October 29, 2015

One Size Does Not Fit All: Pro Tips From a Resume Writer

WritingWhen it comes to resumes, you’ve probably read it all. There’s great advice out there about student resumes for internships. You have guides to help decide if one or two pages is sufficient space for all the amazing things you’ve accomplished. You’ve likely heard that it is best to make sure you are constantly updating your resume.

But what about that resume that you need to update all the time? Should you have just one resume that you can send to every potential employer?

My apologies, but it’s not that simple.

If you use the same resume for every position to which you’re applying, you will not distinguish yourself among your job-seeking peers. Recruiters and hiring managers are simply skimming resumes. Yours will end up at the bottom of the trash can if a recruiter sees the same one for two vastly different positions at the same organization.

Does that mean you have to hire a professional resume writer to craft resumes for each and every position you apply to? Of course not — that’s a waste of the resume writer’s time and your money.

But there are some things you can do on your own that will make using a resume writer worth your while — or even help you bypass resume writers altogether.

Start With a Survey or Two

Take a survey of all the positions that you’ve put into your “job bucket” — i.e., all the jobs you’re thinking of applying to. You probably have about 20 jobs in this bucket, and you should be able to group them into a number of different categories — but don’t think in broad, Monster.com-style categories.

If you search “nurse” on a job board, your job search will return anything from “Registered Nurse Telemetry RN Travel Jobs” to “Registered Nurse (RN) – Home Health – 13 Week Contract to Nurse Practitioner 2 – Flex Provider,”  and everything in between.

You’ll want to break your list down into groups like so:

  1. Travel nursing
  2. Telemetry nursing
  3. Flex provider
  4. Nurse Practitioner 2

MapThen, start looking at all the skills and experience you’ve acquired over the years. Jessica Cheng, director of career services at Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business and Management, is correct in stating that you will have too many skills to stuff into one resume for all those positions or categories. It’s time to start matching the strengths in your skills inventory to the categories you’ve created.

For example, your summer abroad may not be relevant to either a nurse practitioner or telemetry nurse role, but it will be important for both travel nursing and flex provider roles.

You should never rotate out the jobs in your work history, but it’s perfectly acceptable to rotate out internships, certifications, and skills according to the jobs for which you’re applying. If you are indeed applying for telemetry nursing positions, an internship in an emergency room is likely to have more weight than one in a pediatric clinic.

A Template

You can start creating your own resume template via an app or by tweaking a downloadable one.

Left-justified? Right? Center? It doesn’t really matter. Some experts argue that centering headers is best, as the eye is naturally drawn to the center of the page. However, depending on your industry, you can get a little creative with your template. You don’t have to always stick to 12-point Times New Roman font.

However, all resumes should include your contact information and your education and certification histories. This should be a no-brainer, but far too often, job seekers neglect these critical bits of information.

Now that the job search has gone digital, job seekers should also be including links to their LinkedIn and professional Twitter accounts in their resumes. Just be sure you keep those social media accounts professional!

Forget the “One page or two?” debate. If you can’t reasonably fit all your relevant information on one page, don’t worry. As Michelle Lando writes, if you have surpassed one-third of a second page, then you’ve earned that second page. Of course, as you tweak your template for each position or category, your resume may gain or lose inches — but that doesn’t mean it’s losing its weight.

NotebookYou can, of course, always hire a resume writer like me to create something for you. When I create a resume for clients, though, it comes with more than one consultation. I caution my clients that what I’m about to give them is simply a template. My job is to take the information they gave me and turn it into something they can personalize to a greater degree. I’m not the one filling out the applications.

What’s a Resume For, Anyway?

Always remember that the job of a resume isn’t to get you a job. Its job is to get you an interview. The interview is where you’ll make your mark. That’s why it’s okay to focus on specific skills and experiences for specific jobs. Your resume is about getting you through the door the very first time, not forever. That’s up to you!

Read more in Resume Writing

Hattie is a writer and researcher living in Boise, Idaho. She has a varied background, including education and sports journalism. She is a former electronic content manager and analyst for a government agency. She recently completed her MBA and enjoys local ciders.