10th January, 2016
To make an unbeatable resume, you need to see the resume for what it really is – a tool. It’s not your life story or your autobiography. It’s just a concise document that can act like a key and open new doors to opportunity – if you craft it correctly. Just like a key craftsman will take years to hone his or her skill before becoming a “master locksmith” so do job applicants need to take time to learn what exactly will help them build an unbeatable resume.
Here’s the truth: Hiring managers love nothing more than to shut doors on candidates. Seriously, whether they are born that way or are simply a product of the corporate world, rejecting people runs in their blood.
With hundreds of people applying for the same job role, hiring managers need to shut out the cacophony of voices and fists slamming away at their office doors. They need to filter the right candidates or get overrun by a mob. They are sitting behind a locked door.
So how can you get through?
If you write your resume with care and effort, it can act like a skeleton key to unlock amazing job opportunities that may surprise you.
Here’s how you can do that with our help.
1. Create a massive rough draft of your resume
Let’s continue with the key analogy. Think of the entirety of your professional experience, education, and skills as a big block of metal. It’s got potential, but until it’s been crafted, it’s totally useless for opening a door. So you’ve got to cut it and shrink it down.
Normally this step would take a long time, but you can use our resume builder to create a draft in under 20 minutes. How does this work?
You simply type in your occupation, and a list of fully written bullet points will appear. Then you can easily pick and choose the duties you were responsible for, and they will be automatically formatted into your chosen resume template.
If you had a lot of duties in a certain job, choose all of those bullet points. Your resume will become way too long and overly informative, but remember, this is your rough draft, so you can be a bit messy.
If you like, you can download your finished resume draft into a .txt for free.
Now, you’ve got yourself a strong resume. A resume straight out of our builder is still better than 99% of your competition, but we’re aiming to make your resume completely unbeatable.
So follow along.
2. Combine job descriptions and shave off unnecessary ones
At this stage in making your key, you’ve got a sheet of metal, but you’ve got to cut it down further and shape it up before it’s going to function like a key and fit into any locks. So what does this mean for your resume?
In the first step, I told you to include as many bullet points as possible from the resume builder’s search function. At most, your Professional Experience section should only have a maximum of six bullet points, and a minimum of three.
You can probably find areas where you can remove some information and combine two powerful bullet points into one.
For example, here are two job descriptions that could easily be combined:
Maintains financial staff by recruiting, selecting, orienting, and training employees.
Maintains financial staff job results by coaching, counseling, and disciplining employees; planning, monitoring, and appraising job results.
You could combine them like so (pay attention to the bold):
Maintains financial staff by recruiting, selecting, orienting, counseling, training employees, and appraising job results.
How you combine them is up to you — it depends on what responsibilities you had, and whether you think they’re important enough to mention. You may also discover that some bullet points are just too weak to stand on their own, or maybe aren’t as relevant to your job experience as you thought. Delete them mercilessly!
Now, your previously massive block of metal is starting to look key-like and useful. It could open a few doors, but not as many as you potentially could if you worked on it more. Because we know you’re not the type of person to say “good enough” we’ve got even more tips to improve your resume and break open doors of opportunity in places you never thought possible.
3. Quantify your resume and make it achievement oriented
Now you’ve got a key-shaped piece of metal, but you need to file it down with high attention to detail before it will become truly useful.
Attention to detail on your job description bullet points will turn your resume from an average, ho-hum document into something genuinely surprising and refreshing to an overwhelmed hiring manager.
Although your resume’s bullet points are good already by this point, they’ll be spectacular if you added some numbers to describe your experience more clearly, and made them achievement oriented.
What does that mean?
We have a whole guide here about how to quantify your resume and make it achievement oriented. You should read it in full, but we’ll also quote the relevant section here about areas of your resume that are easy to quantify.
Here are important places you can quantify your resume:
Did you increase sales, market share, or customer satisfaction by a certain percentage? How?
Did you increase efficiency or productivity by a certain percentage?
Did you recruit, work with, or manage a certain number of employees or teams?
How many customers did you serve on average? Did you increase the number of customers served? By how much?
Did you implement new ideas, systems, or processes to the company? What was the impact?
Did you propose or work with a budget of a certain dollar amount?
Did you increase sales or profitability by a certain dollar amount? How?
Did you decrease delivery or turnaround time on a project? How?
Was one of your achievements completed within a tight deadline?
Did you resolve any particular issues? How soon?
Now you’ve got a finely detailed key that can open many doors. But we’re not done yet.
4. Target your resume at the companies you’re applying for
Continuing with our key metaphor: In this stage, you’re going to create multiple copies of your key, and then modify each one slightly with some careful filing to ensure that it will fit into the lock you’re aiming to open.
In most cases, the companies you’re applying for have a hiring manager who has written a very specific job description. (Click to see an example). The job description is just their wish list for an ideal candidate, so don’t take it too seriously if you don’t feel up to par.
However, you should do your best to tailor your resume so that it matches the hiring manager’s description. If you’re applying for a job in an industry you’re familiar with, this should be easy – you’ve already learned a number of those skills and are familiar with the role they need filled.
If f you’re changing careers, or don’t have much work experience, you’ll need to pull examples from your academic experience, volunteer work, or internships. These examples should function as being SIMILAR in nature to the new role you’d like to fill.
These are called transferable skills – in many cases, you’ll need to get creative to create a matching or similar skill. For instance, imagine that a hiring manager for an Event Coordinator position wrote that a candidate should be able to do the following job:
Initiate, coordinate and/or participate in all efforts to publicize event.
A high school student who has experience putting together school dances, working for the school newspaper, or participating in school clubs probably has the transferable skills necessary to successfully perform that particular duty.
5. Beautify and further target your resume by choosing an appropriate template
Keys come in all shapes, sizes, and designs. Some keys are shaped for gates, some for doors, some for padlocks — the point here is that resume templates often serve different functions, so you’ve got to pick the right one to open the right doors.
For instance, you should be aware that if you have years of missing work experience, you’re going to need to download a special type of resume template (either a Functional or Combination resume template) that allows you to avoid revealing your job work gaps.
Combination and Functional resume templates are designed to showcase your skills and abilities, and place less emphasis on the dates that you worked your previous jobs. If this sounds like you, we implore you to read our resume formats article about why this is important.
Meanwhile, students and recent graduates should place their Education sections before their Professional Experience section – we also have appropriate resume templates for students that you can download.
If you used the free version of our resume builder and created a .txt file, check out our free downloadable resume templates so that you can easily make a resume that is professional, clean, and smart looking.
6. A Solid Follow Up
Even with the most bullet-proof resume it’s better not to be left all alone to fend for itself in the wild that is the application process. A truly unbeatable resume still needs the correct accouterments if it is to conquer all competition. A few things you should make sure to do after crafting and sending your resume include:
Sending a follow-up email: This is both a courtesy and allows the employer the opportunity to ask any pre-interview questions.
Send a thank you email: Whether you are invited to an interview or not it’s appropriate to send a thank you to the original recipient.
Monitor: If it is a company you really want to work for or an industry you are passionate about continue to monitor the company’s career opportunities, who knows when they may need you in the future!
By following all of those steps, you can make a resume that can unlock opportunities that seem to be out of reach. It’s up to you to prepare for the interview, knock it out of the park, and land the dream job you’ve been wanting.