I help a lot of my friends with their resumes, and they often suck. As a marketer, I have one simple tip for them: Stop telling the truth.
I don’t mean lie. I mean tell only “relevant truths” — the facts that actually matter to employers. Employers are busy and distracted, and they want to see only those skills and experiences that address their particular needs. The rest of your hard-earned experiences are distracting garbage, even if you spent 75% of your time doing them.
So here’s how to make your resume significantly more attractive without lying:
1. Identify the role you want. Most of us are going after a fairly focused type of role, albeit at a variety of potential employers. Write down the actual title of that role.
2. List the top 3 skills or experiences needed for that role. Every job has a few key skills that are required. Identify the most important ones and write them down. If you’re having trouble, go find job descriptions on craigslist that are similar to what you’re seeking, and write down those common job skills.
3. Write down one relevant experience for each top skill. Look for recent examples (that is, from your last 2 jobs or last 4 years of work) that show you actually have experience with the each top skills required. Make sure each example says what you personally did and what results you achieved. These examples will be your new “relevant bullets.”
4. Add the relevant bullets to your resume. Make sure there is at least one relevant bullet for each skill on the first page. If you don’t have enough space, kill or cut back on bullets that have no employer interest, or that describe skills that you don’t want to use any more.
5. Sort relevant bullets to the top. It doesn’t matter if the relevant work was only 10% of your job — make it the first thing that the employer reads. Resume reviewers tune out as soon as they encounter something they don’t care about or understand, so make sure they see your relevant experience first. This also means avoid industry jargon, since many recruiters are not experts.
This advice works for interviews, too: when running interviewers through a particular job, lead with that is relevant to them, not whatever you did the most of. Yes, this requires you to do a little homework, but it’s a great way to demonstrate your planning and communications skills, not to mention your interest in the company.
To sum up: Tell people what they want to know. Lead with your best stuff. Minimize the irrelevant. It’s all basic marketing, but this is why I still get paid.