Writing Your Own Resume Sucks -- Here's What You Can Do About It

<i>Writing a compelling&nbsp;resume doesn't have to be painful.</i>
Writing a compelling resume doesn't have to be painful.

No matter how experienced, how accomplished, or how confident, most job seekers dread writing their own resume. As a resume writer and career coach, I don’t use the word “dread” lightly – it’s a sentiment many of my clients express verbatim. People often procrastinate the resume writing process until the very end, when there’s a hot job on the market or a last-minute interview pops up. Below are some common resume-related challenges, and a few tips on how to overcome them.

“I can’t find my old resume.”

Starting from scratch doesn’t have to be such a bad thing! Besides, your misplaced resume is probably outdated as heck, so this is a good time to take stock of your entire career and freshen things up. The best resumes feature modern, easy-to-read fonts. They include the highlights of your career instead of every single task and responsibility you’ve ever had. Finally, effective resumes contain industry-relevant keywords that are optimized to land at the top of recruiters’ searches.

“I’ve been staring at my old resume, but I don’t know where to start.”

If you feel you’re getting writer’s block, search online for similar job descriptions to get some ideas on where to start. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, and you’ll find useful wording for tasks and responsibilities just like your own (just don’t plagiarize other people’s resumes – customize the words so they ring true to your unique experience). Another common technique is called “word vomit” where you write down everything you can remember, and then ask a friend (or hire a professional resume writer) to help you cull out the most relevant and impressive achievements.

“I suck at spelling and grammar.”

Let’s face it, not everyone is a stellar writer. You may be a genius at your job, but writing may not be your strong suit (unless, of course, you’re a professional resume writer!). Computer spell-check features have limitations, so don’t rely entirely on technology to find all of your typos and remedy any awkward phrases. Have a friend read over your document, preferably someone you trust who has strong writing skills. If time is of the essence, consider hiring a professional resume writer. They’ll know all about the right keywords, styles and formats that make for an impactful resume. Spending a few hundred dollars on a resume rehaul can sound like a lot, but it can be a wise investment, especially if it drastically reduces the duration of your job search or helps you land a higher salary.

“I’m reluctant to toot my own horn.”

A common problem, especially among women, is selling oneself short. The point of a resume is to toot your own horn (without being overly arrogant). The resume document does the talking for you. It’s what gets you in the door for an interview. Admittedly, it can be difficult to eloquently summarize – or even recall – all the impressive accomplishments you’ve had over the years. Talk to a friend or a trusted co-worker who won’t rat you out. They can help you brainstorm. Look into hiring a career coach or resume writer to help you navigate this process more efficiently. Trust me: it’s so much easier, and more fun, writing resumes for other people.

“I have a good resume, but it’s not getting the attention it deserves.”

Have you heard of the resume “black hole”? It’s what happens when you send out your resume to a ton of companies and you hear nothing except crickets (or maybe cicadas, depending on where you live). Your resume might be well-written, or it might have typos that you’ve simply overlooked. Maybe the spelling and grammar are on point, but you lack the industry-critical keywords so that your application falls to the bottom of a recruiter’s resume pile. Sometimes the best resume in the world may not be enough – you’ve got to leverage your network. Many clients give their resumes a fighting chance by scheduling informational interviews, volunteering at industry-related events, utilizing LinkedIn, blogging, or finding other creative ways to get their resume seen by human eyes. Your resume, while critical, is just one part of your professional brand.

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