What is Resume Writing?
It’s one of my favorite things to do with my clients. It allows me to help clients uncover key traits, Knowledge, Skills, and Attributes (KSAs), and learn more about who they are and how they operate. Resume writing is a process of showcasing your professional accomplishments that will show your next employer the value you can potentially add to their organization.
It’s easier said than done.
The biggest reason resume writing is challenging is because most clients don’t know how to articulate their accomplishments on paper. In person, they’re able to share their accomplishments and get into the details. In black and white text, that’s difficult. How do you know what to put on the resume? What will the reader appreciate? What will make them call you for an interview?
There’s another complicating factor which has been in play for nearly a decade, the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). ATS does a comparative analysis on your resume and provides the recruiter with a prioritized list of candidates to review. Often, if your resume isn’t scoring high then you’re not going to receive a phone call.
What is an ATS (Applicant Tracking System)?
Nearly all Fortune 500 companies use an ATS to screen candidates using machine learning algorithms, natural language processing, and clustering analysis. They compare your document against the job description and provide a compatibility score for candidacy for that position.
Most recruiters don’t have time to review all applications, so they may focus on the top 10% of the applicants. That leaves a lot of resumes unreviewed. This is why it makes job search so challenging. At Balanced At Last, we use a similar ATS technology to assess our client’s documentation and provide a report indicating their performance. By using these metrics, we’re able to show progress.
For example, I was working with a client who spent 6 months applying for jobs and wasn’t getting any interviews. They were frustrated and annoyed at the process. Understandably.
So, in our first session I showed them what may have been the reason for the lackluster success – ATS. Afterwards, we worked for 2-3 sessions improving the resume and they started getting immediate responses, and phone interviews!
How do you write a resume?
Here are 5 steps towards resume writing:
Inventory – Identify what you have and what you’re seeking
Expression – Share what values you can add to your prospective employer
Revision – Revise, revise, revise.
Testing – Apply and test your resume’s effectiveness
Modification – Revise to accomodate what you’ve learning from testing
Resume writing and creation has only five steps, but each step can take time to craft so it’s working for you and you aren’t finding yourself in a state of frustration. Resume editing is a lengthy process, but once progress is made and the strategies are implemented, the process is streamlined and you’re able to overcome this significant barrier towards interviewing and your next position.
Resume Writing – Step one: Inventory
Creating a detailed account of your accomplishments is a great way to record the value you can add to your next position. The inventory is a record of ALL experience building exercises. It goes from your KSAs to your IMAs, what you’ve learned in your life, career, school, etc. The more detailed your inventory, the easier it’ll be to write a powerful resume that’s going to WOW the reader.
Here’s what people forget, most accomplishments they’ve made beyond 2 years ago. Don’t let this be you. Allow yourself to create a master inventory list of your accomplishments. Mine is about 15 pages, and it goes back to my first job. I don’t reference most of my resumes, but it helps trigger my memory as to what I accomplished years ago. Having a detailed inventory also means to share numbers, quantifying your effort, results, and impact is critical in cultivating a resume that will overcome the ATS and make your resume shine.
Resume Writing – Step two: Expression
Allows you to market yourself not only on your resume but also on your LinkedIn and during the interview process. Expression is how you write your resume, it’s about making sure you’re aligning yourself with your prospective employer, job description, and recruiter. This is harder to know, but this is how the ATS will compare your candidacy against what they need. So, make sure you have your marketing hat on, and you’re able to craft your statements that’ll be attractive to the reader. The positioning of your accomplishment, information, wording, etc. all have a part to plan in orchestrating the resume. But, when it’s done and it’s going to make the whole resume sing.
For example, a 1st timers resume may not have any professional experience, which is okay, but it’s important for them to share classwork, groups, sports, etc. that’ll highlight their accomplishments.
Career changers will have a different approach, learning what accomplishments to reduce and which accomplishments to highlight. This is one of the hardest tasks, and still doable.
Resume Writing – Step three: Revision
I wish we could brush this off to the side. Unfortunately, this is a most crucial and time consuming part of resume writing. It’s finetuning your resume to ensure it performs well against the ATS. Do this, do this well and you can really get an interview request within days!
Revisions are painful, but it’s extremely important. We use our ATS technology to assess how the resume has improved, and continue leveraging technology to craft impactful resumes. This is tedious, but the best way you can write your resume is by elaborating on the items from your inventory, using STAR statements, and including quantifiable information as much as possible.
What is a STAR statement?, you ask.
