hances are your resume doesn’t get the response it deserves. If you’ve already started a job search, you’ve probably become disillusioned by how few employers bother even to acknowledge your applications.
If this is you, you’re not alone – there are millions of resumes floating around in cyberspace. The job market is more competitive than ever, and Internet job boards and computer resume databases have made it harder than ever to stand out. Or perhaps you haven’t actually started looking yet because you’re completely stuck when it comes to describing yourself on paper. If that describes you, you are also not alone. Almost all of us struggle when it comes to marketing ourselves effectively. We don’t know how to strike the right tone, we have thorny career issues we’re not sure how to address, or we just plain don’t know how to get started. Writing a resume is one of the most challenging aspects of a job search, but it’s also one of the most important. Your resume speaks for you when you’re not there. If it’s saying the right things, you’ll get interviews. But most resumes are not saying the right things and, as a result, the entire job search process can become frustrating, confusing, and a source of enormous stress. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
It’s not you, it’s your resume! I haven’t met you but I’d be willing to bet that your current resume doesn’t do you justice. I’m confident of this because I’ve seen tens of thousands of resumes over the years and very few of them accurately represented the human beings who wrote them.
You have a set of skills, experiences, and personality traits that make you unlike every other person applying for the same position. You have made an impact on past employers with new ideas or improved processes or better customer service or higher sales. But you’ve done more than that – you’ve contributed in countless ways. Perhaps you’re the guy everyone comes to for creative ideas. Or the woman whom coworkers rely on for IT help. Maybe you’re the most determined member of any team, or the most innovative, or the most reliable, or the one who always gets handed the problems other people can’t solve. You might be the person who makes everyone else laugh, or the leader who can inspire teams even in the darkest days, or the admin assistant who makes it possible for your bosses to take vacations for the first time in years. When you send in a resume for the perfect job, it can be baffling to not receive a response. After all, you know you can do that job! You have every qualification they asked for. Why are they rejecting you out of hand? But that’s the thing … they’re not rejecting you. They can’t reject you because they don’t know you! What they are actually rejecting is the version of yourself presented in your resume. If you get that presentation right by creating a document that conveys your unique background – and why it makes you the perfect fit – in a compelling and easy-to-read format, you will find that interview invitations start rolling in. In this guide, I am going to teach you exactly how to do that, step-by-step and with lots of real world examples to give you ideas and inspiration.
Who is this guide for? The principles I am going to teach you are universal. I write resumes for people at all levels, from recent graduates to senior-level executives, and I use this same approach for all of them. The content of an executive resume is obviously very different from the content of a resume for a recent graduate, but the method for creating that content is exactly the same. No matter what level you’re currently at, or what level you want to get to, this resume writing system will work for you. Different countries and cultures have different approaches to resume writing, and I am not an expert in them all. But if you live in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, or New Zealand, this approach to resume writing will work for you.
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Why I wrote this guide Before starting my own resume writing business, I spent 15 years working in HR. Over that time I hired thousands of people, from entry-level to senior executives, and I saw that a select group of people succeeded in marketing themselves effectively while most failed to make the most of their skills and experience. The truth is that most of the resumes I received were just plain awful. They didn’t give me the right information, they didn’t present it effectively, and they didn’t use the right keywords to show up in database searches. Seeing the opportunity to help people stand out among all these terrible resumes, I started my own resume writing service. Using my knowledge of the hiring process, I was able to write resumes that appealed to HR managers, recruiters, and hiring managers. As the business grew by word-of-mouth, the workload grew too much for me and I developed a system to train other writers to do the same. I truly get satisfaction from my work. I love hearing from clients that they sent out their new resume and immediately began to get phone calls. I love getting the emails telling me they landed a great new job. But there’s one downside to what I do. Many people can’t afford the fee for a top quality professional resume. Over and over again, I watched people choose lower-priced services to save money, or use ‘quick’ online systems promising a great resume in just a few minutes. Inevitably they were disappointed with the results, and it bothered me to think I wasn’t helping them create the future they deserved. That’s when I decided to write my series of Blue Sky Guides – to share my resume writing and job search systems with anyone who needs help to get more interviews and better job opportunities. When I first released a version of this guide, I wasn’t entirely sure if it would work. Would people be able to apply my principles to their own resume and get results? But four years later, the results are in. Very few weeks go by without emails from people who bought this guide, or one of our other Blue Sky Guides, and whose job search has turned around as a result. The reasons this resume writing system works so well are:
1 . It’s grounded in a very solid philosophy.
