I’ve seen some bad resumes in my life. I mean BAD. Looks like it was written in crayon on the back of a used square of toilet paper bad. Your resume is the first – oftentimes only – glance a potential employer might have to size you up as a potential employee. In their eyes a shitty resume equates to a shitty employee.

So don’t have a shitty resume.

Pretty simple, right? The first step to having a kick-ass resume is knowing and accepting the notion that the sheet of paper you are about to hand out represents everything you have to offer in life. After you wrap your head around that fact, the rest is a strategic matter of connecting the dots.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while you turn out an eye-opening, job-winning, panty-dropping resume to end all resumes.

Tip #1: Make it pop.

Resumes are typically delivered to the job givers in untidy stacks thicker than a Tolstoy novel. You’re best chance of passing the first line of employer defenses is to make your resume look unique. Add a flair of color. Experiment with different fonts. Maybe feature a picture of yourself NOT shotgunning a beer. If you don’t know Arial from Helvetica, find someone who does and ask for help. Attempting to spruce up your resume without the proper know-how will have it thrown in the trash next to the dude’s who printed his on cat print origami paper. Get. Some. Help.

Tip #2: Clarity is King.

Making it clear is almost as important as making it pop. Start with writing down one true, fantastic fact about yourself and make sure everything you put down on paper represents or strengthens that fact. The words. The font. The graphics. Everything. You don’t have to spell it out, but having that kind of conceptual clarity will result in an über-focused representation of yourself that should cater to the type of job you’re hoping to land.

For example: if you’re looking to get a job as, let’s say a teacher, your resume should reinforce what you love most about the job, and why you’re perfect for it. Anything that doesn’t say “I’m a good fucking teacher who fucking loves kids but not in a creepy way so hire me now” should be stricken from the record. Especially the creepy stuff.

Tip #3: If you have to fake it, then fake it.

This especially applies to noobs and career changers. You’re not going to have a ton of racked up experience or long list of skills and assets to plaster all over your resume. So lie. Fake it. Remember to add stuff that reinforces what you’re trying to say about yourself and figure it out as you go. You’re never going to get the job you’re looking for if you don’t take a few risks or leaps of faith. If you’re really dedicated to getting that job, it should be at all costs. You’d be surprised how easy it is to ‘fake it till you make it.’ Lie a little bit.

Just be sure you’ll be able to make good on your promises, or you run the risk of chipping away at your reputation. If you’re forced with learning Photoshop over the weekend in order to impress at the interview, then do it. If you don’t do it, it will at least tell you maybe that particular job isn’t right for you anyway. Test yourself. If you pass your own test, you’ll most certainly pass the interviewer’s.

Tip #4: Know what you suck at.

We all suck at something. In fact, we all suck at a lot of things. Knowing your blind spots is key to knowing how to stay away from them when you’re crafting your resume. It also helps you better prepare for the interviewing process. If there are particular aspects of a job or profession that you’ve yet to master, cater your resume away from those things. This may seem to fly in the face of Tip #3, but they actually dove tail quite well. The bottom line is to have control over the employee you are trying to present to people. If you are aware of all the variables, you’ll be able to manipulate them as you see fit. Knowledge is power. I think I heard someone say that once.

Tip #5: Don’t self-edit.

That’s what friends and family are for. Try to recreate the conditions of the hiring process as well as you can. Have whoever you give you resume to put themselves in the shoes of the job giver. Make them wear a suit and walk around like they’re holding in a fart. Whatever it takes.

The point is to step away and get some tough 3rd party criticism. Don’t tell them what you were going for or how you are trying to present yourself. Let them make their own judgement and determinations because you won’t get that chance with a faceless human resources worker. Take the hits, accept the praises, and revise what you’ve got to be even better. Rinse and repeat. The more feedback you can get, the better.

Tip #6: Polish.

Cut it down to one page. Check spelling and alignment. Go over it 3-5 times to make sure everything is exactly how you want it before you hit print. A fine grain level of polish could be the difference between the job giver picking up the phone or using your resume to light their tightly wrapped Dominican cigar. Remember: this is the once chance you get to present the best version of yourself. Skip this step and you open cracks for mistakes to fall through.

Tip #7: Relax and have fun!

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to get it right the first time. If you have fun with it, try some new things, and keep the resume true to yourself (despite a small lie or two) then you’re on the right track. Don’t get the job? Try to contact the company and ask for some feedback on why. Learn something and move on to the next one. Failure will teach you way more than success, so take advantage of opportunities to grow even when you don’t get what you want.

Time to get to work!

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Peter Secan

Peter Secan

Peter is an architectural designer, freelance writer, and creator of The Self Aware Man. He wants to use this blog to share his thoughts and experiences, and much of his power is derived from the baldness of his head. He currently freelances for several blogs, including BusyBoo, Easy Render and Games Like Zone.

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