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Results. If your bullet points are able to convey those four points, then you’re creating impactful statements that’ll likely help the ATS score your resume higher. So, once you have a good resume start revising. It’s important.
Resume Writing – Step four: Testing
Good job! You’ve come to the testing part, this is where you start seeing results of your effort. When you upload your brand new resume, you are looking for responses. Positive responses may be received within one week, maybe two. If you aren’t receiving negative responses within two weeks, you’re in the middle ground, not the top 10% that’s being reviewed.
These indicators are key. It’ll tell you how the resume is doing against the ATS. Once you’ve applied to 20-30 positions you’ll have a strong understanding of your resume’s strength.
Resume Writing – Step five: Modification
While you’re applying, you may be inclined to change the resume with every application, but I discourage you from doing that. Follow your career development plan. This will bring you more success than continuously revising the resume. That being said, while you’re reviewing job descriptions, they may trigger forgotten accomplishments. Great! Add that to your inventory, after the testing phase, go back and incorporate these forgotten accomplishments.
For example, I had a client who forgot that they helped launch a multi-million dollar project from ground up in system infrastructure. After reading a job description they started remembering the finer details of that project which was a key component, after they wrote in detail about that project they were able to find other highly relevant and related skills in analysis, project management, and process improvement they had accomplished a part of building out the infrastructure.
Your resume is a living document, it’s ineffective when the resume is put on the backburner after a job is secured. Those that advance fast, make it a habit to update their resume frequently.
I advise updating resumes more frequently in early career, 0-5 years of experience, individuals will benefit from updating resumes every season (3 months), this is where a lot of growth occurs during a person’s career.
For Mid-career, 5-15 years of experience, updating your resume every 6 months to 1 years is ideal. The progress isn’t as exponential, because the focus is largely on team building and managing.
For executives (15+ years), updating every year is recommended because the focus during the 15+ mark is on strategy and the implementation is done by mid and early career professionals.
You’ll find enormous kinds of resume templates, Etsy will sell you templates from $.99 to $5.00; but in my eyes they don’t make a difference. Resume templates are aesthetically pleasing, but it doesn’t matter to the ATS because it assesses the keywords within the context of your resume. It’s advanced AI (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning) isn’t putting too much weight on the aesthetics of your resume. Stay with the traditional resume style, it’ll cause you less headache and will likely outlive any current trends. (note: if you’re going to into the creative field then ignore this advice – your work is also taken into account)
Here are the basic sections needed in a resume:
Key accomplishments and Skills
Additional sections (Leadership, extracurricular, projects, technical skills, etc.)
The reason I say you don’t need a template is because it loses focus on what’s important, the content and your accomplishment and the value you can bring to the company.
On average, a recruiter may review your resume for 6 seconds, that’s enough time to get a glimpse of the candidate’s accomplishments. Let the content make you stand out of the crowd and not the template. But, if you insist I love Google Docs, and their resume templates. Plus, if you have a gmail account, you have Google Docs, so it’s easily accessible.
Resume Writing (and LinkedIn) Services
At Balanced At Last, our resume and LinkedIn services start at $75 per session/review.
We also offer the following services for Resume Building:
Resume Writing – Fully rewriting the resume, which includes upto 3 investigative sessions, aligning the resume to desired career path (based on ATS-simulation), and 3 revisions. Plus, Resume Review.
Resume Revision – Revising resume 2 times with 1 investigative session. Plus, Resume Review.
Resume Review – An ATS-simulated assessment of current resume and general notes on improving the resume.
We offer similar services for your LinkedIn profile as well so your LinkedIn profile is also working for your career development:
LinkedIn Creation – Fully creating the LinkedIn profile, which includes upto 2 investigative sessions, aligning profile with desired career goals and 2 revisions. Plus, LinkedIn Review.
LinkedIn Revision – Revising LinkedIn with 1 investigative session. Plus, LinkedIn Review.
LinkedIn Review – An ATS-simulated assessment of current LinkedIn and general notes on improving the resume.
Resume Writing Summary
Resume writing is the process in which you’re able to share your accomplishments, competencies, and value add to your next organization. The resume creation steps break down the process and make resume writing easier. Most of the resumes I’ve reviewed (10,000+) have similar issues; not marketing accomplishments to the reader’s benefit, being too generic/vague, forgetting to quantify accomplishments, and not recognizing the importance of an ATS during their application process. Learning to take an inventory and expressing your accomplishments will help you build a strong resume. Remember, your resume should not be a static document – it’s a living document and needs to evolve as you grow within your profession.