This article is a recipe for reaching your ideal job goal in the shortest amount of time.
In this article we will cover:
- What Goes in a Resume
- Job Targeting
- Performance Profiles
- Writing to Bots
- Do I really *need* a resume?
- Career Coaches & Resume Writers
What Goes in a Resume
You may be an expert in your field, newly graduated, full of unique ideas, or the top sales professional on your team, you know how to get your job done, but you still don’t know what to put in your resume.
If this is you — you are not alone. I get messages all the time: “Help me! I don’t know what to put in my resume! What should I write in my resume? How do I highlight my achievements? What should I put for my skills? What? What? What?
If you find yourself panicked and at a loss, the first thing you might do is to write down a few lists:
List 1: Your Values — what do you value, and how does this show up in your work? Are you timely? A stickler for details? Do you think out of the box? Do you listen deeply? What do you impact do you want to make in this world?
Write down your CORE Values and consider taking the VIA Character Survey.I call the VIA (Values in Action) Survey answers “how you BE” in this world.
List 2: Your Strengths — what do you rock? What do you do well? What kinds of problems do people come to you to solve? What can you do that is easy for you and hard for other people? What are your STRENGTHS?
To learn more about your Strengths take the Strengths Finder 2.0Amazon affiliate link: make sure to buy a new book/kindle for online test code.
List 3: Your Interests — what do you enjoy? What are you doing when you find that perfect mix of challenge and pleasure? What activities let you get caught in a state of flow? What kind of problems do you love to research, solve or explore? What are your INTERESTS?
Not sure about your interests or passions? Does your current job bore you? Did you study the wrong thing or end up in management, but hate management? Consider booking a single Career Coaching session to set your career on the right track before you start your next job search.Book a coaching session.
List 4: Your Needs — these might be financial (your salary and benefits), they might be your work environment (office, flexible, remote, requires travel, etc.), they might be intellectual or physical. What do you NEED from your job?
Not sure about your needs? Consider booking a single Career Coaching session.Book a coaching session.
List 5: Your Target Job — now find 3 to 5 ideal job postings on the Internet, go ahead and print them off and highlight all the skills, experiences, qualifications, tasks, job requirements, and benefits that show up in the job descriptions. Circle the ones that also show up on one of your lists above.
Sketch out Your Resume
Your resume will have approximately five different sections:
- Performance Profile
- Key Skills & Experiences/Key Accomplishments
- Work Experience
Your Performance Profile (see below) will match your employer’s values, strengths, unique skills, achievements, and needs/interests.
Your Key Skills & Experiences functions to confirm for the employer that you can do all the required tasks have the necessary knowledge, the soft skills, the hard skills, the language skills, or the technologies to get the job done.
Your Work Experience will demonstrate what you enjoy, what you have done, where you’ve learned or accomplished something crucial, and how this has played out in your previous and current employment.
If you’ve only got volunteer work or school projects, go ahead and list those instead, figure out what ties into your job search and highlight those details. For example, name the section “Relevant Experience” instead of “Work Experience.”
Your Education/Certifications show that you’ve got the technical requirements for the job. Often the “education” requirement can be replaced by “equivalent work experience.” Legal Certifications tend to be less flexible (licenses, etcetera), but you may get away with showing you are studying/preparing to contact them by X date.
Recent graduates list education right after the performance profile, and experienced employees list it at the end of the resume.
Technologies and Interests: some resumes list hobbies and interests or other technologies, which is technically a waste of space UNLESS your hobbies and interests, or technologies relate directly back to the job you seek.
When deciding which accomplishment stories, metrics, achievements, skills, and experiences to include on your resume, ask yourself: Is this relevant to the job I seek? Is this something that is required? Is this something that I enjoy doing and want to do more? If the answer is yes, work it into your resume.
Just because you CAN or DID do something doesn’t mean it is relevant or wise to include it on your resume. Think of what an employer NEEDs to know to hire you: What kind of person do they need? What skills? What personality strengths? Make sure you answer these questions and don’t worry about leaving out irrelevant details.
How to write a resume based on the job description:
Many job seekers want to cry when they learn that you most likely will not get hired by submitting the same resume to every job application.
