The 2020 update for my best-selling Ladders Resume Guide is now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions. I’ve included a brief excerpt below.
This updated version is designed to make your resume writing go smoothly. In about 90 minutes, I provide the basics on how to create a professional two-page resume, share templates to help you do so quickly, and provide specific step-by-step advice on writing bullet points and a professional summary that will make you stand out.
Ladders Resume Guide is based on the millions of $100K+ to $500K professionals we’ve helped over the past 17 years, and the success of their millions of applications with our employers. I provide you with the tools, tactics, and tricks you need to transform your past experience into an effective resume. I review the right format for structuring your past jobs into a job history, and tackle the best wording and phrases for your past achievements.
Here’s that excerpt I promised you…
“Your resume is a professional advertisement”
Your resume is an advertisement. The product it is selling is your work effort over the next few years. For the typical member at Ladders, where incomes range from $100,000 to $500,000 per year, that can represent millions of dollars of value. A product with this large a price tag merits a good advertisement.
If you’ve sold a house or a car, you know how a well-written ad can generate a lot of phone calls and interest. It’s the same for resumes, but in this case a resume is a professional advertisement, seeking to inform and attract buyers of professional talent. To reach and entice them, you’ll showcase your professional qualities, features, and performance.
A resume is not a personal, or personals, advertisement – it’s not a place to preen or cleverly display how much of a catch you are. It is not a social advertisement indicating your social or marital status, or seeking to ensure your inclusion in the social “Who’s Who” of your city.
It is an advertisement, not a Product Manual of You. It is not an exhaustive transcript of your past work experience or schooling, and definitely not a first-person bio or autobiography. You want to steer away from thinking that a resume is a precise or complete history of all your past work experiences, a catalog of prior responsibilities, or an inventory of your past staffing levels and budget authorities.
Like any good ad, a resume provides your contact info (it’s surprising how many professionals goof this up with casual or non-professional email addresses). It shows others have worked with the product before by highlighting the brand names in your past. It serves as a discussion starter for interviews. And it provides a basis for references that will come later in the process.
Unfortunately, a resume is also a place for you to make disqualifying mistakes or exaggerated claims that will come back to bite you later. Typos, simple professional mistakes, or untruthful data, can torpedo your chances.
If you write “Fluent Spanish and Chinese”, but meant fluent Spanish and a smattering of Chinese, it can trip you up in interviews. If you list ‘SQL’, ‘Excel’, ‘Mailchimp’ or other software, but can’t answer the basics about them, it will call into question your competence and your integrity.
If your resume is too many pages long, has strange formatting, or has an unprofessional filename, you’ll raise eyebrows.
“Targeted toward your future boss”
Perhaps the biggest mental hurdle in writing your resume is getting over the fact that a resume’s target is not you, and that a resume is not about pleasing you, or even being the way you’d like to think of yourself most.
In fact, there’s a certain extent to which the resume does not reflect the man or woman you are. When you think about yourself as a full-fledged human being, you don’t only consider your professional achievements, but also your family, friends, religious affiliation, college ties, hobbies, and other attachments, motivations, and cares.
Because these other areas of your life tend not to have a written document – kids, thankfully, don’t require a resume before jumping on you, and we don’t have to hand over a two-pager to gain admittance to our churches or synagogues – we tend to overestimate the extent to which our resume should reflect ‘the whole person’, and ‘everything about who I am.’ It’s often our only chance to sum it all up!
As a result, a successful resume may be even a little bit disappointing for you, personally. Because it is the single most common written document we have about ourselves, it’s relentless focus on just one, narrow, cold, and business-focused aspect of your humanity can leave you dissatisfied.
Other times, you may find your focus drifting toward audiences that are more important in your thoughts than they are in reality. A resume is not a good place to settle scores, puff up one’s non-professional achievements, or engage your inner professor. You should not use the scarce space on your resume to justify your past decisions to your colleagues, address an admissions committee in your head, or seek the approval of your peers. It’s purpose is not to explain your job to a general audience, your daughter’s 5th grade class, or college friends who went into other fields.
A resume is targeted at the specific people who can grant you an interview for a job, so that it can persuade them to actually do so.