This may be hard to read, especially if you’re in the middle of a long and tiring job search, but—steel yourself—you may need to start from step one on your resume with a blank document (gulp), or an empty template (gasp).
Look, I know starting from scratch can really stink. My motivation took a huge hit the first time I received that very advice.
However, if your resume really isn’t leading to any interviews (let alone a phone screen), after you’ve sent it out to dozens of job postings, followed up with hiring managers and recruiters, and reached out to everyone in your network, it’s probably time to begin again.
One of my past writing teachers explained that:
When you try to rewrite what’s already on the page, you limit yourself to thinking within a narrow scope.
You see what’s there, and it’s hard to significantly alter anything. When you’re using a certain format, especially, it can be easy to avoid trying to squeeze information in if it’s not an easy or seamless fit.
When the margins, font, and sections just didn’t seem to work with what I was trying to convey, I took out some skills, changed the formatting of my work history dates, made the font a little smaller, and called it a day. But when one of my mentors looked my document over, she pointed out a few things I hadn’t noticed in haste to modify rather than overhaul.
Yes, I had quantified bullets detailing my experience, but I had neglected to notice that my previous experience didn’t read cohesively with my last position.
I assumed the reader would somehow get how my skills translated, instead of explicitly including the keywords from the job description of the position I was applying to. Since managers spend six seconds on your resume, if you leave them with any doubt as to why you’re applying and how you’d be a good fit, you’re not likely to be considered for the job.
You want it to read like a story that tells the hiring manager how your skills and experience fit the role.
For example, if you’re applying for manager-level positions but your resume focuses solely on your sales skills with quantified bullet points, you’re probably not making a clear case that you’re an experienced manager with leadership skills. And sometimes, just adding a line or two in the experience section isn’t enough to paint that picture.
It’s when you opt for a complete redo, however, that your mind can brainstorm beyond what you’ve already included on the page, and you might recall other achievements and experiences that you neglected to capture in the original.
And, fortunately, you can write a resume from scratch with less effort than you’d think (and you can even try a new template, like these options in Google Docs)—so why not start filling that blank page with a new foundation; one that depicts the best version of you and what you have to offer an employer. It might be the thing you need to get past the hiring manager and into the interview room.