Why does the modern job search have to be so frustrating, time-consuming, and discouraging? In my honest opinion, it shouldn’t have to be.
What makes the job search so frustrating is the inconsistency of information from how to write a resume to best practices for following-up after an interview. What makes the process so time-consuming is the constant searching and reviewing of job postings, editing and targeting of resumes (and cover letters), and alternating resume submissions and lengthy application questionnaires. What makes the job search so discouraging is never knowing what works and what doesn’t ultimately leading into a call for an interview or no response at all.
But it shouldn't have to be!
If you found this article searching for resources on how to write a resume in 2018, you are in luck! I am sharing my proven process for creating highly targeted resumes for each of my clients. Yes, this step-by-step resume writing process can be your guide.
Let me walk you through not only how to write a resume but how to write a highly targeted resume that conquers the Applicant Tracking software that most employers use and presents you as the best fit for your ideal job.
1 | Identify The Job Target
The most effective resumes will be targeted for specific job functions. If you are applying for a job in marketing, your resume should be targeted by focusing on your achievements and skills in marketing rather than accounting even if that is your most recent or significant experience.
My first step in creating a highly targeted resume is identifying my client’s job target. I’ll ask for a link to a specific job posting or to list a few job titles that the client is interested in as long as they have similar job functions.
So what if my client doesn’t have a job target? I will recommend working with a career coach first or I’ll ask a series of questions about their background, passions, and strengths to help narrow down the focus.
2 | Analyze Job Postings
Not every client will provide a specific job posting, so often I’ll research job postings for openings in or near my client’s city of residence. Analyzing job postings is not as difficult as it may sound, and I’ve developed an effective and efficient process for identifying the top qualifications and skills that the resume should focus on.
I’ll start with the Qualifications or Requirements sections. These are important to consider first because they will ultimately decide whether or not a candidate will be considered. I’ll make a list of the top 8-10 qualifications or skills as listed in the job posting(s). This will be helpful when optimizing the resume with keywords that the Applicant Tracking software most employers will be using to collect resumes and narrow down candidates.
If few Qualifications are listed, I’ll review the job description and responsibilities. Why is this not a higher priority than the Qualifications or Requirements? Depending on the job, employers often may not expect candidates to have more than a few years of experience or specific experience with the daily tasks expected in this role. This is why on-the-job training is so common. Including the responsibilities that you have specific experience in is a strong strategy for presenting yourself as the best fit for the job.
3 | Review The Most Recent Resume
Reviewing the client’s most recent resume can streamline this process immensely, but it’s not always possible. The most recent resume will give me an idea of what the client’s typical tasks and responsibilities have been in the past. This information will help me identify the client’s skills and align them with the skills sought by his or her ideal employer.
I’ll also take the time to determine if essential details are missing from the client’s work history. Achievements, solutions, and contributions that support the client’s skills are as important (if not more) than the skills alone.
4 | Collect Additional Information
I collect additional information from my clients in a couple different ways. I give the client the option to complete a questionnaire online or to schedule a phone consultation with me. Many of my clients are better at organizing their thoughts by writing while others are verbal communicators.
No, I don’t expect my clients to organize their thoughts completely. That’s why they need me! I do, however, expect my clients to take the time to reflect on their background and answer my questions to the best of their ability. This means refraining from the “See my resume” shortcut.
Most of my questions are very specific. I’ll provide a qualification or skill and ask the client to provide specific examples of his or her work history that include how that skill was applied and what resulted. I’ll also ask for specific software programs he or she is proficient in if it’s relevant to the job target.
5 | Fill-in-the-blanks For A Basic Outline
Once I have all of the information I need, I create a basic outline and fill-in-the-blanks. This includes contact information, section headings, company names, position titles and dates, degrees earned, certificates and training received, etc. This outline helps me see any “red flags” that employers may see such as blatant gaps in employment, short-term positions, and overlapping positions. These are common timeline issues that I can downplay and still present the candidate as the best fit for the job.
The outline also helps me organize the resume. If the educational background is more impactful than the work history, I can quickly move that section to the top third of the front page. If the client has a long list of achievements or areas of expertise, I can organize these quickly on the front page as well.
6 | Summarize Job Descriptions
Have you heard of the 15-Second Test? Statistically, most recruiters and HR professional take less than 15 seconds to review your resume before deciding if you are a good fit for the job they are filling. The 15-Second Test only matters if your resume gets through the Applicant Tracking software. To get through the Applicant Tracking software, your resume needs to be digitally compatible with the software and contain as many keywords as possible to present your resume (and more importantly, you) as a match.
I use the job descriptions for each position my client has held to help optimize the resume with keywords the client’s ideal employer may be looking for. I summarize the job descriptions by focusing on the typical tasks and responsibilities that relate the most to the job target.
7 | Add Achievements + Related Skills
Employers love measurable achievement such as dollars earned, percentages saved, people trained, customers retained, and so on. These achievements are prioritized and showcased first in a bullet list beneath the job description for each position held by the client. For the clients who may not have specific numbers to highlight, I add awards or recognition received from superiors.
Many industries don’t offer workers recognition, and I realize this. That’s why I encourage my clients to think of any specific problems they solved or contributions they made to projects or team efforts. When all else fails, I showcase related skills by describing how the client has used key skills that are related to the job target in a results-oriented statement.
8 | Integrate Keywords From The Job Posting
Even though the keywords from the job posting are on my mind throughout the entire resume writing process, I spend time reviewing every job description and list of achievements or related skills to naturally integrate as many keywords as I can. Sometimes this simply means reworking a phrase to reflect the terminology used in the job posting.
For example, one job posting may state, “3-5 years of customer service” as a qualification while another may state, “3-5 years of experience delivering exceptional customer service.” For the first job posting, I may draft a statement stating, “Expertise in effective communication and customer service.” For the second job posting, the statement may read, “Excel in communicating effectively to diverse audiences and delivering exceptional customer service.”
Another 15-Second Test strategy is creating an easy-to-scan Skills section on the top third of the first page. For my client’s protection in job interviews, I don’t list any skills that cannot be defended in the resume with specific examples.
9 | Create A Branding Statement
Yes, this may seem a little backward; however, I save the Branding Statement for last. Several of the online questionnaire and phone consultation questions I ask are used to create a unique Branding Statement that identifies my client’s qualifications, strengths, and the value or results offered for his or her ideal employer. The Branding Statement may also include information on the client’s passions and values as well.
I recommend that the Branding Statement is edited to address the specific needs of each employer indicated in each job posting. While this may seem like an exhausting task for my clients, it is a key step to writing a highly targeted resume. To make this step easier, you can use this Branding Statement Cheat Sheet.
10 | Proofread, Edit, + Repeat.
Before the first draft is sent to the client, I review and proofread the resume. I’m not just looking for typos either. I’m looking for missing words, awkward phrases, and incomplete statements that fail to identify either a skill or an achievement.
I repeat this process several times; however, I am human. I do not guarantee an error-free first draft despite my efforts to be error-free. That being said, my mission is to create a resume that tells my client’s unique story and presents him or her as the best fit for his or her ideal job.
Before applying to the next job posting you find, identify the top 10 qualifications and skills and target your resume to focus on those.