Unfortunately, when 200+ resumes get submitted to a job posting, the best way to ensure your resume gets pulled is to write a killer resume and tailor it to every individual job description.
There are a few shortcuts that you can take to make this process easier and less painful.
The first time you craft your resume, write it to target your top three job postings. This tactic will help ensure that you get the most critical requirements, skills, and experiences in your resume and that it is well-formatted for the work you seek. And you can use it to apply to each of these three jobs.
Use my favorite resume scanning tool, CVScan, to re-match your resume to each job description. Your goal is to have a minimum 80% match; when I write resumes for clients, I aim for more than 90%.
When using CVScan make a note of the words and phrases CVScan highlights as red; when you update your resume to match the new job description, make sure to get these words into the first half of your resume. Rescan.
When applying for jobs, write the job title EXACTLY as named in the job posting on the top of your resume above your performance profile. This will assure the bot and the hiring human that you want the job for which you’ve just applied
Note the difference in these titles:
PERFORMANCE PROFILE: Business Analyst
PERFORMANCE PROFILE: Business Process Analyst
PERFORMANCE PROFILE: IS Business Analyst/Relationship Manager
PERFORMANCE PROFILE: Test Analyst
Let’s say you submit an application for the Relationship Manager position above with a resume titled “Test Analyst,” maybe the skills required for these jobs are similar. Still, quality assurance tests are different from customer relationships, and the hiring manager will immediately doubt your fit.
Take 30 seconds to update your resume and ensure the correct job title is on the resume header.
The first thing that often happens once you start applying to multiple jobs and customizing your resume to each one is that you quickly lose track of which resume went where. This can result in an embarrassing conversation down the road.
To avoid this conflict, do two things: Save each resume using your Last Name or Initials plus the company name and the date you applied.
For example, Rakoto.HR Costco.15.04.2019
And then, use a spreadsheet that tracks each job, resume title, date applied, and any notes. Here is a link to an excellent online job tracking spreadsheet (no need to reinvent the wheel).
Suppose you are looking to learn how to write a resume objective or write a resume professional summary; in that case, I recommend that you start thinking instead about your “performance profile.” Who are you as a professional, and what do you offer an employer? Objectives fail because they focus on your goals. The performance profile focuses on your ideal employers’ needs.
Your Performance Profile is easily the most critical part of your resume. Your performance profile is a proactive and future-forward replacement of the “objective” and sometimes called a “professional” or “power” summary section.
Your “performance profile” tells an employer what you can do. It speaks to your values and strengths, aligns your goals with that of your employer, and ties your past achievements into your future accomplishments. It shows how you will perform on the job.
Every kickass resume starts with a performance profile. Every. Single. One.
The performance profile is built upon a solid professional narrative. It is versatile; you can use it for your LinkedIn summary, as an elevator pitch, and when you are networking! Write it once, but then modify the language slightly to match the keywords and phrases that show up in each job posting.
Your performance profile should be uniquely yours. It should not sound like a job description; you can even write it in the first person. Resumes that incorporate the first person are what we call “human-voiced resumes,” When done well, they are highly effective.
If you are new to the “human-voiced resume,” consider writing your performance profile in the first person and the remainder of your resume in the third person.
Some recruiters advise against human-voiced resumes and prefer robotic-sounding text; my take on this is that if the recruiter wants to hire a robot, he should employ a robot; if he wants to hire a human, hire a human! I’ve used human-voiced resumes with clients since 2014 for clients and since 2004 for myself!
Digital Marketing Executive – Performance Profile Sample
With a growing passion for mission-driven technologies, I continue to value data-inspired and human-driven product design. In this, I anticipate working with a diverse set of high-level thinkers to collaborate and creatively solve business and user problems. Thus, leveraging my experience to guide teams to generate brilliant and disruptive digital experiences around an organization’s core mission — the end goal — facilitating brands’ seamless and positive integration into people’s lives.
