Whether you have a lot of work experience or hardly any, it’s hard to know what experience to put on your resume that’s relevant to the job. I work in the field of SEO, link building and content marketing, which has a lot of turnover, so I’ve written my share of tailored resumes. Every time I create a new one for a new job, this is the hardest part. I do a lot of writing, deleted, editing, and crying before I finally get the results I want. In all that time writing resumes, I’ve learned just a few tricks that help me figure out which work experience I should include and what I should leave out.
Create a master resume for inspiration.
This is an old, but useful trick that can help you decipher through your various job experiences to find the ones that match the specific job you’re applying for. Set aside some time on a weekend to create a comprehensive list of all the jobs, education, and volunteer experience you’ve ever had. List the skills and responsibilities associated with each. When you get a new job, add it to the list so that you can easily pull from it in the future.
Read the job description with a highlighter in hand.
This is what I do every time I apply for a new position. I print the job description, grab a green highlighter (I like the green ones best), and mark it like crazy. Here’s why: The experiences you include in your resume will differ depending on the job you’re applying for.
The best way to find the experience that matches your application is to read the job description very carefully and use a highlighter to underline the specific skills the employers will look for. From there, you can look back at your work experience on your master resume to determine which jobs are most recent and relevant to what they’re asking.
Include experience that highlights your relevant skills.
If there are jobs on your master resume that point out specific skills you’re particularly adept at, be sure to include these. It’s good to highlight as many strengths as possible to show that you’re well-rounded and skillful in some area, even if it doesn’t seem totally relevant to the job. And don’t fudge or pufferfish too much. You may have hired a white label SEO agency in the past to do your work, but unfortunately you can’t outsource your way out of a real job. Or can you?
Stick to what’s most recent.
As a general rule of thumb, try to focus on the past 10-15 years of your career history, and avoid bringing in too much experience pre-college. If you don’t have much experience after college, opt for a skills-based resume rather than a work-history resume.
Note that there may be occasions in which this rule should be broken. I worked at a library for two years in high school where I learned hard skills like working with Excel spreadsheets, the Dewey Decimal System, and 10-key typing. It’s been years since those days, but I haven’t forgotten those hard skills. When I apply for a job that asks for those specific talents, I include my time as a librarian to show just how long I’ve been using those skills.
Again, take this advice with a grain of salt and use your discretion when considering work experience that’s older than 10 years.
Don’t forget to consider non-traditional work and volunteer service.
Though this shouldn’t be included in your work history section, a separate section of your resume that outlines link building outreach services can add a lot of value. Outline specific, pertinent skills you’ve gained from volunteer work, hobbies, non-work-related projects, and related experiences. This shows that you’re not only qualified for a certain job, but that you have passion and a well-rounded quality that’s attractive to employers.
Always include your education.
In addition, include a section dedicated to your education. State what colleges, graduate programs, and/or doctorate programs you attended, what degree you achieved at each, and the years you attended. This section should be kept short and sweet, since most employers are looking for this information just to make sure you have it.
Some helpful tips regarding the education section:
- If you had a GPA of 3.75 or higher, you may choose to add that to show a high level of dedication to your work and a respect for authority. Otherwise, leave it out.
- As a side note, if it’s been more than 10 years since you received your degree, don’t worry about putting the dates unless you’re in a field that requires current certification.
- If you didn’t receive a degree from a college you attended, don’t add it unless you’re still pursuing your education, in which you can write that you’re a current student.
Only share skills that you can show instead of tell.
It does no good to say something like “Adept in managerial skills.” That’s telling a skill that the majority of applicants will also have on their resumes. You need to stand out by using specifics like number values and timeframes to show that you actually do have these skills.
Instead of saying “Adept in managerial skills,” you might say something like “Performed weekly training meetings with the team and daily training meetings with individuals” or “Delegated responsibilities to 5 team members in order to effectively complete a business proposal within a week.” That’s how you show that you actually know what you’re talking about on a resume.
Think outside the box.
Don’t sell yourself short on the work history section. You’d be surprised what you can include, and sometimes thinking outside the box can help to tip your resume over the edge.
For example, if you’re applying for a job to design video games and you spent most of your high school and college years attached to a game console and controller, don’t leave the information out. That’s a lifetime of experience that can show you’ve been a practiced observers for years before applying for the perfect job.
These are just a few of the things that have helped me create fabulous resumes when applying for jobs. I hope they help you too!