The 60-Minute Resume Makeover

If you’re like most people, you’ve been putting off updating your resume. You know you need to do it, but it just feels like a time-sucking, soul-crushing bother that you’d rather put off until you absolutely, positively have no other choice.

I probably don’t need to tell you that’s a bad idea.

But don’t worry: if you’ve got 60 minutes to spare, you can have a brand-new, nearly painless new resume that’ll knock their socks off.

Step One: Brainstorm Your Tasks

Forget about going right into the story of what a rockstar Santa’s elf you are. First, jot down everything you do at your job. This is usually much easier to wrap your brain around. Don’t think about how important or flashy these tasks are: this step is to log them. We’ll make them sound good later. [5 minutes]

Step Two: Highlight Five Tasks

Now that you have a laundry list of all the things you do at work, choose the five that best highlight your value. So if you’re a Santa’s elf and one of the things you wrote down is “Sweep the floor,” that’s great, but maybe it doesn’t demonstrate your value as well as, “Entertain small children with jokes, fresh-made popsicle juice, and balloon animals.” If you’ve written down a lot of tasks, but none of them sound stellar, consider combining tasks. “Sweep the floor,” “Flush the toilets,” and “Pick up candy cane wrappers” might be combined into, “Create and maintain a cheerful atmosphere”—certainly an essential part of an elf’s job! [5 minutes]

Put your contact info on each page. You want to be contactable--even if your front page goes missing. Click To Tweet

Step Three: Turn Tasks into Resume Bullets

This is usually where people throw their hands up and turn to retail therapy. But I’ve got a trick for you: If you’re struggling with this part of the resume process, find a job posting for a position like yours and borrow from it.

Usually, job postings will list responsibilities, reporting structure, daily activities, as well as indicate whom you would support and what projects you will own. This is a gold mine of information. Using the job description as a guideline, map your highlighted tasks to the skills and responsibilities described to form the basis of your resume.

Resist the urge to plagiarize, please. The point here is to understand what hiring managers look for in a candidate similar to you, and use that knowledge to turn your tasks and activities into the story you want to tell about yourself. [30 minutes]

Understand what hiring managers look for in a candidate similar to you, and use that knowledge to turn your tasks and activities into the story you want to tell about yourself. Click To Tweet

Step Four: Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

After you’re done with the writing, now it’s time for the editing. Do yourself a favor and run your resume through a grammar checker like Grammarly to find any mismatched noun-verb agreements, missing words, or typos you might have missed. The truth is—you’re a lousy proofreader. I hate to break it to you, but you are. At least when it comes to proofreading your own content. It’s tough to trick your brain into thinking it has never seen these words before. Your brain will anticipate words and therefore skip over them, leaving you vulnerable to accidentally inserting “pubic” for “public” (Ask me how I know!)

Getting a friend to look over your work after you’ve used a grammar checker is the coup-de-gras. [10 minutes]

Step Five: Format

Lots of people try to do this step at the same time as everything else. Forget about it! Leave the pretty until the end. Only after you’ve said everything you want to say should you worry about how it looks. The editing phase can alter a layout, so you don’t want to take time formatting only to have to redo it later. [10 minutes]

Generally speaking, there’s no right way to format your resume. However, if you are in a creative field—say, a designer, illustrator, artist, etc.—it may be a good idea to have a graphical resume that you’ve laid out in InDesign or other layout software. However, even if you choose to have a fancy graphical resume, you should also have a standard, text-only resume that you can use to submit online. Remember, ATS systems can’t read your fancy resume. So hang onto that for human reviewers only.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure every page of your resume contains your name and a way to reach you: whether that’s email or phone number. If someone happens to print out your resume, you want to make sure that anyone who picks it up can contact you—even if for some reason the first page goes missing.

And that’s it! Your 60 minutes are up, and your resume is done! Now don’t forget to update your LinkedIn profile, and you’re ready to rock and roll. Good luck out there!