Whether I’m actively hiring for a position or receiving referrals, I am always amazed at how many résumés only tell me what the person does, when I really only want to know what they’ve accomplished. The résumés include bullet point after bullet point of job duties, dollars managed, or committees participated in. Rarely does anyone mention if they are good at any of those things.
Hiring managers do not want to see responsibilities; they want to see results. After all, they are looking for a résumé, not a job description. A résumé is a marketing document designed to sell your skills and strengths rather than to outline or itemize a work history. Don’t be concerned that your résumé won’t look like your idea of “the standard” – that’s the point!
Follow these steps to take your résumé up a notch:
Step 1: Make a list
Compile a list of skills and accomplishments that set you apart from other candidates. Ask yourself questions like:
- How did I go above and beyond my job duties?
- What problems did I solve?
- Did I save the company time or money?
- Did I exceed any goals or quotas?
It bears repeating: Identify accomplishments for me; don’t reiterate job descriptions. In other words, focus on what you did in the job, rather than what your job was. That will spark my interest.
For each accomplishment you list, ask yourself: what was the benefit to the company? No one wants to read what tasks you performed – they want to know why these tasks were important and who was impacted. You’re probably so accustomed to writing a list of job tasks that it may seem strange to do otherwise. Take your time and put in the effort to approach your résumé with a different mindset. It will be worth it.
Step 2: Quantify your job duties
Next, take your list and quantify your responsibilities. Add as many facts and figures as you can. Include how much money was saved, number of people managed, amount of revenue increased, etc. By attaching numbers to your skills, you will come across as more confident in your ability to take on the responsibilities of a role.
While you’re at it, use the job description to find key terms or phrases a hiring manager is looking for in a candidate. If a company is looking for someone skilled in marketing, leading a team, or innovation, use those terms on your résumé. Make it easier for me to verify, with a quick read-through, that the skills and experience I want are a part of your professional background.
Step 3: Show the benefit
Numbers alone will not tell the story. For example, I may not be interested in someone who was responsible for $1,000,000 in sales, but I would be interested in someone who grew year-over-year sales by 16 percent to $1,000,000 which ranked 3rd out of 19 people in their group. See the difference?
Skills are important, but you must also prove that your know-how is applicable in the real world. Explain how you used your skills to address a problem and use understandable metrics to describe the results.
Hiring managers want to comprehend the context of a role in relation to the company as a whole. Spell out who you worked with at the business as well as how your position fit within the organizational structure. Explain to me why the work you were doing was critical to the business. That will hook me into reading more.
- Highlight specific accomplishments that paint a complete picture of your marketability. Make me want to learn more about you.
- Work backwards to quantify your achievements by asking yourself: if I had not done such-and-such, what might have happened? Reveal the situation to me so that I can understand your part in the story.
In short, don’t tell – show!
Step 4: Put it together
Chances are, I’m looking at a lot of résumés for the position you want. Catch my eye with succinct, concise sentences, and break up text into short paragraphs with bullet points. A blended approach is optimal; use a few sentences to describe each position, with 3-5 bullet points describing achievements. This creates a balance for reading and scanning. Clearly title sections to make scanning easier for your reader.
Design your résumé to grab my interest:
- Use ample white space. Doing so makes your résumé attractive and easy to read.
- Stick with standard fonts and remember that sans serif fonts are generally easier to read on screens while serif fonts are easier to read in print. Selectively apply bold and italic typeface to help guide my eye.
- Convert your résumé to a .pdf. Converting your word-processed résumé to a .pdf lets me see your original formatting.
There’s a pervasive belief out there that a good résumé follows a standard template. I want you to do better than that. Follow what I’ve outlined here for you, and you’re more likely to get the attention of the hiring manager – and perhaps the new position you desire.