Note: Although this post is intended for technical writing students who are about to begin the job search process, but the techniques here might be useful for other students as well.
In this blog post, let’s discuss how to craft your technical writing resume.
The most important thing to remember is that your resume is NOT your autobiography. The recruiter does not need to know all that you have done or achieved in your life so far. They have a limited amount of time to go through hundreds of resumes. Your job is to make it easy for them to select your resume from the massive pile in front of them. Use your resume as a rhetorical tool to present concise, clear, to-the-point facts about why you are a good candidate for the position. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about what the company’s looking for.
Before you start writing your resume, take a pen and paper, and do a self-inventory:
- What courses do you like?
- What type of organization would you like to work for?
- What are your geographical preferences?
- What is your employment history?
- What professional organizations/associations do you belong to?
- What social/extracurricular organizations/activities do you associate with?
- What are your accomplishments/honors/awards?
- What software/hardware/technical skills do you have?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Know your audience
In the previous post, we discussed why it’s important to customize your job application materials for each job you apply for. I am aware of the fact that this is an inefficient method of job application. But I have a workaround: Create a base resume based on the self-inventory, and then tweak it for every job you apply for.
Build your base resume
In his textbook, “Technical Communication”, Mike Markel discusses the essential components of a resume:
- Full name
- Phone number
- Email address
- Link to LinkedIn profile
Include the following elements in the education section:
- The degree
- The institution
- The location of the institution
- The date of graduation
- Information about other schools you attended
- Your grade-point average
- List of relevant courses
Present at least basic information about every job you held:
- Dates of employment
- Organization’s name and location
- Your position or title
Add carefully selected details of your job and experience. Provide at least a one-line description for each position. For particularly important or relevant jobs, present the following details:
- Skills: What technical skills did you use on the job?
- Equipment: What equipment did you operate or oversee?
- Money: How much money were you responsible for?
- Documents: What important documents did you write or assist in writing?
- Personnel: How many people did you supervise or work with?
- Clients: What kinds of, and how many, clients did you do business with in representing your organization?
- Be specific when you write your experiences on a resume.
- Whenever possible, emphasize results.
- When you describe positions, functions, or responsibilities, use the active voice. The active voice highlights action.
- Practice your bulleted lists.
- Use the form .
- If you have not held a professional position, list the jobs you have held, even if they are unrelated to your career plans. If the job title is self-explanatory, like waitperson or service-station attendant, don’t elaborate. If you can write that you contributed to your tuition or expenses, such as by earning 50 percent of your annual expenses through your job, include that.
- If you have held a number of nonprofessional positions, group them together. Example: Other employment: Cashier (summer 2007), salesperson (part-time, 2008), clerk (summer 2009)
Interests and activities
Include information about your interests and activities:
- Participation in community-service organizations
- hobbies related to your career
- Sports, especially those that might be socially useful in your professional career
- University-sanctioned activities
You can also include:
- Computer skills
- Military experience
- Language ability
- Willingness to relocate
Customizing your base resume for every job application
Once you have your base resume, it’s easy to customize it for every job you apply for. For every job advertisement, identify the keywords in the advertisement. Understand the core requirements for the job. Then customize the following sections of your resume:
State only the goals or duties explicitly mentioned, or clearly implied, in the job advertisement.
For example, if your base resume’s objective is “To obtain a position as a software engineer”, then while applying for a Full-Stack Developer position at say, Google, reword your objective to “To obtain the position of a Full-Stack Developer at Google”. Just insert the position title and name of the company in your objective statement.
Focus on the reader’s needs, not on your goals.
The education section is the easiest part of the resume to adapt in applying for different positions.
Emphasize those aspects of your education that meet the requirements for the particular job.
Your base resume would probably list your courses in a random order. To customize your resume for a particular job, reorder the courses so that the most relevant courses are at the top of the list.
Your base resume would include details of all positions/projects you held in equal weightage. To customize your resume for a particular job, rearrange the experience section so that the most relevant projects/positions are highlighted, and others are mentioned briefly.
There you have it. Easy steps to customize your resume for every job you apply to. In the next post, we will discuss how to write a cover letter for each position. Stay tuned!
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