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If I were a writer, I wouldn’t need you, now would I?

Keywords. Tag lines. Specialties. KSA. Questionnaires. 2 pages. 6 pages. Education. Experience. Summary Statement. Functional. Hybrid. Combination. Chronological.  References. Cover Letter. ARGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The most common fear in the world is the fear of heights.  Followed second by the fear of flying. I disagree. I think one of the greatest fears in the world is the fear of writing, followed by the fear of public speaking as a close second.

Most of my clients say the same thing to me, “I wish I were a better writer.”  Than who? Or is that whom?  See what I mean?  No resume writer comes out of the womb with a tablet, thesaurus and resume manual in hand.  Like any skill, just like your skills, it must be learned, it must be honed.  There are as many ways as you can think of to improve upon writing your own resume.  Now I am NOT saying that you should NEVER contact a professional resume writer. Depending on the position, how much it pays and how badly you want the job, seeking a professional may be necessary.  But, to save money, time and possibly gain the experience needed to become a better writer here are a few tips.

1. Start by writing down every facet of your day. LITERALLY!  Write down everything you do in a typical day.  E.g. walked in and turned on computer. Checked priority emails. Went and smoked a cigarette, came back and collaborated with another division on an urgent disposition, wrote a memorandum or letter to client leadership to reconcile reports, etc.  The best way to start is right here because it forces you to think about your day. Important things are easily separated from trivial duties.

2. Add numbers. Metrics are VERY important!.  It is vital that you are able to assign priority, precedence, and other value to what you do.  It’s what I like to call, CQTR or Cost, Quality, Time and Result.  How much of a specific duty do you spend your day on? Did you save your employer any money? Did you streamline or improve a process? What was your result and was it successful?  If you spend 80% of your day doing a particular thing that saved the employer 50% of valuable time, increasing productivity or processes and the end result is success, how do you think that reflects on your resume? If you said, very well…ding, ding, ding, ding, B-I-N-G-O Very well indeed!

3. Cut down on redundant words and phrases.  Seriously, it’s true that saying the same words 30 times doesn’t make HR professionals happy.  Consider Shift F7, your best friend.  Please find another way of demonstrating your skills on paper or know out the gate that you will not be considered a potential candidate.

4. Narrow it down.  Not EVERYTHING you’ve done warrants mentioning or has merit. Decide for the position you are trying to obtain what requirements, duties and assignments will make the biggest impression and leave more emphasis.  It’s called Bang for your Buck!

5. Accomplishments are only key if it’s relevant.  Your experience and skills need to be relevant. So if you started out entry-level 21 years ago making $5.00 per hour, using a manual process for which technology has improved hundreds of times over, why is it still on the resume?  This only matters if you intend to go backwards in your career or if you played a pivotal role in its design, creation, development or implementation.  Otherwise, why would anyone care that you are proficient in MSWord 95?  Get with the program and up to speed.

So, what if you think, “yeah that’s all well and good, but I’m going the professional route.”  Okay, just know that many professional resume writers aren’t the best writers. (See related articles “Stupid is as Stupid Does”).  I’ve collaborated with some that make me smile when I think of the inventiveness, creativity and ability to produce great products, but there are just as many who are not as skilled at writing as they think or profess they are. So proceed in finding the expert with caution.  If you decide to take on a professional writer, here is a short list of things to do before handing over your hard-earned loot.

1. Ask for examples of their work and references from people who have used the service and achieved great results.  Anybody can get someone to say good things about them.  It might be their aunt, cousin, spouse or friend extolling their wonderful work with words.  Be careful and more importantly check.

2.  Ask if there is a money back guarantee or some sort.  Now, personally I pay back a portion of fees to any client that doesn’t get the results based off of my product, but again only a portion.  I cannot guarantee that a client doesn’t blow an interview even if I provide a stellar resume.  I put in the work, I expect to get paid. Don’t you?

3.  Look for a certified professional.  While I typically frown on all these certifications, accreditations, and made up garbage that people use to say “if you don’t belong to this group, you’re nobody,”  some organizations are worth it.  One of my favorites is www.cprw.com or the Certified Professional Resume Writers Association.  These writers fork over their hard-earned money to become members and they take a written test!  However, I must caution, I have worked with some of them and seen quite a few resumes from others and it’s still a toss-up.

Finally, I’m not a big fan of having someone hand you something that will help improve your life without your involvement, but to each his own.  It’s like the old adage, “give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will never go hungry.”

Learn this skill not because I say so, but look at it this way…if you want something done right, do it yourself.

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