Writing a Great Resume – Part One

A resume is often described as a marketing document. People who are not familiar with elements of a good resume often get intimidated by this description. In this post, I am going to talk about how to think about a resume and how to improve your current resume.

What should a resume not be?

As a MBA student, I have found myself reviewing hundreds of resumes. I often find myself seeing the same mistakes being repeated. Often a resume is thought of as a chronological listing of all education and work experience. Each position has an elaborate description of job responsibilities.

What should a resume be?

A resume is a trailer; it is not the entire movie. It should highlight your relevant experience for the position that you are applying for. It should not recap everything you have done in your life simply because a lot of your previous experience will bring nothing to the position.

What do employers look for in a resume?

Often people only look at their accomplishments from their own perspective when they write a resume. It is useful to view your experience from the perspective of a potential employer. When employers look at a resume, they are looking for answers to certain questions. Your resume should be written to anticipate and address those questions. Here are some questions that employers have and suggestions about how you can address them:

  • Does this person know what this job involves?

    As I mentioned earlier, you need to highlight relevant skills and experience – the ones that are important to the employer! I know what you are thinking. The very complex assembly language code that I wrote three years ago is really important to me. I was under so much pressure at the time. My boss was really happy when I did the job well. I got an email from my VP saying he was really impressed by my dedication to the firm. So what if the job I am applying for is a management consulting position.

    If you fail to highlight what is relevant, it makes the employer wonder if you even know what the job is about. If you don’t even know the basics of the job that you are applying for, that cannot be a good thing.

  • Does this person have the basic skills to do the job?

    This is of course the most important question that the employer wants answered. Skills that employers look for could span a number of areas. These could include analytical skills, working well in teams, experience dealing with customers, written communication… I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. It is important to cover in your resume all, or at least as many as possible, the skills that are required to do the job.

  • Can I trust this person to do this job well?

    The employer wants to know how you would perform on the job. The best way to address this question is to demonstrate positive results in a previous role. This means that not only do you have to write about what you did, you also need to show the results.

  • Can I promote this person?

    A good employer is interested in your career growth. If the employer just want you to stay in the job you get hired for, you better think twice about joining that firm. Career progression is important to employers. They want to know if you were promoted. Even if you did not get a promotion, you should highlight that you took on additional responsibilities.

Great! Now that I know what a resume should include, how should I write one?

I know, I still haven’t addressed the details of writing the resume. That is going to be the subject of my next few posts. I will write about specific guidelines and tools that you can use to write a compelling resume.

You can read part two on writing a great resume here.