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Resume tips I: Drafting your master resume

Part I of this resume tips series focuses on drafting your master resume, offering five great tips on how to get started.

Pedro Abreu, Senior Associate of Sales & Strategy Operations at LinkedIn
Published: June 22, 2021

The goal | Advertise yourself | Master resume | Re-writes | Consistency

No one is going to read your resume. At least not at first.

Recruiters glance at resumes, they don’t read them word for word. And they’re not to blame; they have limited time and dozens or even hundreds of applications to go over every day, and yours is just another one in the bunch. Unless it stands out, your resume won’t get noticed.

Furthermore, it is not the recruiter’s job to notice you. It is your responsibility to make your resume catch the recruiter’s attention (and after that, to convince the hiring manager). In a two part series, we cover how to craft your resume so it stands out to tech recruiters and hiring managers. This is part one of this series where we focus on developing a strong first draft.

Drafting a great resume is more than just filling out a template. It’s about creating your own masterpiece - a work of art that reflects who you are and how you want to be perceived. This is very unique, and there’s no single way to go about it. There are however best practices and learnings. Below I share five steps to get you to a master draft that you can leverage to create a recruiter ready resume.

1. Understand the goal (Top)

A resume is not your life story. It is your application to a role.

According to Wikipedia, it “contains a summary of relevant job experience and education”. Relevance is key. You don’t have to list everything you did, only the things relevant to the job you’re applying for. That can mean leaving out the things that you’re proud of but are not relevant for the role. Same goes for hobbies and other activities. These are okay to list if they are relevant or can help to distinguish you from other candidates; just don’t list them for the sake of having something there - it’s perfectly fine to not have a hobbies section. In short, put on your resume the information that highlights that you’re the right person for the role you’re applying for.

2. Think of it as an advertisement (Top)

Think of your resume as advertising. You’re selling yourself to your target customer - the recruiter or hiring manager. As mentioned above, it needs to capture their attention in just a few seconds. This is critical.

When a resume fails to grab the reader’s attention it is likely to be dismissed. Ads have 7-8 seconds to grab the attention of its viewers. Job applicants might have a little more time, but not a lot more. You have to make it stand out. Luckily, creating a resume that reads like a good ad is all about the right resume creation process, which we dive into below.

3. Create your master resume (Top)

Applying to different jobs requires tailoring your resume to different audiences (see part II on customizing and enhancing your resume). This means that for every application - to different companies or different roles within the same company – your resume should be tailored to that role or company. One way to optimize for this is to have a master resume with everything written down from which, each time you need it, you can leverage it without re-doing everything.

To create this master resume, don’t think of it as your final resume, but your source for future resumes. Don’t think of the role you’re applying for yet. Just write down everything that you can think of in terms of qualifications, skills, and experience. This might lead to three or four (or even more) fullpages. That’s good.

This is not your resume to be sent (which should be one page), but for you to keep and reference when crafting a shareable version. When writing this master version, try to make it as close to the final version as possible. The better this version is, the better the final version is going to be. A few tips:

  • Show skills, not just experience. For example, if you worked in consulting, instead of listing your role chronologically you can bucket them by the skills each project required such as strategy, operations, and project management.
  • Use numbers to quantify. Don’t just list what you did; make accomplishments tangible. For example, instead of saying “designed new org structure aligned with company objectives” you can say “designed new org structure aligned with company objectives with operational improvement of x% in y years”.
  • Show responsibility and progress. Your resume should instill confidence. Showing you handled responsibility (regardless of your level) and that the responsibility grew are two ways to do that. This can be seen not only by your title but the scope and impact of your work, hence the importance of making it tangible.

4. Re-write for clarity and impact (Top)

Once you have listed all your qualifications, skills, and experience, it is now time to work on them. Style is personal, but a few tips:

  • Use the same verb tense at the start of each sentence. This helps the reader focus on the content rather than grammar. This also shows that you have attention to the details and put effort into it.
  • Cut down on words. Again, your resume is an ad. You only have a few seconds to get the message across, so don’t waste the reader’s time with unnecessary words. They also take precious space which can be leveraged with better content or white space. Executive communication is what’s required.
  • Avoid jargon and complex words. It’s very unlikely someone knows about words in your specific industry or company. Unless it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for, avoid these terms as much as possible. The same goes for complicated words. Simplicity is key.
  • Look out for typos. Typos are unacceptable. They show you don’t care enough to spell check. This is a huge red flag for recruiters. You might be lucky, and they go unnoticed or the recruiter doesn’t care, but why risk it with such an easy thing to fix?
  • Give it a few days. Once you’ve written everything and re-written it a few times, sleep on it. Don’t look at it for a few days. Next time you open it up, you’ll catch things you didn’t notice before. You’ll reformat things, restructure phrases, and so on. Getting too much into the weeds can blind you from seeing the full picture. It’s always good to take a step back and reassess.

5. Keep it consistent (Top)

Same as any brand advertisement, you want to make sure you’re consistent in the message you’re delivering. Just like ads, the message can change depending on the target audience and the channel being used. It can change over time too, but its core should remain the same. This is particularly important in two areas:

  • Online vs. written. Nowadays many recruiters leverage LinkedIn to check and reach out to candidates. They also use it to further assess applicants. The resume you send out as a job application should align with your online presence. It doesn’t need to match word for word but there shouldn’t be a big difference from one to the other.
  • Applying to different roles. This is true even if you’re applying to different companies – although you want to tailor your resume to each, overall they should be comparable. But it’s especially important if you’re applying to different roles within the same company as recruiters are likely to cross check both applications. Two significantly different resumes from the same person can raise questions.

Again, no one is going to read your resume. Not unless it stands out. This should be your starting point. Knowing this might be hard, but it is not a blocker. It should be motivating - at least you know that if you craft a great resume, one that stands out, someone will read it, and doors will open for you. Having a master draft is step one of this journey. Step two is customizing and enhancing your master draft to make it stand out.

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