Building your resume is the first critical step in finding a job

Most resumes do not show your true work or talents

Building a resume is complex mostly because we rarely update our resumes -- and don't have the information to make it a powerful statement of our work. The simple chronological resume misses important results, isn't interesting to the recruiter, and often represents our responsibilities and not our results.

There are 3 key principles when building resumes:

The only purpose of the resume is to get the interview. A resume won't get you the job, it won't trump a horrible job interview. Getting the interview in the first place, though, is no small thing.

Your resume needs to match up to the job description. The more it does -- if you have the job skills -- the more likely you are to get the interview. 

A resume can be long -- but the first page is critical. When your resume is finally read by a human, you want your best stuff up front. Most resumes don't do that.

Below are the most important articles I've published on helping write a powerful resume.

Resumes are greatly misunderstood

Resumes are given other-worldly powers by a lot of pundits. Get the job with your resume, have your resume beat the resume reading machines, and others like it give far more power to the resume than it deserves. As a result, people will go to great lengths to try and give the resume additional powers -- everything from hiding key word text in headers so machines pick them up, to stuffing in key words to the point of being unreadable for a human, to using pink, 20-lb paper to print the resume on thinking that it will call out their resumes better than the competition. It does: these types of resumes get thrown into the electronic trash can faster than the normal 20-seconds or so a recruiter will look at the resume and then throw it into the electronic trash bin.

Resume writers need to consider their audience when writing it

Most people assume the person reading the resume the first time is the hiring manager. And, for small companies, that may be true. But for most medium to large companies, the hiring manager comes later -- after the resume is selected for an interview, after the phone interview and then the hiring manager usually gets a look see.

And who is this person that first looks at your resume? Usually someone who doesn't know the job as well as you do. Or someone who knows the job just as well as you do. If you can't get your resume to convince either of those two types of people to get you the interview, you'll never get to the hiring manager. 

Thus, you write the resume to get the interview. Period. Not to get the job. Not to convince a hiring manager. But to get the first interview. That's all that matters.

Too many resumes list job responsibilities -- when they should focus on results

Yes, a brief description -- like one line -- of a position should talk about your responsibilities. But that's it. What's important is that you show you can achieve excellent business results because, at the end, you will be hired so you can contribute to your manager's results. If you can't produce results, you won't keep your job (insert all the sports analogies on cutting non-performing players here).

Consequently, if you can't show your results on your resume, you won't even get the chance to interview -- even if in the interview you could talk about results -- because it's not worth the time nor risk of discussing your skills. Job skills, without results, mean nothing.

Resumes need to match the job description

Job descriptions are often poorly written by the people in the companies looking at the position. They don't necessarily reflect the work that needs doing, there is legalize that needs attending to, and every job description on the planet says that you need to work in a fast-paced environment and some variation of playing well with others in the sand box. 

But the job description is all we have to see if -- and how well -- we qualify for the position.

Job descriptions and resumes are about getting checkmarks

The short version: the more your resume matches the job description, the better your chances of getting the interview. The more 'check marks' you get from your resume compared to the job description, the better your chances. 

The longer version is about the audience for the resume. If the person reviewing your resume doesn't know the position as well as you do, what are they to do? Well, they will take out the job description, look at the 'must have' requirements, and then go searching for them in your resume. When they find one of them, you get a checkmark. It's just that it is very hard to find the matching requirements in the vast majority of resumes because the information is buried in various parts of the resume instead of clearly shown up front.

A resume can be long, but the first page is critical

If you take a look at most resumes, what do you see? Contact information at the top. A summary of some sort next (I want this job!). Then a long list of chronological positions you've had since you came into the professional workforce or the last ten years of your work if you been in the workforce for a while.

Remember the checkmarks and long resumes

My current resume is four pages long. Now think about you looking at the job description and then trying to find the required skill sets that are on the job description from my chronological resume. Take managing a large budget. You'd take that requirement, look at my first chronological entry and search. Then the second, then the third. Then you'd stop.

Then you'd take the next requirement. Do the same thing over again. Then the next one. Then the next one. 

That's only four requirements there -- imaging doing that for ten mandatory requirements. Then imagine doing it for twenty different resumes to determine who you should interview. 

It's no wonder resumes get thrown out -- people can't find what they need.

The first resume page is critical

What we need to do instead of hunting for job skills and accomplishments across a chronological resume, is devising a way to show those skills and accomplishments on the first page of the resume. Then you use the balance of the resume as the chronological review of your positions.

Now imagine you as the recruiter looking at one page finding all the skills that match the job description. Plus, your accomplishments and results from your work that match the job description. Because you took the time to tailor that first page to the job description, matching what you could from your skills and work, you maximize the number of checkmarks you get compared to the job description. Thus, you greatly improve your chance to get the interview.

And what counts, as you can tell by now, is the interview.