One of the worst parts of job hunting is surely writing a résumé. There's nothing like the daunting task of putting your entire career on a piece of paper to make you anxious, even if your background is totally impressive.
The longer you put off making a dent in it, though, the more intimidating the prospect will be. Start by giving yourself a one-hour time limit — just 60 minutes — to knock out a starter version. Once you have the basics down, you can chip away at improving it, little by little, until you feel confident about sending it out into the world.
Here are some steps and tools for getting started:
1. Pick A Format (15 Minutes)
Industry norms and standards may dictate the way you write your résumé. For example, a graphic designer might use their documents to show off their design skills, while added bells and whistles could be a turn off in more traditional fields.
So, before you dive in, spend a little bit of time looking through possible formats and envisioning which might serve you the best. Resume.com has some good options, and so does Hloom.com, which also provides tips for applicants in creative fields. There's also always the basic templates in Microsoft Word to get you started.
Think of your résumé as a kind of storytelling device: are you telling an elaborate tale with artistic flourishes, or a compact story that gets straight to the point? Decide your approach before you get started to make the process easier.
2. Talk Yourself Up — With Evidence (30-45 Minutes)
As you write your résumé, you should also consult a running list of accomplishments that illustrates how good you are at your job. Some of that might happen in a résumé objective, but you can also sprinkle it through the document itself. After all, if you're afraid that your résumé will seem generic compare to those of every other applicant, a good way to stand out is by including metrics that prove your skills.
Have great sales experience? Insert the revenue you've brought in. Able to manage teams? State how many people you've managed, on an individual basis or in terms of team size. Don't have much professional experience? Brainstorm other accomplishments that can represent you well.
Check out MyPerfectResume.com for ideas of details to include based on your industry. For example, the site says that automotive job applicants might be able to skimp on sections that detail formal education, but they would be wise to highlight details, experience, and knowledge that garages are looking for. For example, have you worked on certain models or have skill making modifications? Say so! Remember to be concise, but don't be afraid to show off a little.
3. Review (15 Minutes)
Your one-hour rés might be the quick-and-dirty version of future iterations, but you should still be aiming to perfect it. Research from career services company Ladders shows that recruiters only spend six seconds reviewing a résumé. So, beyond spell-checking for typos and inconsistencies, you should also scan yours with a critical eye to ensure that the most important points are present in the best places — even in a quick glance.
For example, according to a 2012 Ladders' study, their "gaze tracking" technology showed that recruiters spent almost 80% of their resume review time on the following data points: name, previous position start and end dates, current title/company, current position start and end dates, previous title/company, education. So, ask a friend to look over your résumé and ask about their one-minute impressions. Did they get tripped up by the way you organized everything on the page? Could they figure out what kind of job you're applying for and what you want to do? Were the details recruiters care about easy to find?
Take their feedback in stride for another day when you'll edit your résumé down — a process that will be much easier now that you've got the framework.