Last week, a professional organization shared a sample client worksheet. It reminded me of the kind of information I feel is most helpful when collaborating with a client to generate an outstanding resume.
Some of the information I have found essential includes:
- Job target,
- Business and professional achievements,
- Employment history,
- Education, and
- Continuing education and certifications.
This is not the only information needed for a great resume. It’s information I’ve found essential whether you are writing the resume yourself, or hiring a writer to develop it or collaborate with you.
The starting point for a great resume is your job target. It is difficult to produce a resume that applicant tracking systems (ATS) will pass along to hiring managers when we do not focus on a specific role. It is also challenging to develop a resume hiring managers will seriously consider if the document does make it through their automated screening system when it is not designed to demonstrate your qualifications for a specific job.
Your resume will have fewer relevant keywords if your job target is not clear. It also won’t emphasize the correct accomplishments. For example, when I wrote a resume for an elementary school principal who was applying to be a professor that evaluates student teachers, we had to emphasize teacher-evaluation skills rather than her administration and leadership skills. Chances are that the selection committee at the college would not have interviewed her if she had submitted a resume that did not demonstrate the correct skillset.
Professional writers and coaches will recommend you pursue coaching before working on a resume if you don’t have a job target.
It’s also critical for the resume writer to know your skills. There are two general kinds of skills—hard skills, sometimes referred to as technical skills, and soft skills, sometimes called personal traits. Hard skills include things like expertise in specific accounting and auditing procedures, while soft skills are things like leadership, teamwork, and communications skills.
Employers search their ATS databases for candidates with skills in, for example, applying certain accounting standards, so your resume won’t be found if these skills are not there. They won’t necessarily search for candidates that say they have soft skills such as great communications skills, because nearly every jobseeker says they are great communicators. Instead, you will have to demonstrate these skills through accomplishments that showcase your outstandingpersonal traits.
Business and Professional Accomplishments
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is elaborate on your accomplishments when you collaborate with a writer. It is tempting to paste much of your position description (PD) into your resume, or list the tasks you perform daily because the job description includes keywords application tracking systems are programmed to look for.
There are at least two problems with resumes that are built largely from job descriptions. First, a resume built from your PD won’t differentiate you from others applying for the same role. Also, the PD probably includes tasks you have not had the opportunity to perform.
Set yourself apart from the crowd by providing your writer with detailed information about the business problems or opportunities you addressed, the actions you took to address these opportunities, and the results you achieved. Take a look at the examples on our Website, and at our detailed blog post on the problem, action, result (PAR), model for a deeper understanding of this approach. Of course, a qualified resume writer or coach will ask you for this information and explain their own variation of the model.
You are more likely to land the job or promotion you are seeking when you include PAR statements on your resume, promotion applications, and LinkedIn profile, and then discuss details at your interviews.
Every writer and coach will ask for your work history. It is important to understand your recent work history so you and the writer can make good decisions about what experience will be most impactful and relevant to your job target.
The writer you are collaborating with should understand your formal educational background, including degrees that seem irrelevant. My favorite example is that of an aerospace-electronics engineer who holds a law degree. It is his only advanced degree, so it can either push his resume through initial screenings that require “an advanced degree,” or result in HR placing him in a higher pay band because he holds an advanced degree. As a result, we decided to include it on his resume and LinkedIn profile.
A hiring manager once told me her organization rejected a jobseeker I referred because the client had no education on her document. HR apparently did not approve the candidate for interview because she did not show the required education on her resume even though the department head knew personally that she met the requirement.
Think twice about “dumbing down” a resume. Based on my experience, it is usually a mistake to exclude education.
Continuing Education and Certifications
Industry certifications and continuing education have gained increasing relevance in recent years. It was common at one time for employers to hire candidates based on their recent college degrees, and then train them internally as they moved into leadership or into staff expert roles. Today, workers move more frequently between organizations, so employers have to rely on industry certifications as evidence of competence instead of internal training.
Certifications and continuing education classes add valuable keywords as well as substantive evidence of competence. The challenge for many of us is to select only the most relevant and recent classes, for our resume. Remember that you can include longer lists on separate handouts, as well as on your LinkedIn profile.
Expect a writer or coach to ask about the areas above and many others before preparing a resume draft. The important thing to remember is that whether you hire someone to write your resume, or do it yourself, you will need to gather together a great deal of information for the job to be done correctly.