When it comes to looking for a new job, the hardest part isn't the actual hunt – it's what happens as you prepare for the hunt. In particular, writing a great resume can be an incredibly stressful feat.
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Think about it: You're asked to put an entire summary of your professional life down on paper – but it must fit on one or two pages, or it won't be read. It must be 100 percent accurate, or you could be fired by your future employer. It must tell the story of your every career victory, or no one will take you seriously. It must not make you look too old or too young, or you could be perceived as incompetent. Oh, and it should be up to date – always. You never know when someone might ask for it.
For these reasons, it's often easier to help someone else with their resume than it is to begin to revise your own. But when you do begin, there are a few important things to keep in mind:
1. There's No One Way to Write a Resume
Every person has their own opinion of how resumes should look, so it's unlikely everyone will love yours. Find a layout you like and solicit friends for feedback. If each person is giving you the same feedback, listen. If nine out of 10 people love your resume and number 10 doesn't, listen to the first nine.
2. Think of Your Resume Like a Google Search Results Page
When you're searching for something on Google, you only read down far enough to get what you need. Hiring managers are the same way. They'll scan your resume and stop at the point when they feel like they know enough about you. Be sure the most important things are listed first.
3. Minimize Distractions
If you're concerned about your age, remove your college graduation year. Consider cutting your early jobs that no longer apply. Use an up-to-date email address by staying away from AOL and Comcast emails. If you're applying at an organization that is not affiliated with a particular religion or political group, consider reducing indirect references to faith or political party as much as possible – if not cutting them altogether.
4. Don't Be Shy
Give yourself credit for everything you've achieved and use numbers to quantify your results. For example, a military veteran may have something on their resume about how they managed a team. If you ask them how big the team was, you might learn they were managing 300 people. To the veteran, this seems completely normal. To an outsider, not only is this not normal, but it's incredibly impressive. Quantifying your results helps someone in another industry or job function understand what you really did.
5. Avoid Grammatical Errors
There is so much of your life packed onto those few pages that it may seem like a tiny mistake shouldn't matter very much – but you'd be surprised at just how often a hiring manager will toss a resume in the garbage over an incorrect verb tense or a random word in the wrong place. Even when writing isn't part of your job, you're judged on your ability to do it. Run your resume through spell check, read it out loud to yourself, and ask a grammar buff friend to take a look.
As painful as putting together a resume is, the good news is that it's part of the preparation process. It's done ahead of time – and you can get help along the way. There's no reason your resume should do anything other than add to the case that you're the perfect candidate for the job.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Memphis Daily News.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.