Creating a good resume will take a step-by-step process. Too often, resume writers do one draft and they’re done. In truth, you should do four or five drafts of the same resume—and that’s only one version. It is not uncommon to have several different resumes if you’re applying to different types of jobs.
This brings us to step one: declaring a focus. Each resume should have a theme. Each job listing, reference, and skill should elaborate on this theme. So, for example, if your resume has a web design focus, each job listing should list experience with web design. The very same job may also have had clerical responsibilities. A separate resume with a clerical focus can focus on clerical duties.
To begin, though, you should start with one focus alone. At the top of the resume you should declare a statement of purpose. This will summarize the focus of the resume. The statement of purpose should be precise rather than general. Instead of writing, “I would like a job that utilizes my skills and experience,” write, “A web designer with five years HTML experience looking for commercial web design employment.”
The next step is to go through your job history and descriptions. If these jobs were several years in the past, you might contact your former employers and obtain a job description. Even so, your duties may stray from the official description so try to think back to your day-to-day responsibilities. In addition, try to tie in these responsibilities with your resume’s overall focus.
Remember that your resume is going to be read very quickly so your information should be concise and easy to read. It should also contain keywords that are easily recognized: HTML, Unix, Excel, etc. Depending on the focus of your resume, include recognizable skills in the descriptions of each job.
At first, it’s a good idea to write out every possible job function and skill for each job. This can be cut down later. In addition, some of these skills will be used for a separate resume with a different focus. For the first draft, don’t censor yourself. Through the process of writing, you may uncover things about a job.
Once you have this laundry list of jobs and skill sets, it’s time to organize the resume into a coherent whole. Ask yourself some questions. What’s the most impressive job on your resume? What are the most impressive skills? Make sure these are easily accessible. You should think about rearranging sentences so the most important skills are listed first in the job description.
Revising and refining the resume is where the real work begins. You might want to include everything, but this can actually do more harm than good. The reader should be able to survey your skills immediately, without having to dig. If you include thick paragraphs describing every one of your past responsibilities, the resume can lead to reader fatigue.
Narrow down your responsibilities in short sentences. Remember, you don’t necessarily have to write in complete sentences—clipped descriptions are OK, so long as the most important skill is mentioned. A resume has to demonstrate some sense of organization—that you get to the point quickly. This has some reflection on how you will work as an employee.