Six Tips for Editing Your Resume

Along with my series about interviewing tips, I thought you might need a few tips for editing your resume. Here they are:

  1. Write a first draft of your resume. Write it in reverse chronological order, with your most recent job first. Now, put it away for a few days, while you do other things. Your subconscious will work on it while you work on the rest of your job search. Your subconscious is working on the details.
  2. Now it’s time to do the hard work of the details for your resume. Especially for the most recent work on your resume, fill in the details. Assume you will write in prose here. Use good grammar. Don’t worry about the length of your resume yet. You can trim later. For each line of your resume, explain what you did, how you did it, and how you added value to the organization. Use numbers about time saved on projects, cost saved on projects, customers added or retained, revenue added, that kind of thing. If you can’t describe how you added value, does that line belong on your resume?
  3. If you have keywords, put those on the bottom of the resume, after all your experience. Do not clutter the most valuable part of your resume, the top, with keywords. Yes, I know the ATS wants to see keywords. The ATS is a robot. The ATS doesn’t care where the keywords are. The human reading your resume does care.
  4. Check for typos. This is where you can run your resume through Grammarly’s online grammar check and see what Grammarly says. Does Grammarly say, “Schlub. Not readable. Inconsistent grammar.” Or, does Grammarly say, “Professional. Your previous managers, your colleagues, even your mom would be proud.”
  5. Ask other people to review your resume. Does it make sense? Would they want to hire you, based on this resume? Have you boxed yourself into a job that doesn’t exist, or a domain that is shrinking? This is the time to ask.
  6. Now, see how long your resume is. If it’s longer than two pages, what do you need to trim?

You’ve heard “the devil is in the details,” right? You want a hiring manager to see you as a unique individual, someone who cares enough to provide a great resume, and someone who has done terrific work.

When I checked some text in Grammarly, it did find the commonly misused “Principle Engineer” problem. Yes, I know some of you are called “Principle Engineers” instead of “Principal Engineers.” Some HR person does not know the difference and it has spread like wildfire through technical job titles and job descriptions.

Principles are rules, tenets, laws, things like that. People are not principles.

Principals are leaders. People can be principals. There is a nice post on the Oxford Dictionary site, Principle vs. Principal that explains it well.

Why do you want to do all the work of Step 2, with the details? Why do I insist on articulating your value like that?

Because you need to explain what you have done in your jobs, so that you can answer questions well in the interview. You leave the stories of your career for the interview. You summarize the details with numbers in the resume. Is this difficult? Oh, yes. Is it worth it? Oh, yes.

Your resume is a piece of writing, the same as any other writing. It represents you to people you don’t know. Do you want it to say, “I’m a schlub,” or do you want it to say, “I’m a terrific person. Here’s what I’ve done in the past. I’ve told you the details of my previous work. I’ve checked that I’ve represented that work properly. Here I am! Now, interview me.”

That’s what a great resume can do for you.

About johanna

I help managers and leaders do reasonable things that work.
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5 Responses to Six Tips for Editing Your Resume

  1. Nate says:

    Re: “6. Now, see how long your resume is. If it’s longer than two pages, what do you need to trim?”

    Disagree. For many profession’s, it’s 1 page for every 10 years of experience. Also, tech positions typically require 3 pages for very senior professionals.

  2. johanna says:

    Nate, maybe. If you grab the hiring manager with your first page, okay. If you have 30 years of experience, does that experience from 20 years ago really count? Does it need the same amount of detail as the most recent 20 years? Can you summarize it?

    I don’t know. Your experience is different from mine. When I look at my resume, and I want to showcase my strengths, the first 10 years of my experience are not worth that much. I can summarize them, and discuss them in an interview. The most recent 20 years are much more valuable to discuss. The most recent 10 years are more valuable than the previous 10 years.

    As long as you think about it, and decide what to include or not include, you’ll be okay.

    Remember, hiring managers only take 20-30 seconds to review each resume. Don’t give them a reason to throw yours out.

  3. Pingback: Four Tips for Defining Your Value | Hiring Technical People

  4. Ram says:

    Great Tips !!!

    Can you please help me with queries :
    1. What font type and font size should be used?
    2. Can we use some logos in the Resume for Previous company, universities or wherever applicable?
    3. Can the Resume be in this order : Name>Job Objective>Profile Summary>Work experience> Skill Set> Achievements>Education ?

  5. johanna says:

    Hi Ram,

    1. Use a font that a hiring manager can read quickly. Yes, that means an old standby such as Times New Roman, with a serif. A sans serif is too difficult to read. Use anything lower than 11 pt with care. Can you read it on paper??
    2. While LinkedIn uses logos for previous companies and universities, inserting images into a paper resume becomes tricky. You have to make sure everything lines up right. Do you really want to? Does it add value to the resume?
    3. Think carefully before pushing your work experience down so far. What does the hiring manager want to know? If you can do the job. How can the manager know? By looking at how you have written about your experience and how you have defined your value. See Four Tips for Defining Your Value for more information on value.

    I’m not sure what you mean by skill set or achievements. If you focus on portraying your work experience in a compelling way, you will get the attention of the hiring manager.

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