Resume Help: Having Trouble Finding the Right Words When Writing Your Resume?

CN_Marc_v1_eOne thing that gives most people trouble when choosing to write their own resume is trying to find exactly the right words for it.  So here’s my first tip: please stop doing that!

The mindset that can bring any writer – even an experienced writer – to a complete halt and into full-blown writer’s block is wanting to push themselves to write “perfect” sentences even before they know exactly what it is they want to say.

How to start looking for words for your resume

First and foremost, get rid of the idea of the “right words” – at least for now. Your goal as you begin the task of writing your resume is finding ANY words. So give yourself permission to just do that at this point.

Now sit down in front of a blank page on your computer or with a good old-fashioned pad and paper. Get comfortable. You’ll want to set aside some quiet time with no phones, texts, or tweets to answer. Just you and the page.

Now you can begin. This is just a first draft, so let the words fly with no criticism or fear of anything being wrong. And don’t worry about sentences. Just thoughts … even if you will edit them out later. Write everything you can think of for now!

  • List every job you’ve ever had. If you’ve been working for more than 10-15 years, just the ones in that period for now. (Later if needed or to solidify your qualifications for the new job, you can add older jobs.)
  • Leave ample room on the page after each job to start adding words.
  • Now start with the most recent job and list things that you’ve accomplished, created, led, managed, improved, made happen, etc.
  • Also list skills, special knowledge you used or learned, as well as relevant industry terms, specific systems or software, etc.
  • Add anything you can remember you got praise for or that solved a problem or added customers, revenue, etc.
  • List any numbers related to those things, such as “saved company $70,000 by developing new process for ___”
  • Keep listing things and thoughts without censoring anything. The words are for your eyes only now.

Repeat for EACH job. You don’t have to do this all at once. It takes time. Give yourself a few days if you need it.

What to do with those words you found

Great start. You’ve got some words on the page. And they talk about the things you’ve done and accomplished. Now we want to focus on those things that best show you as someone who goes above and beyond just the required tasks – and who meets the new employer’s needs.

So for each job, you will create some bulleted sentences that show how well you match the job you want. (See posts below about targeting your resume and using transferable skills.) The following two articles will help you through this next part of writing your resume.

♦  How to Write a Strong Resume That Gets Real Interviews

♦  Quick and Easy Way To Review Your Own Resume

And the following example will show you a sample format for a targeted resume (in this case a business analyst) and how the job description can help point the way. (NOTE: There are many other resume formats. To find one you like better just try googling “resume format”):

♦  Resume Sample: Business Analyst Resume Targeted to Job


Some final thoughts

At this point, you should have yourself a resume that can serve you well in getting the job you want. But look at it once more anyway, for places to strengthen it. Especially as it points you toward the next job you want.

And before you are ready to send it anywhere (again remembering to target it and your cover letter to each job), you need to review it carefully for typos and grammar – and any obvious or non-obvious resume mistakes.

Ask someone you know and trust to give it a once-over also. And remember to do the same for your cover letter. This is the only first impression you get. Take the time to make it a great one!

IMPORTANT!  Don’t forget to target your resume:

Resume Tips: How To Target Your Resume To the Job


And remember to look for transferable skills:

What Are Transferable Job Skills & Why Do They Matter?


For more resume and cover letter articles:

Tips for Resumes and Cover Letters (with Examples)