Resume writing isn’t something most people do on a regular basis. That means we’re a little wary on the resume writing basics. You probably didn’t know that, on average, people change jobs 12 times in their working life. And remember that your time in the workforce could be 40–60 years, so that’s a job change about every 3–5 years.
Since we write resumes so infrequently over our careers, it’s hard to know what should be included. Here are the minimal components you must include in your resume to stand out.
Start Your Resume with a Title
We’re going to assume that you have your name and contact information front and center at the top of your resume. (You might be surprised how many job seekers miss these resume writing basics, but we digress….) Just after your header, you need a title. Sometimes referred to as a headline, this little component takes the place of the objective.
In the ’90s, resumes had objectives: To acquire a position in which I am able to contribute to the team environment while achieving personal satisfaction.
Huh? What does that mean exactly?
If you’re still using something like this, stop! It’s very unclear what you want. More importantly, this objective is all about you—and a resume is really about the employer and the value proposition you can provide.
A title is the job title you’re seeking: Project Manager, Director of Operations, etc.
Beyond resume writing basics: Add a subtitle or branding phrase right below your title.
Draw a Picture in Your Summary
Too often, job seekers jump right into their experience on a resume. But hold on there, buckaroo! Who are you? One of the most overlooked resume writing basics is a summary. This is where you answer the question, “Why should I hire you?”
Remember that you have less than 10 seconds to go from applicant to the “potential” pile. Your summary helps get you there. Showcase what you bring to the table, your value proposition. Employers should be able to read your summary and know if they want to learn more or not. It’s that powerful.
Beyond resume writing basics: Add your areas of expertise, full of keywords, below your summary.
Resume Writing Basics That Sell You: Accomplishments
The old-school approach to resumes was to list all of the tasks you did at your positions. That’s part of your resume, because employers want to know what you can do, but it’s not why they hire you. They hire you because of the value you add. Here’s an example of this principle in action:
You’re reviewing resumes for a new custodian for your office building. One candidate provides a bulleted list of what he can do: clean toilets, mop floors, etc. Another candidate glosses over the fact that he can do that, and he adds two bulleted accomplishments. One says he received an award for the cleanest toilets in the building, and the other says he reduced water flow 25% by suggesting upgrading to low-water use toilets. Which person are you more interested in meeting?
The goal with accomplishments is to showcase how you went above and beyond the status quo. You want an employer to read them and say, “Hey, WE have that same problem, and look at how she solved it at ABC Company! I need to call her.”
Writing a resume is kind of like selling a house; when you’re selling, you want to allow prospective buyers to envision themselves in your house. On your resume, you need to allow prospective employers to envision you in their company. Make it easy for them.
Not sure if your resume is up to par? Lucky for you, The Grammar Doctors provides free resume reviews. Just email your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org to get some honest feedback. You can also read more about our resume writing process.