I received the following email:
Since you have worked in the industry for a while now, I'm wondering if you would be able to recommend any strong professional resume writers in the tri- state area. I am looking for someone to help my dad who has worked in the logistics field for over 20 years and is looking for a change. Unfortunately he has not put together a resume to document all of his hard work and experience throughout his career since he entered the workforce.
Truth be told, I don't know any resume writers to recommend, but I can tell you how to write your own resume. Personally, I'm of the opinion that writing your own resume and then having someone edit it is the best way to go. Additionally, the hard part of writing a resume is figuring out what you've done, and the resume writer can't do that for you. But, how to get started? Here you go.
Begin with a brain dump. Sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil (or a computer if you must, but I find brainstorming works better with paper), and create columns for each job you've had over the past 20 years. It doesn't matter if one of those jobs was cleaning toilets at the Circle K and you never intend to put that on your resume. Write that job down too.
Include any volunteer positions as well. Did you coach your kid's soccer team? Teach Sunday School? Campaign for a local politician? Remember, you may or may not end up using these on your final resume, but the idea is to get everything down.
List everything you did under each job/volunteer position. And by everything, I mean everything. Excel spreadsheets created? Write that. Meetings attended? Write that. Projects headed? Teams served on? People managed? Products sold? Software used? Write all of that down. Every little bit. So, for instance, if I was writing down everything I did at Inc, I wouldn't just write "wrote articles." I'd write, "wrote articles, researched information, interviewed people, coordinated with PR people, selected photos for illustrations, ran social media, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." Now, no one in their right mind is going to say, "Oh! I want to hire Suzanne because she has experience selecting stock photos!" but the idea is to get everything out.
List every number you can come up with. How many people did you supervise? How big was the budget you managed? What was your sales target? Did you meet that? Exceed? By how much? How many reports did you make a week? Numbers, numbers, numbers.
Why do numbers matter? Because they give a much fuller picture of what you've accomplished. I can say, "Managed a team," and that leaves the recruiter/hiring manager going, "a team? 2 people? 10 people? 150 people?" There's a huge difference in that, right? Someone who manages a budget of $150,000 is very different than someone who has managed a $10,000 budget.
Pretend you are your mom. Assuming your mom is one of those braggy-competitive types, that is. If she's not, then pretend your mom is braggy and competitive and then pretend that's who you are. What would your mom say about you if she knew what you did at work. List every brag. Every award, every time you beat out your competitors, every time you received a pat on the back, every promotion, every raise, et cetera. This is a time to let go of all humility and write everything down.
Go to LinkedIn. Look up your old co-workers and people who do similar jobs to yours. Read their profiles and write down anything that they've listed that you haven't--as long as you've done that as well. So, if Marge's profile says, "Quantitative Business Analysis" and you've done that as well, write it down. But, if you haven't, don't even think about writing it down.
Now begin the editing. You have everything you've ever done staring you in the face. Get out your computer and write your job title, the company you work for and the dates you worked there. Go through your list and write the 10 most important or impressive accomplishments from each job. If you don't have 10 for a job, write down all of them.
When you have finished putting your 10 most impressive qualifications down for each job, you have your master resume written. But wait! It's not pretty and it's not got flowery language. That's fine. This is just your base document.
List accomplishments, not responsibilities. One of the big mistakes people make is to list their tasks--so that the resume reads like a job description instead of list of accomplishments. Go back and look at your base document and make sure you've listed things you've accomplished, not just assigned tasks.
Create a final resume. Take your draft and add the requisite name, phone number, address and email address to the top. Add your education to the bottom (unless you're a new grad, then education goes at the top). In the middle? All that stuff about your jobs.
Go through each job and delete any bullet points that don't add value to the job you're applying for. For instance, you'll probably never, ever, use that information about being a Sunday School teacher. But, you have it in case you decide to apply for a job leading a summer camp, in which case it would be relevant experience.
Keep it to two pages, unless you're a new grad, in which case it should be one.
Get someone to edit it. Even if you're an English major who specializes in grammar, get someone to read and edit your resume. If you're not a native English speaker, make sure your editor is a native English speaker. Some things that are perfectly correctly grammatically aren't perfectly correct in day to day usage. While some people don't mind a typo here and there, others have crazy high expectations.