getting StarteD on Your reSume
The person who procrastinates is always struggling with misfortunes. —Hesiod
Having read through this section on resumes and having completed your job sketches, it’s time to start writing your resume. This is where you will discover the value of all the blood, sweat, and tears you put into preparing your job sketches. Review your job sketches one more time. You are now ready to start.
Begin with the header: name, address, phone number, and email at the top. Next, write your objective if you have one.
Beneath the “Objective,” write the “Qualifications” heading. Then skip 5–10 spaces (they’ll be filled in last, after everything else is done). Since the Qualifications section is often the most difficult section to write, we leave it as the last section to write.
Next, pop in your “Experience” or “Professional History” header, and jump over that one too.
This is a good time to add in your Education, Training, Technical Skills, Professional Credentials, or other headings. It’s a good way to watch the resume take shape while you get some momentum going for the employment entries to come.
Now you are ready to tackle the job narratives. With each position, carefully select what you think are the most relevant and representative pieces of the job sketches. While this version is not as free-flowing as the original job sketches, it is still too early to be overly concerned with grammatical niceties. Make sure your entries cover the spectrum of experience you are trying to convey. Then reread it. Often it helps to read aloud, so you can actually hear how the descriptions sound. If it is awkward, make adjustments.
Write your first draft quickly; don’t worry about perfection. Concentrate on getting your thoughts on paper; you can polish the phrasing later. Once you write a phrase, read it out loud to get a feel for how it sounds. When reading, most people subvocalize; while they may not move their lips, their minds are actually saying each word almost audibly. In other words, the way a phrase sounds to you when you say it out loud is the same way it sounds when read by an employer. Read every phrase aloud four to ten times and adjust any that seem awkward.
Let the resume sit and percolate overnight. Pick it up the next day and see how you respond to it. Is it crisp? Flat? Boring? Reading with fresh eyes can help you to quickly pick up any deficiencies.
Read it over and ask yourself if all the important points are there. If not, what’s missing? Where can additional information go? Decide in which section it would be most effective: Qualifications? Employment? Both? Go through the document sentence by sentence and phrase by phrase, reading and rereading aloud. Cross out extraneous phrases. Ask yourself if you can make the same point with fewer words. Use action words whenever possible. Once you’ve finished this process, rewrite the resume, incorporating the changes you’ve made. You have completed your second draft. Set it aside for at least half a day.
SPit anD PoliSh
When you pick up the resume again, take care as you go through it; this could be your final draft. As you read it aloud, it should flow. Are there any phrases or words you have used more than twice? If so, look for alternatives. Don’t be afraid to use a thesaurus. Word-processing programs such as Microsoft Word have a built-in thesaurus feature accessible by highlighting the word and right clicking. If that is insufficient, free websites such as thesaurus.com can fill the bill. Are all of your sentences very long or all very short? A mixture of short, medium, and long sentences reads best. Too many short sentences make the resume seem choppy and abrupt. An abundance of lengthy sentences can cause the reader to forget the main point. A long, drawn out sentence can often be cut two into shorter ones.
Look for any troublesome phrases that sound awkward, unclear, or confusing. Your goal is to have the resume read completely and thoroughly by the employer. You don’t want them to stop at any point and wonder what you meant. Just one awkwardly written, hard-to-understand sentence or phrase can substantially reduce your impact. Don’t let that happen.
Of course you know exactly what you meant . . . so unclear sentences may be hard for you to spot. Try asking a friend to read it and watch the reaction. If there is any confusion, fix it.
Avoid big, unfamiliar words. The mark of a good writer is the ability to say exactly what is meant by using the right words.
Prepare the final draft and review it one last time for phrasing, spelling, and punctuation. Spelling must be perfect. It is worth it to make one quick pass through your resume, dictionary in hand, looking up words you “know” are correct. Dictionary.com is another excellent resource. You may be surprised to find that you have been misspelling a word for years. Remember, do not depend solely on your computer’s spell-checker. If your misspelling is an actual word in the spell-checker, it will not be detected. Always have someone proof your work.
Putting it all together
Essentially, writing a resume consists of putting all of the pieces together. Most sections, such as Education, Training, Special Projects, and Employment are independent of each other. So, if each section is well written, the entire resume will be effective when you pull them all together.