How To Write a Great Resume and Get a Job

This is an amazing and interesting time in the social and political sphere. Unemployment is low, yet there are jobs open in every field and employers are creatively filling, covering or combining positions due to dire need. There might be a Great Resignation happening for those who can or have to, but many people always need work from others and employers always need talent. This an excellent time to break into the job or career field that you are passionate for or driven to work in while capturing a better than starting position by getting your best skills noticed by the right people. You will get as much respect as you command with your presence, words and efforts, if you follow through with doing as you say you will. Believe you are, and you will be. Let’s get started with that great resume.

First, you are going to want to make a COMPLETE list of all your professional jobs and volunteer positions. (Yes, to the beginning, even if that is more than 10 years or 5 jobs.) The relevant pieces will be listed out separately on the final product but your prep work can be done however you need. Once you make an exhaustive list, you are going to break each job down. We, in the hiring branch, often see this as a list of required tasks or assignments of a job, like a check list for interviewers to review and cross off. The truth is that the list of regular duties like this is great for applicants to use as a starting point to explore, but this will need to expand deeper in the process to derive what skills or accomplishments those tasks provided you. Next, add any commendations, awards, special projects and large successes you achieved in those jobs need to be listed to feature your successes and demonstrate how you develop or achieve. Review these lists and make another column to itemize out skills acquired in that role or project. This process is great for pencil and paper brain storming. Those of you that work only on computers can organize your notes in whatever your preferred style is. The goal is to be free flowing and have more down than you expect to use. Your final step for this stage is to draw connections between the tasks/ projects/ routines to the skills. Remember that these blocks are needed for every employer or job title, whichever way you are breaking it down. These notes are your crucial building blocks to sell your skills and present yourself to a hiring team as you want to be seen, first coming out on print and then demonstrating in person or verbally when you interview.

Dick’s Drive In 6 months 1999
TasksAwards Skills
Cashier/ Window Met company standard of 30 customer count in 30 minutes within first month of training.  Won competition against manager for high customer count during busy rush period. Time Management, Organization, following SOP, Cleaning/ Presentation, cash handling, customer service
Safety awareness, quality control, attention to detail/ allergy avoidance
Quickest employee on shift for cup preparation at twice productivity metric standardtime management, organization, SOP, cleanliness
Each job or employer should have a chart or worksheet that you can list out your task, what commendations you got, and what skills you acquired from them.

Resumes are not one job fits all. You may have multiple resume bases that you retain that featuring various skills or attributes for the different functions of varying employers and employment fields. If you start with a bundle of SKILLS/ ATTRIBUTES/QUALIFICATIONS, from TASKS/ REQUIREMENTS/ PROJECTS and recognition in COMMENDATIONS/ REAL NUMBERS WITH VALUES (METRICS) for every employer or job you list on your resume, you will have building blocks for any new job application you seek by tailoring the qualifications and your experience to your goals. One skill type to be cautious in listing is “attention to detail” or “detail oriented”, especially if you do not back your point with a commendation or metric goal because it may draw criticism to any error in your resume or application. This is why documenting your skills with your work experience is important and is similar to providing footnote evidence of sources to provide credibility by your statement showing how it was grounded. With that said, hiring team personnel generally expect correct spelling and grammar to a reasonable extent for any type of job. It shows the applicant cares about the application and put time, concern and effort into the application, as one would hope they would do for the actual job.

Repeat the experience review process with any volunteer experience in order to identify how they helped you any build skills related to the application and could help you in the job. The compilation goes in a separate section on the resume and may not be discussed in interview. This is why your documentation and explanation or summary is important. Volunteer experience is not required but it is often considered as a bonus point arena because it demonstrates community involvement and gives the applicant another opportunity to showcase special skills that may not be as visible with just work history. Having this section will allow the applicant to bring this experience into light on the Cover Letter, at the very least. It is necessary to be direct with the takeaways you want the recruiting team to get and not assume that they will connect any dots you might try leave. If you want them to know you have a skill or special ability, you need to specify that you have it and what jobs or tasks helped you get it. Certificates and educational programs will also need to be listed out to go in the education section. Similarly, you will want to list your most relevant skills acquired

North Seattle Community CollegeAssociate of Arts- History and AnthropologyThe study of ancient cultures relates directly to the field of Communications and understanding, supporting and fostering diversity.  I spent a summer studying Native Tribal Aboriginals and adaptive cultures in Kenya and Tanzania.
University of WashingtonBachelor of Arts- Communications and Political ScienceStudying Communications, cultures and US Law has given me a foundation to understand the US legal structure, Mass Media law regarding publication requirements and how to access resources to function in a corporate employment law environment or working with policy, procedure and human resources as well as managing public relations.
Your education can be cast in any light or hue you direct it, guide it to be seen as an asset for the job.