Software Developer – Performance Profile Sample
Personable Senior Developer with twenty plus years of progressive experience, I delight in stuff that works. Committed to continuous professional development and learning: the pleasure is doing the work and seeing the results. I enjoy collaborating with end-users and maintaining open lines of communication with all stakeholders. Adept with requirements, solutions, coding, and communicating meaningful results, I particularly enjoy testing and quality assurance.
Customer Relationship & Sales Manager – Performance Profile Sample
As a charismatic and results-oriented sales professional, I delight in solving customer problems with the best product or service. An early adopter of anything tech, I am on top of current trends, and I anticipate continuing to deepen my knowledge. I understand the importance of listening skills and customer empathy in finding innovative solutions.
How to write a resume that will impress a bot
This isn’t actually a joke. Nearly all resumes get scanned by ATS (Automatic Tracking Software) before going to an actual human being. You need to write a resume that impresses both the bot and the human.
One of the most important reasons NOT to use a cutesy or unique or stylish or trendy resume template is that many of these templates are NOT bot-friendly. For the same reason, avoid using your mad design skills to create image boxes and fixed tables or include another image on your resume.
These things cannot be read by the BOT!
To write a bot-friendly resume you should do the following:
- Create your resume in a format that allows all of your text to be read in the order of appearance on your page and in a single cohesive text box; for this reason avoid putting your name and contact info in a Header, instead create your first-page header in the body of your document. Multiple text boxes on a single page can result in gibberish and missed text when scanned.
- Print off or copy the text of 3 to 5 job listings; now highlight the keywords and phrases used in each description and make sure to use these in your resume. Your jargon should match the jargon the bot is scanning for! This is a crucial reason you need to modify your resume for EACH job.
- The keywords, activities, and requirements listed in a specific job description should appear in the first half the resume. If you want to create interest with synonyms and other technical terms, do so in the second half of your resume. Bots weight the first part of your resume.
- If specific certificates or educational requirements are a must in the job description, make sure you list your education using the same language in the job description.
If you don’t believe me or someone has told you otherwise (so many resume writers are PIMPING Canva resumes), here is another article that discusses how ATS software reads (or doesn’t read) your resume. If you want to get hired you gotta pay attention to these details!
How to format a resume and get noticed
Writing a resume is hard. It sucks to dive in and dig deep, recalling all the things in our past and figuring out what is the most important or crucial items to list on our resume.
Our biggest fear is that we will come across as sounding boring, robotic, and just not good enough. Selecting a sexy resume template seems like an easy and clever fix to the resume doldrums, but I assure you it is NOT.
Writing a resume is uncomfortable, so it’s really easy to get lost searching out the perfect format. All the online templates created by apps like CANVA make it easy to put too much emphasis on the formatting and forget that it’s the content that really counts.
Yes, your resume needs to be readable and easy on the eyes, but unless you work in graphic design, you are not being hired for your design skills, the content of your resume is more important than a sexy template. And, as we discussed in the previous section you need to address the BOT!
To get hired, spend most of your time working to ensure the content of your resume is relevant, interesting, and that it tells a positive story about what you can do. Use your words and your experiences to stand out, not some fancy type and trendy color combos.
Your resume should look good, but it is the story it tells that people will remember and that will get you hired.
If you’ve got six hours, but three of them into writing your Performance Profile, two into writing the resume content, and one into making sure the format looks good and that the grammar is correct.
If you hire a resume writer, consider that an expert resume writer will spend three to five hours researching, writing, and targeting your resume. If you hire a $50 rewrite that person is either making $10 an hour or they are only putting a lazy hour into modifying your resume.
When I work with clients I provide you a survey that may take YOU upwards of two hours to complete. Writing a GOOD resume is an investment in your future — invest the time, the brainpower, and if needed the money (aka professional support) you need to get ahead.
Hire me to give help with your professional narrative — this is the best way to learn how to write your own winning resume.
Design DOES Matter: Top Formatting Mistakes to Avoid
The design of your resume does matter. A flashy design without compelling content is pointless, but your resume does need to look nice. For this reason, I’ve shared a few simple, clean templates that you can download and use or modify.
The easiest to make mistakes involve fonts, colors, spacing, borders, and the use of image boxes, some tables, and columns (often used with skill ranking systems).
