For all positions, resumes are a first impression. They are used to summarize and list your skills and experiences so that the reader may predict your professional potential. A common idiom around resumes is “show, don’t tell.” The idea is to provide examples and statistics along with your claims as support. The more you are able to show your abilities, the better you are perceived. This may never be truer than with technical writers.
Technical writers are in a unique situation where they are tested as they apply. While technicians and engineers must be taken at face value, technical writers must prove their skills on the very paper they submit. Grammar, organization, communication, formatting, and the like can all be meticulously analyzed from first contact. Technical writers are then under the most pressure to provide resumes that are not only flawless, but effective. In a sense, your resume is also your writing sample.
So how do we approach this feat? Like any other writing assignment.
- Collect Content
Gather up the necessary information for the reader. You are the expert and the interviewer here in this document creation. Surely they will want to know your work history and education. Write down your skills and lessons learned. Don’t include superfluous or irrelevant things if only because you saw it once on a template.
Organize the information into clearly definable sections and arrange them. Some conventions are easily followed (e.g. put your work history in reverse chronological order), but challenge others (do you really need an objective statement?). Only put in information you gathered earlier and arrange it so it makes sense to you.
So you have Microsoft Word skills? Show them. Start from a blank document and build from there. Use tab markers and styles to format your page. This is just as important as any word on the page. If you claim to have the experience, but don’t show it here, you are only weakening your own claims.
Write and rewrite your content until it makes sense to you. Again, forget about any template or rules and write how your think the information is best portrayed. If you are struggling with the concept, or would like further reading on breaking the resume mold, Forbes.com has a great series on human-voiced resumes that could help any professional, especially writers.
Read your resume through. Is it easily digestible? Does it make sense? Does it portray the information accurately and effectively? Is it written like a technical writer? Catch all spelling and grammar mistakes that we all know are the death of any resume. Have others read it. Then, read it again.
In the end you should have a resume worthy of being your first writing sample. The more engaging, organized, and outstanding it is, the more it will back your claims and support your worthiness of the position. Don’t allow years of experience, certifications, or resume rules do the work for you. Take the extra steps to put forward something that represents you and the work you are capable of.
About the Author
Greta Boller is a technical writer located in the Washington, D.C. area. For more information, please visit her bio page.