The best part of the resume submission is that despite it being almost uniformly expected at any job application, there is no standard format, other than limiting it to 1 page. This can let you stand out or cause you issues, depending upon how you present. It can also stave off issues that you want to avoid, like the ageism concern with all those old jobs by using formatting without dates on older jobs. Most recruiters really do want to see all of your experience, and, especially with large companies or union environments, your wage may be based specifically on related years which must be submitted in writing with the application. What we will do for our new resume is list the 3 most recent jobs, or 10 years, with complete details and dates. Each job or position to list prior to or in addition to recent history, will display the company name, job title/s, responsibilities and list total employed years in the summary, but exclude the dates. When the dates are omitted, the timeline is broken and gaps in employment may be disguised in this strategy. It is not dishonest to withhold information in a job interview if not asked about it because the interviewer is specifically testing the candidate to see if they can fit within the model expected for employees at their company. Whatever the applicant portrays is an accurate representation and of how they can behave, speak and follow direction. Outright dishonesty, misleading or lying must be avoided because this can be the nail in the coffin if there was an otherwise good fit. Even a wonderfully qualified candidate will eliminate themselves by being dishonest in the interviewing process. It is a failure of the interviewers and screeners if they let applicants omit something they want to know or otherwise should have asked about.


This is sample text of the employment section of a resume that demonstrates what work was done and what skills were derived.
Once you have your full list compiled, you can choose to remove or otherwise exclude something that does no benefit to your purpose in application. In my example, many jobs I apply for could call for my top 3 jobs but the last is likely to be irrelevant to any job the others relate to and it may cause a negative notion for my perspective employer who will want an explanation on why the job duration was so short. If it is relevant, I can always easily pull what I need because I built it into my off resume work history document.

The paragraph above noted that the applicant doesn’t need to volunteer more information than the interviewer asks. This also applies to any other information during the interview process that is protected from discrimination besides age, like disability, pregnancy, ethnicity, religion or creed. Protect yourself and your potential employer by not bringing up or discussing anything that is protected from discrimination and otherwise, not essentially relevant to the job. If applicants meet all the requirements, it is unnecessary to bring up any accommodation requests until hired or at least in final consideration. If an applicant doesn’t meet the requirements because of a disability that can be accommodated, however, they should ensure someone in the hiring process and/or Human Resources team is aware of the limitations and how they feel they could do the job with accommodation, AND be prepared to offer their own solutions to their issues. Let the recruiter or interviewer bring up other camouflaged concerns and issues so that the applicant isn’t planting their own. This can be a tricky area but you don’t want to give the employer a reason to discriminate. Keep this in mind throughout the entire interview process. You are never required to discuss a topic in an interview that could lead to discrimination. If questioning of this line comes up, you may want to plan a response you are comfortable with to redirect the conversation. Keep in mind that if a company makes you uncomfortable in an interview, it could be reasonable to expect a similar work environment if selected for a position.

Once you have the bulk portion of the content, work and volunteer history with power skills and your education, you are going to do the tailoring. This is were you apply your Objective, which is your customized selling point to the perspective employer. Some people choose to omit the objective portion from their resume since the cover letter is another page of free form to sell your strongest qualities. Keep in mind both the Resume and Cover Letter should be single page documents. This is really the only standard that applies, other than correct grammar and spelling, and many interviewers or recruiters will not read past the first page if more is provided. This is the snap shot moment to present yourself, skills and goals. Your goal may just be to get a job, but you probably want a job where you can feel successful, accomplished, appreciated, proud, or something beyond just getting a check for true satisfaction. Try to think about the mission statement of the company you are applying for and what you can bring to the table to help them with their goals. Recruiters really like applicants that have done research on the job and company because it shows engagement and interest in the company. If you don’t know the mission statement, look it up.

Objective examples derived from experience and customized for specific jobs.
Two examples are provided to demonstrate how the same experience can be applied to different job applications.

