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How to Write a Resume That Makes You Feel Confident

I spent ten years as an executive recruiter. The candidates I respected the most were those who didn't play games. A good recruiter will need to squeeze every detail of your experience out of you anyway, and it saves all parties a lot of time when you include this experience on your resume.

The goal is not to "trick" your target company. It's to offer the truth behind your experience in the best possible light, and to work sincerely with the hiring manager to decide together whether you are the best fit.

Take the high road. You will encounter recruiters and hiring managers who are lazy; follow a robotic, formulaic hiring process; neglect common courtesy; and misrepresent opportunities. This will help you identify companies to avoid. Don't stoop to that level. Keep your head high and be proud of the life experience you've had and all it has taught you. You will be an asset to the right organization, and it behooves you to remain as patient as possible until you can find each other.

With that in mind, here are some back-to-basics resume tips I see people fail to follow all too often:

1) Include all your experience, dating back to undergrad, with no gaps (or explain the gaps). A good recruiter needs to get this out of you anyway. If you've done a lot of freelance work, you can lump this all together under your own business so your resume looks more organized and your experience is more coherent (and it doesn't look like you've had a million different full-time jobs).

2) Have a brief description of each company in italics under the name of the company (what it does + size). Like this:

ABC Executive Search

$500 million global, publicly traded leadership advisory firm providing executive search and leadership consulting services.

3) Quantify your experience as much as possible: ie. you managed X amount of people, saved your department X amount of money, brought in X amount of revenue, completed X amount of initiatives in X amount of time. Numbers are tangible and jump out to the reader.

4) Simple is best--no fancy designs or fonts. If you are applying to a creative job, you might take a bit more license when it comes to showcasing your talents, including a portfolio of past work. Everyone else: just stick to the facts in the clearest format possible.

5) It's fine if your resume is more than one page, especially if you have more than ten years of career experience. But keep it as brief as possible. Recruiters skim resumes. Articulate your experience concisely. When I was a recruiter, if it took me more than a few seconds to comprehend what someone's experience was, I realized they didn't have a firm handle on it either. Fluff and excess language make it seem like the person isn't confident or has something to hide.

6) It may seem obvious, but make sure the formatting on your resume is consistent. If the bullets highlighting your experience under one job title are indented, make sure the bullets under the next job title line up right underneath them. If one set of bullets is italicized, the next set should be, too. This kind of attention to detail matters. It's always a good idea to have someone else proofread, but especially if this isn't your strong suit.

7) Age discrimination is very real (and it's part of my mission to help us evolve beyond this). It's a cold, hard fact that recruiters will look at the graduation date on the resume and make assumptions about the candidate's energy level, motivations, and ability to adapt to new technology. It is your choice whether to include it or not. However, as I mentioned, a good recruiter will be required to get your full career history (and verify your degree, which means asking for your graduation date) before presenting you to a hiring manger. It may be to your benefit to land the interview first, so you can make a good impression before assumptions are made about your age. But most people should just list the graduation date.

8) Don't live your life for your resume. This is perhaps most important, and one of the saddest things I see happen to people. It's true you need to demonstrate you can remain loyal and dedicated to one organization or cause over the years. This shows you are willing to persevere when things get tough. But if you're planning your life so your resume will look a certain way, you've lost. Our society has long valued one kind of linear, loyal employee. As our economy reorganizes out of necessity over the next few years, I believe we'll place a higher value on diversity of experience. You can be an early wayshower.

Don't overthink this. Don't get lost in a sea of endless resume-writing tips, many of which conflict with each other. The resume is one piece of the job search. It's important to get it right, but it's far from the only thing that matters. Inspire confidence in your interviewers by articulating your career experience in an effective way. You can get my best interview tips here.

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