Steps to building a powerful résumé


Developing a résumé that gets you noticed is not difficult. However, it does require that you spend time defining who you are and what you have to offer the job market. To build a powerful résumé just follow our easy steps.

When an employer looks at a résumé, they are essentially looking at a snapshot of the applicant. Therefore, the style of the résumé design is a reflection of the person applying for the position. It is vitally important that your résumé be written well so that it presents the most positive picture of you, the job seeker.

Quite often, your résumé is the first contact you have with a potential employer. So to make the best impression there are some basic steps to follow before actually writing your résumé. These steps are not difficult but they do require taking the time to complete each step. Your efforts now will help to produce the most powerful résumé; the writing of the résumé will take less time in the end. You are reading this because you need a résumé. So let's get started.

We have divided this area into a progression of steps. Each step builds on the foundation you have laid in the step before. Yes, you can shortcut the process but be aware that the time spent here will shorten the time spent when comes time to write. The knowledge you gain here will provide you with answers to some of the questions asked during the interview. Moreover, this process may help you define the exact job that will make you the most happy, turning it from a vocation to an avocation. Why not be paid for something you would do in your free time without pay?

Before you start, let’s make sure you know what you are aiming at. The Webster’s II New College Dictionary defines résumé as a noun that is “A summary, esp[ecially] a record of one’s personal history, educational background, and employment experience.” The word is “résumé,” with the accents, not the commonly used “resume” that means to restart. One of my college professors once told me, referring to this word, “if you are going to use it, please use it correctly.” So make a note to yourself that when you write those cover letters you use the proper word, simply doing that will make you stand out from the crowd.

The areas of discussion are as follows:

Personal Sketch

This is the time to list everything you have ever done. There are many names for this process, free association, mapping, or profiling. No matter what you call it, take the time to list every experience you’ve got. Begin with the most recent and work from there. You will be surprised at how much you have done.

Jot it all down. Among the possibilities to list are your hobbies, all jobs you’ve held, volunteer work, all classes you’ve taken, clubs and organizations you have belonged to, and other extracurricular activities. You never know what will be important later.

Now expand your list by detailing what you did on each job, in those classes and any other details you can add to your list. Round up copies of your class projects and any other support of what you learned and did. Do the same for the other items on your list.

  • Have you attended seminars? List them.
  • Did your last employer require that you attend classes specific to his business? List those too.
  • Those certificates that qualify you to use technical equipment, or understand the building codes for your area, that say you know how to write C++ code — what ever they are for — write them down. Some of this information will be absolutely required by employers.
  • Have you won any awards? Have you had your work recognized in any way? That goes on your list also.

While you are gathering all of this information set-up a filing system that will allow you quickly to retrieve this support information — just in case you are asked to show proof of qualifications.

back to top

Define yourself

Read through your list and find the patterns. What were the things you enjoyed the most and which ones are on the “never do again” list? — I use two colors of highlighter to do this part. — Create a group of headings that speak to your experience. Choose titles that reflect the fundamental quality of your experiences and that will echo the language of the job postings for which you are seeking to apply. This is when doing some “market” research is helpful. Each industry has its own language, you will need to use those terms when writing out your experiences. Use keywords that will tell the prospective employer that you know about the business you are seeking work in.

Think carefully about your word choice. If you have background that was not paid then don't use “Work” or “Job” instead think about something more inclusive such as “Experience.” All quality experiences count because they provide you with real life tools to ply to your new position. Those who have lapses in their work histories or recently completed school will find that emphasizing those skills that they gained by volunteering or internships will help to qualify them for a position in their chosen field.

Organize your headings to emphasize what is most important. Put the most relevant to the position you are seeking at the top and the less important toward the bottom. Determine whether your education is more important than your experience. Recent graduates with little relative work experience tend to feature their education. While those who have been in the work force will need to decide what qualifications will best intice the reader to schedule an interview.

back to top

Thinking of résumé design

Résumé design is the subject of many publications and Web resources. Some are more current than others so check the publication dates. Look them over and get a feeling for the styles that reflect the types of positions to which you are applying. A retail management candidate would not use the same format as an artist, for example. Consider your experience, what you most want to emphasis. Look at our samples keeping in mind that we will be discussing the appropriate style for your job search.

back to top

Résumé information form

Fill out the form answering the questions to the best of your ability and print the page. The more thorough you are will give yourself the best picture of your interests and abilities. This will allow you to build your résumé with the most impact.

back to top

What do I know?

What do I know about résumés? Would you call me an expert? That would depend on your perspective. This is not the only thing I have ever done but my life’s circumstances have required frequent relocations, hence frequent job changes. I have been on both sides of the desk as both an applicant and the manager. My working and personal experience has provided me with the opportunity to help others in their job search. I do not know all of the answers but I do know how to find them and have provided you with those tools to find your answers. The job market is ever changing never to be mastered by anyone. I would be suspicious of anyone who can “guarantee” your success. However, following these steps will help you put the best foot forward and you can navigate the landmines of the current job market.

So what do I know? I know about searching for jobs. I know how difficult it is to break into a new market. Moreover, I have shared what I know to help you learn more.

Sally K

back to top