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2 . I take you step-by-step through the whole process with lots of real-world illustrations, so that you’re never lost for ways to apply my ideas to your personal situation.
Before we dive in and start working, let me explain more about the ideas behind the program so that you will understand why you’re doing the things you’re going to be doing.
The philosophy behind this guide My resume writing system is based on the premise that looking for a job is like marketing – only instead of selling a product, you are selling yourself. Just as with marketing, you are trying to persuade strangers to pay attention to you. Just as with product marketing, you have to show them why they should care about you by showing them how they will benefit. And just as with product marketing, you have only a very short time to get their attention and communicate your core message. Anyone who works in marketing will recognize elements of my system because they closely relate to the ways companies brand and market any service. As you work through the modules, you’ll be developing a solid understanding of: The needs and concerns of your target audience. What you – and only you! – can offer them. (I call this your ‘unique value proposition.’) How to put that value proposition into words. How to structure and format your resume so that your value is obvious at a glance. In short, my goal throughout the program is to teach you how to understand and communicate what makes you uniquely valuable.
How does the program work? If you’re a little uncomfortable with the idea of marketing yourself as you would market a product, you’re not alone. Most of us were taught not to boast when
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we were children, so when we sit down to write a resume, we feel awkward and unsure of how to present ourselves in the best possible light. Many people even get writer’s block. The resulting resume is usually a stilted, lifeless document that doesn’t represent the real person who wrote it. My system has been designed to help you avoid writer’s block, overcome your modesty, and write a compelling resume that truly does represent the real you. That’s because we start by not writing a resume. That’s right – a resume writing system that doesn’t involve writing a resume! At least not at first. In order to help you overcome writer’s block and develop the best possible content for your resume, my system is broken into five modules:
Module 1: An Introduction to the Blue Sky Approach
That’s what you’re reading now!
Module 2: Resume Dos and Don’ts
Before you get started on your own resume, I’m going to give you my general resume writing rules – traps to avoid and tips on how to succeed. These principles will be important to keep in mind as you work through the next two modules and you can refer to them at any time.
Module 3: The Preparation Stage
At this stage, you are not focused on writing the actual resume. You’re not worrying about format, structure, font choice, spelling, grammar, or even how many pages you write. Instead, you’re just focused on a series of exercises that will help you develop the content for your resume. Because the pressure of writing the resume is gone, you will find this process easier than you thought. You will also gain confidence as you answer my questions and begin to realize just how much you have to offer future employers. You will work through a series of exercises designed to help you: Define your job targets. Understand the needs of your target market.
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Draft content and develop ideas that will form the basis of your resume. The exercises are based on the Blue Sky Resumes proprietary questionnaire “The Explorer,” and also on the training I give my own professional resume writers. At the end of this stage, you will have all the raw content you need for your resume.
Module 4: Putting it All Together – Writing Your Resume
Once you have developed all your content, you will find this stage much easier than you imagined. You will know what message you want to convey and you will have written everything you need. Now you will simply edit, polish, and format the information until you have a highly effective marketing document that generates interest and dramatically increases your job search success. During Module 4 you will: Develop a resume profile that communicates your value proposition. Write concise, context-filled job descriptions that set the scene. Edit your accomplishment stories into concise, action-packed bullet points that make employers excited to meet you. Choose a resume structure and format that highlights your strongest selling points (and downplays any weaknesses). Create various versions of your resume so that everyone can view it no matter what computer system they are using. Once your resume is complete, we’ll also cover adapting it to suit different situations and you’ll be able to assess your new resume using my proprietary resume evaluation questionnaire.