Let’s look at these in detail.
Type Font and Font Color:
If you use an application to create your resume, choose common fonts, such as Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman or Helvetica. These fonts are common because they can be read by all types and ages of computer systems.
Article on type fonts: If you don’t believe me, go to MIT for proof!
You and your hiring manager will likely NOT be using the same type of computer or software; so, to make sure your resume can be read use a common type font and save your resume as a PDF.
When you select your font color (and your backgrounds) take time to think about what it will look like printed in Greyscale. You might format your resume to be bright and cheery, but trust me, a recruiter who prints off 100s of resumes a day won’t be investing in using her color ink to print YOUR resume.
If you want to add variety to your resume, you can use shades of blue or grey fonts that won’t change a lot on different systems. Beware of greens and red or orange as what looks pretty on your screen might look like puke or poop on another. Trust me, I’ve seen it!
Lastly, make sure your resume still looks good and is readable if printed in black and white!
Click here to download my custom and FAVORITE minimalist template.
This is one page but can be easily extended to two pages.
Just remember to put your name and a page number on the second page!
Spacing & Borders
Resumes need to be readable and spacing issues can be awkward. Keep your borders reasonable (don’t go under ¾ inches (0.75) or 1.5 cm on the sides or ½ inch (0.5) or 0.5 cm on the top and bottom.
Double-check that line spacing, period spacing (one), page pagination, and all that jazz is consistent and looks good. If you use block formatting make sure that awkward spaces don’t appear in your blocks.
If your resume goes onto two or three pages (for those of you in very technical fields or with 15+ years of experience) make sure your name and the page number are in the header of the additional pages.
In general, avoid using a border on your resume; different systems produce different results and it might be that your border gets off-centered or moves over your header text or drops onto an additional unnecessary page.
Image Boxes, Tables & Columns
Image boxes cannot be read by the ATS systems period. Don’t use an image for any part of your resume from your name to any details in an image box or logo. The information will be lost. The only place you may wish to use an image is as a background block of color.
If you use MS Word, GoogleDocs or Pages you can create a hidden table to list skills. I like this as a tactic to this is a good way to get extra keywords in your resume and to make it easily modifiable for specific job targeting.
Warning: I’ll say it again. Do not create tables that are images. Do not use a design template like Canva to create a table. These usually cannot be scanned by ATS software.
Hitting Save As > PDF.
As with everything the best way to ensure your PDF lands in the format that you sent it in, is to save it as a PDF. All current versions of Word, Pages and GoogleDocs allow you to save your resume as a PDF.
The exception is that if you are working with a specific recruiter who may wish to reformat your resume to meet specific employer requests. In this case, share a PDF that you approved and an MS Word version that your recruiter can modify.
Linkedin: Are Resumes Still Important?
With the advent of online portfolios, LinkedIn and other forms of social proof, sometimes keeping an updated resume on hand, may seem like overkill; however, resumes ARE not DEAD.
Regardless of the sad number of dead trees involved, if I’ve got to compare 20 or 200 hundred candidates and share them with my colleagues, it’s a heck of a lot easier to share a stack of printed resumes than 200 links, which may all have different amounts of information and load time.
Write a resume that stands out and have it at the ready, ready to share if someone asks for it in both print and PDF form. And then have another version in Word, GoogleDocs or Pages that you can quickly modify to fit a particular job posting.
Luck comes from preparation, if you are not prepared, you’ll never be lucky!
Career Coaches & Resume Writers: Are they worth it?
The number one reason you might hire a resume writer who is a career coach is to reach your goal in the shortest amount of time. Invest in your future TODAY and it will pay off faster than you imagine! Note I wrote, “a resume writer WHO IS ALSO a Career Coach.” Not all resume writers were created equal. Hire a cheap resume rewrite and you may be wasting your money. Hiring a career coach? Now that is a wise investment.
Recently, working with a client who’d been in “career transition” for three years, my client got an interview and job offer BEFORE I even completed rewriting her resume. Why? Because in one coaching call and a conversation about her strengths, I’d taught her to talk about her work differently and with more confidence. All she had to do was tell a more compelling story.
