December 2, 2010
How to write a stellar resume, without paying for it
Not all job seekers have the money to invest in a professionally written, high-quality resume. What's worse is that with today's sophisticated applicant tracking systems, a well-written resume won't get you that far, anyway. Each resume must be customized to the exact needs of the employer.
Besides customization, you still need an outstanding way of describing who you are and what makes you special or different from any other job seeker out there. To do that successfully, you need to do a competitive analysis to find out who and what you're up against.
A competitive analysis not only helps you find out who your competition is, it also helps you borrow ideas from the way these people describe their offerings. There is an old saying that a competitive analysis allows you to "R&D" the competition -- "rip off and duplicate."
For example, to get free resumes for project managers on Google, type this string in the search engine:
intitle:resume education project manager -jobs -submit -apply ext:doc
The intitle tells Google to look for the words "resume," "education" (which appears in most resumes) and "project manager" (the title we're searching for). The minus sign tells it to leave out any results with the words "jobs," "submit," or "apply" in them, because we don't want to pull up job descriptions. Ext:doc refers to finding actual documents; in this case, we're looking for Word documents. You can also replace doc with pdf, if you want to find additional results. Make sure to add further customizations, such as additional keywords and location to the search string to find resumes from your local competition.
You can get additional resume info by using the advanced search feature on LinkedIn.
Once you log in to LinkedIn, click on Advanced Search found on the top right-hand side of the page. Put in a title, add some keywords, narrow down by location and hit search. This will tell you who in your area meets this criteria and what their profiles look like.
By looking at both the Google and LinkedIn results, you'll notice weak, good and stellar resumes. Pick out your favorites, and ask a couple of recruiters in your field what their thoughts are on your choices before you decide to use them as your template.
The strongest and most impactful part of a resume is the professional summary section. This is where you get to tell the employer who you are, what you do and how great you are. Many job seekers miss out on this great opportunity to impress employers. They use weak statements such as "ability to multi-task," "have great communication skills," "I am passionate," etc. I call these fluffy intros.
To write a strong intro, you need the right mindset and vocabulary. For the right mindset, imagine that a famous business magazine (i.e. Fortune or Forbes) comes to you for an interview on your subject matter expertise. What would they say to their readers about who you are and why you're the expert?
Many of us aren't great with vocabulary or sentence structure when describing our greatness. This is where the R&D process pays off. Borrowing statements (without plagiarizing) from the strong resumes you found earlier is a great start. Another technique is to look up experts in your field. If you know their names, go to their websites and look at their bios or press kits. If you don't know their names, go to Amazon.com, narrow down the books by your field, sort by best-seller and get the names of the authors. Then, visit their profiles to get an idea on how you should present yourself.
While this work can take some time and resources, it's well worth the investment. You'll be surprised at the amount of information you'll gather about your competition and how ready you'll be to give your resume a nice upgrade - for free.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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