Module 5: Sample resumes
In Module 5, I give you 20 actual resumes created for real people (although disguised to protect their personal information). You’ll see how the principles of my system apply to real-world situations, and you’ll gain ideas for your own resume.
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The free resume templates Because this program is all about individuality, copying the words on someone else’s resume is never the way to go. Doing so will only result in a copycat resume that doesn’t do you justice. But there’s nothing wrong with getting design ideas and help, so that you can focus on the message. For this reason, the guide comes with 20 MS Word resume templates. These resumes are the same ones included at the end of this guide as samples, but the Word templates are provided so that you can use one of our formats if you choose to. In addition, if you have seen a resume on our website at www.blueskyresumes. com/free-resume-samples and would like to obtain an MS Word copy, just email your receipt for the book to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you a copy.
What kind of transformation can you expect? To see what you’re going to be able to produce once you work through the system, take a look at the resume makeovers on the next few pages.
Resume #1 – Tax Director This client came to me with a concern that he had a “spotty and unimpressive” career (his words). After he completed our worksheets and spent time with me on the phone, it became apparent that there were a couple of strong threads running through his story. I decided to focus on two main themes:
1 . He had been successful in everything he attempted. 2 . He had a broad and deep expertise in his field. The “before” resume is professional and concise, but it conveys nothing of my client’s expertise and nothing that answers the prospective employer’s question: “What’s in it for me?” The “after” version, however, is coherent and compelling, and every word is focused on communicating the client’s value to potential employers. It clearly communicates his expertise and positions him as a leader in his field.
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He’s the same person, but the reaction to his resume was strikingly different. Within one month of receiving this new resume, “David” wrote to me to say that he was choosing between two high-profile positions – one with the IRS and one with a Fortune 500 company that he had set his sights on. He was amazed at the difference in people’s reaction to him once he communicated his value proposition as a recognized expert who teaches and writes on his area of expertise. See both resumes on the following pages.
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Page 1 of Berkeley’s resume – “Before”
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Page 1 of Berkeley’s resume – “After”
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Resume #2 – Video Game Producer David Jones’s original resume was very old-fashioned and did not communicate any of his great experience or his ability to solve problems and deliver results. A video game producer is a project manager. Video games are a huge business and each project represents a major investment for the game company. Video game producers manage teams of 30-100 people and control multimillion-dollar budgets. Projects are incredibly complex because they involve art, design, and software development. Therefore, employers need to be assured that the producer they hire can manage large teams, keep complex projects on track, and deliver quality work. David’s original resume begins with an objective statement, in which he tells employers what he wants in his next job. His new resume focuses instead on what he can do for employers by stressing his strengths as they relate to the employer’s needs. An employer reference is included for extra assurance that David really is as good as he says. The new resume immediately generated responses and David was quickly hired (see below).
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Page 1 of Jones’s resume – “Before”
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Page 1 of Jones’s resume – “After”
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Resume #3 – Recruiter Sandy Kumar is a recruiter –- and a very good one. He has exceptional results in each of his positions, but his original resume (see “Before”) did not convey his skills effectively. Notice that he also begins with an objective statement telling employers what he’s looking for. I’ll explain why this is an ineffective start later in the guide, but you can see for yourself when you compare that to the “After” resume which begins with a headline showing how Sandy can add value to his next employer. Sandy’s key accomplishments were not highlighted in his old resume because he didn’t use bolding or white space between bullet points, and in some cases he didn’t quantify his impact. In the new resume, four bolded lines highlight his impact on the organization. Even with nothing but a quick glance at the new resume, it would be hard to miss the fact that Sandy has generated significant results as a recruiter (see below).
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Page 1 of Kumar’s resume – “Before”
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Page 1 of Kumar’s resume – “After”
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In Summary You can see the difference that I have been able to make for my clients. But it’s not magic. It’s based on a simple and consistent formula honed over time and used with every one of our clients. Follow my instructions and you will be able to do the same. All you have to do is commit some time and energy to making your resume the best it can be. And who knows, in the process, you might even learn something about yourself. Ready to get started? Let’s make that phone ring!
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Published on Aug 24, 2011