If you simply hire a resume writer (not a career coach), keep in mind that their focus will be on what you tell them and on making your resume keyword ready or giving it a fancy format. If your professional narrative is lacking, if you are targeting the wrong jobs, your average resume writer won’t be any help. Many of my clients have ALREADY WORKED WITH A RESUME WRITER. They come to me because they realized they needed something MORE. They needed a coach to help them articulate their strengths and goals to craft an effective professional narrative.
The BEST reason to hire a career coach is to build your self-awareness and improve your ability to talk about what you can do and want to do, while also gaining the confidence to know that you are on the right path for long-term career satisfaction and success.
Resume writing and job search skills are life-skills, the earlier you learn them, the better off you will be!
How to Pick a Career Coach or Resume Writer
First, I’d check out their LinkedIn profile and recommendations. Just because someone has a website and even testimonials doesn’t make them legit. In this day and age, it’s difficult to “hoax” your LinkedIn.
If your ideal coach or resume writer has nailed her LinkedIn, she can likely help you too. If she’s got reviews (and recent ones) that is also a good sign.
Referrals are another great way to find good writers and coaches, so if you’ve got friends that have just found new jobs, inquire if they got any help!
Writing a good resume takes time and thought. Any service that offers you a 24-hour resume return and for CHEAP is likely just going to play with your formatting and keywords. There is no way that anyone can get to know you and write an effective resume in that amount of time.
Career Coaching also takes time, so anyone promising you a quick fix, may not know what he or she is doing. Take the time and invest in your future. $200 or $500 spent today, is nothing when you consider how much it may increase your future income.
I recently coached a young man (a French ex-pat) for an interview with an American company. One of the subjects I coached him on was salary; thanks to my coaching he got more than double the salary he’d been expecting prior to working with me.
What about Templates?
Yes, I get that you want to take the guessing out of formatting your resume. A top resume search term is “Fast & Reliable Templates,” but the trick is that there is no simple formula.
Many resume templates are super attractive, but for the most part, they are difficult to manipulate and customize for specific jobs and many, such as templates created in CANVA often cannot be read by ATS bots.
If you REALLY want a pretty resume, then do a traditional resume for submitting to jobs online and a general “pretty” one to print off and keep on hand for in-person networking.
You can also use a pretty PDF template if you know for certain that your resume is going directly into a hiring manager’s inbox. Just remember to respect the content and narrative recommendations I discussed above.
Two Templates Just for YOU with built in instructions
Basic One Page Chronological Resume — modify as you see fit!
Functional Resume for a Career Pivot or to hide a GAP — modify as you see fit!
Some Tips for Specific Concerns:
- How to write a resume as a freelancer: write a resume that supports targeting your ideal client and that highlights the skills you wish to focus on; if you’ve pivoted fields, make sure you’ve got a narrative that backs you up.
- How to write a resume as a consultant: this will vary depending on your field, but focus on keeping it relevant and using accomplishment stories. Don’t just use action verbs or power words; show people what you do and what you are like to work with.
- How to write a resume as a stay at home mom: Focus on your strengths and values; don’t discredit volunteer work, describe what you’ve done, learned, managed (going above and beyond titles) over the last few years. Use the language that shows up in job descriptions and show both your drive, your motivation and your understanding of what needs to get done. Your performance profile is your ticket to success — create an image of the professional you can be before they read the rest of the resume!
- How to write a resume before graduation (and after): Make sure you align your values with those of your ideal employer. Instead of talking about “my goals” or what “I hope to get” show how your goals, skills, drive, ambition will allow you do succeed in a role and solve the employer’s problem — honor your goals but write to the employer’s.
Your resume is one of the most important investments you can make in your future. You may feel uncomfortable and even annoyed that you’ve got to dig deep and do a good job, but if you want a job you love, you need to put some love into your resume!
Shortcuts and quick fixes, too much of a focus on design and not enough focus on your content will just send you barking up the wrong tree or getting ZERO call backs. Be intentional and thoughtful with your design, making sure that your resume is READABLE by all!
Ready to work with a coach? Book me.