How To Write A Better Resume | Sarah Rose
[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
I’ve been writing/editing freelance for over 4 years now. At first, I was looking for a way to earn extra money and took on any job that came my way. I’ve edited essays for high school students, written for a holistic health physician, written resumes, cover letters, and a few white papers. I edited marketing copy for websites and brochures, and helped someone complete a dissertation. But one of my favorite things about helping people is resumes. Resumes are, in many ways, similar to poetry. They should be succinct but comprehensive. Every word and line counts. It’s easy for all of us to leave things on our resumes that aren’t quite important. The audience matters stillbut especially for CVs, which recruiters only consult for an average of seven seconds. Brevity has never been so appropriate.
Write a really a great resume doesn’t take a lot of time, but it does require a solid understanding of what to include, what to exclude, and what recruiters are interested in. Here are my top tips for writing a damn good resume.
1. Use the reverse chronological order format.
The format of a CV is important. The most relevant details should come first, and the “extra credit” items should land at the bottom. Here is the order of the items I prefer:
- Contact information
- Professional experience
Accomplishments should only be included if they are relevant to the job you are applying for. Sometimes people include information about their kids (and sometimes even their kids’ accomplishments) and I always delete it. The resume is not a place to brag about your personal life.
2. Get rid of the “objective” or “summary” and add relevant skills instead.
Hate is a strong word, but I really, really don’t specifically like the phrase objective/summary at the top of resumes. We all know you are looking for a job. We’re all afraid to write down an objective and I guarantee most recruiters or hiring managers don’t care if it’s there or not. I like to start with the skills section instead. Remember that you need to add and remove skills depending on the job you want. It’s a good idea to locate skills/tools under the “must have” or “required” sections of a job posting and add them to your resume (if you actually have these skills).
Here are some examples taken from my own CV. I add and subtract as needed.
Skills: Salesforce, Microsoft Office, Prospecting, Sales Cycle, Fundraising, Stewardship, Creative Writing, Teamwork, Adobe Suite, Data Analysis, Google Analytics, Wix, WordPress, Canva, Volunteer Management, Pipeline Management , content creation, copy editing, grant management, research, problem solving, time management, communication, adaptability, efficiency.
3. Include only relevant work experience.
The keyword here is “relevant”. If you are applying for a finance role, be sure to include any work experience you have that falls into this category. Likewise, choose to leave out any unimportant jobs you’ve had (like your college summer job at a nursery) or any jobs you left after just a few months. If you only have a few years of experience, find creative ways to make your work experience shine. For example, if most of your work experience is waitressing, you can focus on your ability to manage a point of sale system, effective communication, food safety, or creative problem solving. Add lots of keywords to your job descriptions and use past tense for every position except the one you currently hold. Use bullet points to make your job descriptions readable. Here is an example of my job description from my time at the American Red Cross:
American Red Cross: Regional Philanthropy Lead
Orange County, California | October 9, 2017-October 21, 2021
– Exceeded monthly and annual fundraising goals: raised nearly $1 million in one fiscal year
– Raised over $250,000 from new donors in one fiscal year
– Management of a portfolio of 100 foundations, companies and individual donors
– Creation of individualized grant proposals and reports before the deadline
– Assisting the marketing team with email campaigns, blogs, press releases and customer testimonials
– Execute prospecting and stewardship activities in a timely manner
– Creation of custom stewardship elements and donor communications
– Development of a reporting system for grant management, reporting and stewardship
4. Use keywords related to the role you are applying for.
Keywords are words or phrases that relate to specific requirements for a job. These are the skills, abilities, credentials, and qualities that a hiring manager looks for in a candidate. The tighter the match, the better your chances of being selected for an interview. Many recruiters use applicant tracking systems (or talent management systems) to screen potential candidates. These systems weed out resumes that are missing certain keywords, so if your resume is missing those, chances are no human eye will ever see your resume. By including keywords in your resume or cover letter, you’ll demonstrate at a glance that you meet the job requirements. Some keywords I put in my resume include: “grant management”, “pipeline management”, “sales cycle”, “stewardship”, etc.
5. Education/school achievements matter less as you get older.
If you’re fresh out of college, your GPA and grades will carry more weight. But the further you get from graduation, the more weight your professional experience carries. If you’ve just graduated and have little to no work experience, you can put your education at the top. Do not add your GPA unless it is over 3.5, and also add any continuing education or certification to this section.
Questions to ask yourself:
– Is your CV readable? It should be professional, clean and have consistent fonts/spacing.
– Is there anything you can remove? Take out the unimportant stuff
– Have you included keywords and are they relevant to the job you are applying for?
– If you were the hiring manager, would your resume pique your interest? – Are there any spelling/grammatical errors? Have someone else look at your resume before using it to make sure it’s as clean and readable as possible.
PS Find Cool, Easy-to-Follow Resume Templates heredownload Grammar hereor find out how to incorporate keywords into a CV here.