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…
The single biggest trick
So when it comes to resumes, the biggest stumbling block is this: you want to tell people how it felt to be you; but your audience wants to know what it felt like to be your boss.
Writing your resume is a unique experience. Even though it concerns you, writing a resume is not like writing a diary. Although it covers a time period in your life, it is not how you experienced those days and years.
When we sit down to write a resume, we often start with writing what it felt like to be you – this school was followed by that education, was followed by this first job, was followed by that next promotion, and so forth.
You share, in bullet point format, the stories that are interesting to you, the drama that was involved in getting here, and provide a compelling plotline to your own life story. For you, each job, each accomplishment, each bullet point, was an adventure, a battle, a triumph.
This is the easiest version of your life story to tell because it feels like something we’ve been doing all our lives. It’s the version of the story that you’re familiar with, the version you tell your folks and friends, your new acquaintances and your oldest college buddies.
And once you get going, it gets easier to write about yourself and start filling the page: your jobs, your duties, your promotions, your projects, your transfers, your staff. And when you get to editorializing – the achievements “despite” budget shortfalls, or “in the face of” industry declines, or “with minimal support,” it can feel like a vindication, a validation, a victory.
And the factual and emotional weight of each bullet in your resume become like little movies you can play back in your head about “that time when…”, or “my first job out in San Antonio…”
But the emotional weight of each line of your resume has very little correlation with the professional weight your boss will assign to it. And the little career movies you are replaying in your head may have no impact on your goal of landing interviews.
If there’s one trick I’d like you to understand about getting your resume right, it’s this:
Your resume is not about you.
Sure, it’s made up of your achievements, background, experiences and credentials, but it’s not about you. It’s about the benefits your future boss gets from hiring you.
Your resume is not about you. Any more than the iPad ad is about the transistors, and code, and chips inside. While those are the materials that make the magic possible, the iPad ads entice you to buy the magic, not the bill of goods.
Similarly, your resume is about your future boss’s needs and the benefits she’ll obtain by hiring you for the role.
A boss is looking for output, not input. A boss is looking for outcomes, not duties and responsibilities. A boss wants to know the end of the story, the bottom line, the score at the end of the game, not the feelings you had while delivering them.
In fact, if you’re looking to move up in your next job, your future boss is two levels above your current role. So your ability to understand their needs, predicaments, hopes, requirements, and best guesses for the role are understandably limited by your own limitations of experience.
That’s one of the reasons why even HR pros who have been hiring for decades have a tough time with writing a resume (and with many other parts of the job search process). Much like doctors are the worst patients and attorneys are bad clients, HR people have tons of experience in hiring others, but almost no experience in hiring someone like themselves or their boss. Being a great buyer has very little to do with being a great seller.
Gaining the required distance to write about yourself in the form of a professional advertisement is difficult. Seeing yourself as a product is hard. Portraying yourself not as “you”, but as the sum total of all the labor your future employer is purchasing is something you don’t often do. We don’t know precisely who the audience is. We don’t know what we are supposed to say. We’re not sure how we are coming across. And we feel sheepish about bragging so blatantly to an imaginary herd of peers in our head. The novelty of the experience, and the oddity of the perspective, can leave you feeling adrift, unmoored, a bit lost in the landscape.
Writing a resume is not like how you think of yourself in any other part of your life.
So the balancing act of mastering your own emotional response to past achievements, and the ability to weigh those objectively so that you can convey the professional value of each of those achievements and its worth to future employers, is the most important “trick” to resume writing. It’s a new skill. You’ll get better with focus, awareness, and practice.