Conducting Resume Research

I am writing this blog not in my office, as per usual, but in the dining room where the room is flooded by sunshine. As a bit of a sun worshipper - not for the tan but for the vitamin D and mood-boost - it's a lovely way to switch up the routine.

And for whatever reason, as I considered a few blog options, the idea of what needs to be gathered to compose a solid resume came to mind and I loved it!

I recall a time, long before I launched my business 10 years ago, sitting in front of a computer and not knowing what I should write for my resume! Without training, I was lost. Today knowledge is at your fingertips - too much and sometimes confusing, admittedly.

Hopefully some of your own research on how to write a good resume has included info on how to prep for this otherwise daunting task. Here's my process.

Before I compose a client's resume, I will gather all or some of the following:

  • existing resume or resumes for a skeleton outline of the client's work history
  • cover letters the client has written as these often contain nuggets worth including in the resume and also provide me with insight into the client's writing style, which I will emulate to some degree
  • performance reviews, if available, as some are excellent sources of major projects, ongoing training, the skills important to the job, and the skills the client excels in
  • a client questionnaire that asks the client to flesh out details such as projects, assignments, committees, recognition, problems solved, contributions made
  • an intake interview that follows my review of all of the above, asks many more questions, and takes an hour to an hour and a half - and sometimes ends with a wee bit more homework for the client!

A recent client exceeded a long-held record of 70 pages of information gathered; along with the four pages her intake interview generated at my end (I type with fury!), she shared more than 80 pages. I am certainly glad that most clients send only 10 to 20 pages, otherwise I would be spending a lot more time preparing, and I already spend from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the client's role, number of positions held, and whether s/he is a new grad or executive.

This level of info is critical for me. Depending on the client - entry level or executive - I won't take on a project in which the client is unwilling to commit to providing me with info. After all, I cannot conjure up specific-to-the-client details out of thin air. I won't lie and it's best not to assume more than the most basic details that are common to certain positions.

(An entry level client's resume doesn't require the pre-interview questionnaire, but an exec-level definitely does as positions at that level are distinct in accountability and expectations.)

It's important that you gather info before writing your own resume. Sure, it's your career and you figure the info is in your head, but it's amazing how much we forget, how a bit of pressure seems to erase ideas and details, and how lack of detail diminishes a resume's strength and influence.

Try this test. Remove your identifying info - name, address, email, etc. If the content now could be used by almost anyone applying for the position, or by almost anyone with a similar background, your resume will not distinguish you from your competition. You've got to include singular information, details that speak to YOUR achievements and impact, language that defines your personality, motivation, methodology, strengths, and talents. Without that level of content your resume will continue its sad journey through many applicant tracking systems, generating not a ripple of interest.

For those who see value in engaging the services of a trained professional, do consider New Leaf Resumes.

P.S. I am also active on Facebook. I'd be thrilled if you wandered over, checked it out, and "liked"my page!