How to Build a Powerful Resume that Will Land You an Interview: Part One

How to build a powerful resume that will land you a resume: change your mindset

So you’re looking for a job? Maybe, it’s your first job out of college. Maybe, you’ve decided it’s time for a career change and are ready to move on. Maybe your company downsized and you no longer have a choice about finding a new job. Whatever your personal scenario, you’re going to need a resume.  

It's time to change your mindset about resumes. 

Most of us think of a resume as a list of all the jobs we have held in the past, each listed in reverse chronological order with a short description of duties and responsibilities. While your previous jobs will be listed, it’s time to change your mindset about resumes. A resume is NOT just a personal history of jobs. It’s time to begin thinking of a resume as a marketing document. You are selling yourself to a potential employer. It’s a unique one-of-a-kind advertisement - for you. 

The ultimate purpose of a resume is to land an interview. That’s it. You want your resume to impress the hiring manager enough that he or she will take the next step and contact you for an interview. So how do you do that? 

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will detail 5 important steps for building an impressive resume that will land you an interview. 

Writing a resume is a tough job to do well and something I find most people dread tackling. People don’t want to brag about themselves and have trouble organizing their accomplishments and hard earned skills into a cohesive, easy to scan document. They’re not sure what to include and what to leave out and where to put things. In these blog posts, we’ll walk through the process of organizing and formatting a killer resume designed to land you an interview.  Here’s your first assignment.

Step One: We’ll start with that list of previous jobs - your employment history. Write down all the jobs you have held previously. Write down the job, beginning and ending dates of employment, and a basic description of your job duties and responsibilities. That’s the part everyone thinks about. For each job, you can include 4-6 bullet points describing your job responsibilities. It will look something like this:

Marketing manager, Magic Money Sales Company, June 2013-April 2016

  • Organized marketing material
  • Wrote and published marketing material
  • Analyzed market trends.
  • Led team of marketing specialists.

Pretty boring, right? Let's make it better. 

Step Two: Here’s the most important part. For each job in your employment history, write down a list of your most important accomplishments in that job and answer these questions. 

  • What were you the most proud of in each of those jobs? 
  • What awards or recognitions did you receive? 
  • When you look back at each of those jobs, what do you want to tell people about? 
  • What did you enjoy? 
  • What were your 3 most notable accomplishments or achievements? 

It’s helps to quantify your achievements if possible. For instance, you could write increased attendance by 10% or achieved a 15% increase in sales. Using numbers improves readability and draws the eye of the recruiter. In life in general, I tend to object to quantifying things about people, but on a resume, it’s a great selling point. List your accomplishments and achievements. Even if the job was stocking lettuce at the local grocery, what were you proud of? What did you accomplish? 

When you finish, your next list might look something like this one from our fictional marketing manager:

  • Created original copy and digital content for 9 marketing campaigns, resulting in a 12% increase in sales annually.
  • Headed a dynamic brand strategy team of 10 marketing specialists.
  • Awarded Company Leader in Creative Innovation for 2015.
  • Enjoyed learning and proficient in XYZ software for use in publishing marketing content.
  • Enjoyed camaraderie of team building and the challenge of leading a diverse and creative team.

Makes a difference, doesn’t it? It’s much more dynamic and interesting to read. Which person would you hire? What does your list look like?

Why do I include the question “What did you enjoy?” 

We might not write the words “enjoyed” on a resume - but including that as part of this resume building exercise will give you strong clues to the type of job you want to be searching for. You don’t want to create a list of accomplishments that you did well - but absolutely hated. Highlight the parts of your job that you looked forward to. What responsibilities did you enjoy? What skills did you relish learning and honing? From our example above, you can see that this person enjoyed team leadership, creativity, and learning new skills. Now, he or she can target jobs where those qualities are needed and utilized. It can be helpful to work through your job history all the way back to high school, asking yourself these 2 simple questions about each job. What accomplishment am I proud of in this job?  What did I enjoy? 

It's all about changing your mindset. Identify the parts of your previous jobs that you loved and want to do more of. Find a way to highlight those as accomplishments and achievements. Target jobs where those skills and abilities are listed as part of the job description. You will be on your way to a job you love! 

Take your time and complete both steps thoroughly. The results can be surprising! Leave me a comment and share your highlighted accomplishments. You'll be ready for the next step. 

Keep reading: Part Two of How to Build a Powerful Resume that Will Land you an Interview: Creating a summary of qualifications