Resumes should be accompanied by a Cover Letter, unless they specifically ask to omit. If you already know or work with the hiring manager, you might be able to replace the cover letter with a simple email or you can provide the formal Cover Letter. Not only would you have a different cover letter for each employer, it is likely that you will need a different cover letter for each job title or description you apply for at any company. This tool gives the applicant the opportunity to connect all the dots from their background and skills to that company’s specific needs. Not only do you highlight how you will be a great fit, you can smooth away doubts before they come up. If there has been a career gap or you noticeably don’t meet all the requirements, hit these challenges head on so you are not caught off guard when the subject comes up.

Excerpt example:

After spending nearly a decade in marketing, I took the last year and a half caring for a family member and taking online course work to ready me to come back to the field. These new skills have provided me valuable insight and would make me an asset at Global Enterprises Marketing.

This same tactic will apply if you have skill equivalencies to explain, are looking for a specific relocation, or have any other red flags that you think will attract attention. By bringing up the concern on your terms, further discussion may be avoided entirely or you should expect follow up conversation when the interview time comes. If you are confident in your skills and abilities and remain honest with your interviewer, you can control the direction of the conversation. DO NOT OFFER MORE INFORMATION THAN NECESSARY in problematic areas. Get your best answer out and get on to the next subject or question. The Cover Letter should be brief and not carry on. The hiring team is scanning and screening for key information. You want to ensure that you spell out the takeaways you want featured, keeping in mind that this letter should be 80%-100% about the needs of the company, how you will fit and problems you will solve for them. Once you are in the process deeper and talking to people, they will want to know what your needs and considerations are, but at the first step of getting noticed, the Cover Letter is your advertisement to them on how you will benefit the company if you are selected.


Cover Letter sample to display skills tied to the job.
Be direct, clear and clean in the cover letter

Do not sell yourself short when interviewing. No matter when it is that you are reading this, if unemployment is low or high, you have a value that you can demand from an employer. Set your limits with the employer in the beginning. Tell them the wage or salary you are seeking (without fear), look for the benefits you want and turn down bad offers. Employers will often undervalue perspective employees and bring them in at the lowest price they can to replace older more costly employees. If you don’t ask, you probably won’t get what you want but you are rarely worse off for trying. I learned working with negotiations that a person can ask for anything they want and sometimes companies, both large and small, will give into the most bizarre and ridiculous requests. Anyone can ask outside the box for creative options that may be mutually beneficial.

When it comes time for the interview, there are just a few key tips to keep in mind. First, dress for success and the role you want next down the line. Professional attire goes a long way in early impressions and it again shows that you are taking the process seriously. Even if you would not wear a tie or suit daily to the job, you can to the interview. Very rarely, a manager can get the wrong impression by an over dressed candidate. To avoid this, you can ask about attire when invited to the interview. In my experience, a well-dressed applicant often led to the hiring manager wanting to issue an on the spot offer if the rest went well. Do not have candy, gum or foreign objects in your mouth during the interview. This will attract the attention of the interviewer and distract them from your relevant content. Continue to consider your presentation of yourself and try to be attentive without fiddling too much. Remember to speak slowly and clearly when giving thoughtful answers to the interviewer’s questions. Don’t be afraid of silence. If you are done answering, the interviewer may remain quiet, waiting for the candidate to fill in the silence. Don’t say anything without intent. If you were told to bring or prepare anything, ensure you do. It is generally a good idea to bring a professionally printed hard copy of your resume and cover letter to the interview. Also, know the names of to whom you will be speaking, as well as suite numbers and office telephone numbers, in case you need them. Additionally, you will want to have prepared questions of your own; this reiterates your engagement and interest in the company. Questions can be related to company culture, benefits, work-life balance or anything that demonstrates engagement. Finally, always thank the interviewer for their time and ask when you should expect to receive contact back so you have a timeline for following up with them.

About the author: In the corporate employment world, I worked for the world’s largest medical reference laboratory in Human Resources for just about a decade. My HR career was preceded by retail operations management. All in all, I spent about 14 years working directly with hiring, outreach, onboarding and employee development, along with many other tasks that established strong professional skills. One of my primary job branches was recruiting and hiring, with both companies. I was required to build a legal understanding of hiring and interviewing processes and employment law that expanded into payroll, EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), Affirmative Action and working with unions. I worked directly with corporate legal departments and individually screened candidates for positions covering 6 Western States, from Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and California. My undergraduate degree in Communications and Political Science is backed with courses in Civics and Law taken at the University of Washington.

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