certificate may be relevant. Or if you're a Business Development Manager and on the road a lot then a Defensive Driving Course comes in handy. 

    get your references in order

    My recommendation would be to list your referees without their personal details. Feel free to leave their phone number and email address as private for now. This gives you time to hit up your references as and when they will be called so you can explain the role you're going for and guide your references to highlight certain strengths for your dream role. So for example you can list their details like this:

    REFERENCES - details provided upon request

    Name, Title, Company - Relationship, Dates of relationship

    Ruby Lee, Recruitment Manager, ABC Consulting - Direct Manager, 2015 - 2017

    If you're listing your referee details, make sure of one thing...that they know you have! I've actually done reference checks of quite a few candidates where the referee had no idea what I was talking about. And even worse, sometimes the referee would then go on to give a bad reference. It's confusing for all parties and never a great look for the candidate. Give your referees a gentle heads up that a call may be coming their way over the next day/ week/ month or so and it'll make a world of difference. 

    personality plus

    This is where I tell you, don't write your career obituary guys. The resume is a living breathing document so pack it with life and personality. Now don't misinterpret this for clip art and fancy Microsoft word fonts. Instead, do it in a deliberate and professional sense. Here are some ways to add personality:

    • Speak in the first person, not third. So instead of 'Ruby converted 78% of lead generation targets...' it should be 'I converted 78%..." Your resume suddenly sounds relatable and approachable.
    • A little design goes a long way. A fun template or some colour is really come back into fashion, but it needs to be down right. Check out my Pinterest page to get some inspo! 
    • A lot about you and your approach to problems can be said eloquently as achievements under each role. So rather than, 'met sales targets consistently' you can opt for something more light hearted like, 'had fun meeting sales targets with the team month on month'. See? so much better.
    • Be specific about your results and achievements where you can. For instance, rather than saying 'consistently identified and executed productivity improvements', expand it to say 'consistently identified and executed productivity improvements resulting in annual cost savings of $300k for the business'. 
    • List 3 hobbies or something personal about yourself. That little section which lives at the bottom of your resume 'hobbies' can actually make or break you. I've seen the most uniquely listed hobbies from 'i collect cats' to 'red wine super hero'. All completely cool and acceptable. Here's a little sneak peek at what I wrote in my own resume: 
    Here's a little bit about me without being too over the top!

    recap time!

    1. Write a killer bio, use my formula to get it right every time

    2. Always speak in first person

    3. Make sure your job title is understandable

    4. Don't copy and paste your position description anywhere it's obvious and boring!

    5. Writing about your achievements will make you look more valuable

    6. Don't write your career obituary guys, pack it with life and personality

    7. Give your references a heads up or don't list them at all

    Bonus

    I've prepared a FREE bonus for you, The Perfect Resume Worksheet! It's a step by step guide packed full of pro tips, and examples to help you create a resume that you're super proud of.

    All the best superstars. I'm sure you're absolutely going to LOVE writing your resume now. 


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    AUTHOR: RUBY LEE

    Ruby coaches and facilitates workshops for career minded individuals who want to go for their dream job. She leads an active social community on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  She's always up for a dirty coffee or two and will always, always take bribes when it's in units of almond croissants.

     

    Ruby Lee

    The Careers Emporium, 520 Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC, 3004