When it comes to resume writing, finding the right words to describe who you are and what you’re good at can feel like trying to find your keys after you’ve dropped them in a dark alley.
Even if you hire a professional resume writer, you can count on being asked to provide a short bio and a synopsis of your career. There’s just no way around it: You’re going to have to get it all down on paper. Instead of groping in the dark, the first thing to do is to brainstorm using a technique called "brain dump."
Before you even start to brainstorm, many take the popular route – finding resume samples to see how your peers said it first. But where do you find good resume samples, and how do you know which ones are worth applying to your own? TheLadders asked resume experts where they look to find sample resumes and how to avoid copying and repeating the mistakes of those who came before you.
The first place to start is simply to ask. Debra Benton, president of Benton Management Resources and an executive coach, suggested using social-media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and even Craigslist to ask for samples. State that you’re writing a resume and would like to see what your peers consider current and up-to-date resumes in your field, she said. Make it clear that you’re not hiring but are just interested in seeing what a current, well-put-together resume looks like, she said. “With any social media, young people, particularly, are so helpful and willing to share,” she said.
For Greg Bennett, global practice director with The Mergis Group, a leading executive-recruiting firm, the question isn’t so much where to find resume samples as it is where to find those worth emulating. The Internet abounds with sites offering sample resumes for every field, profession and vertical imaginable, but he’s “never been in the habit of searching for sample resumes” online because “most resumes done are poorly done.”
You don’t want to repeat mistakes like attaching your picture to your resume, a practice that is widely rejected by resume professionals, or including information that’s in violation of EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) guidelines, including age, disability, race, national origin and gender. Those resumes will be disqualified by most employers.
But not all samples are bad, and even the mistakes have value. Benton advises her clients to look at sample resumes and analyze not just what’s attractive but also what isn’t. “If you want to stand out, to be a leader, you must do what others don’t,” she said. “So you need to know what others are doing so you don’t do the same thing.”
LinkedIn is a source of resume information if not resume samples, Benton said. She recommended you review the LinkedIn profiles of their peers to see how they chose to describe the same work experiences and skills you are about to describe.
The first stop should be the profile’s summary statement, which should read like the executive summary of a good resume. Review many profiles and resumes of your peers, and pay special attention to those whose careers have paralleled your own. If these rivals’ summaries sound more impressive than your own, find exactly what makes theirs sound so good and tailor your own summary in accordance.
The surest way to find tested, proven resume samples is to go to the pros who create resumes, who read hundreds of resumes and who can instantly tell you when a resume will catch a hiring manager’s eye: hiring managers, recruiters and certified professional resume writers.
Benton recommended asking recruiters and hiring managers in your field for examples of resumes they like. They can send you sections with redacted information without violating anyone’s privacy. And, of course, certified professional resume writers make it their business to study what works. They often have libraries of winners and losers at their disposal. Most will share those samples with you and use the library, plus years or experience, to write your resume to those standards.