The primary function of a resume is to land you an interview. Your resume is a selling tool that represents you as a model candidate. Many people mistakenly believe that a resume is simply a document to showcase everything they have done in their career. Because of this mistake, their resumes often lack the spotlight on their strengths and achievements that help them stand out to employers and/or recruiters. With this knowledge in hand, take a look at your resume. Is it selling you?
To help you create the best resume that will convince employers you’re worth interviewing, ask yourself these questions:
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1. Who will see your resume?
It’s probable that your resume will be entered into an applicant tracking system that searches for keywords to filter through resumes. This method is not limited to software systems as recruiters and employers often use the same technique. Putting keywords and other terminology from the job description in your resume is extremely beneficial.
Write and format yours for someone who is reading many resumes a day. Using a readable font, a simple format, and being clear and concise will help recruiters and employers get through your resume with ease.
Whether it’s a recruiter, a Human Resources employee, or a hiring manager, it’s likely that your resume will be seen by both technical and non-technical people. Ask a non-technical friend or family member to take a look at it and tell you how it reads. Are they able to understand your role(s) and the part you played in your past and current organizations? Quick tip: Don’t use acronyms! You may think the acronym is industry-wide, but it’s better to play it safe and spell it out.
2. Do your responsibilities show value?
Make your responsibilities and achievements listed under each role prove your worth to past employers. Turn your generic responsibilities into quantified responsibilities by adding active verbs and numbers.
The STAR method is a popular resume technique that helps you create informative descriptions of your experience and show that you have the skills the company is looking for. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
- Situation: What was the challenge?
- Task: What was your job responsibility?
- Action: What action did you take to complete the task?
- Result: What was the result of your action? Was there a positive outcome and can you quantify it?
Situation/Task: Managed an 8-person design team in the creation of marketing campaigns and the redesign of the company’s website.
Action/Result: Created user experience wireframes to redesign website to increase user engagement resulting in a 45% growth in page views and a 25% growth in user satisfaction. Led marketing campaign launch that generated $250K in donations and increased membership enrollment by 12% in under 18 months.
Keep in mind that adding detailed information doesn’t mean adding everything you’ve ever done or used for a job. Keep it relevant.
Technical resumes for instance, often come with long lists of every system, program, language, etc. that the applicant has used during their entire career. If you find it necessary to have similar lists, make sure they’re relevant to the job you are applying for. And because technology changes often and can quickly become obsolete, refrain from listing them after a certain point in your career.
3. What if you are lacking in professional experience?
If you’re fresh out of school or entering a new field and career path, your professional experience will most likely be limited. Having projects on your resume helps employers see that you have the skills required for the role you are applying to.
For recent graduates, career pivoters, and even candidates currently in the field, including your projects supplement any lack of professional experience, bridges gaps between jobs, and explains how and where you gained the required skills.
Remember to list the projects that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Too many projects will make it harder to see the pertinent ones. If you’ve built out a Netflix page as a side project and you think it adds to your qualifications, add it. If your former company gave you a project to build a microservice to improve webpage search results, and the process emphasizes your skills, add it.
If the project was a component of a past job or internship, it should be listed under that specific role. If the project was a personal endeavor and/or you have multiple projects to showcase, creating a separate section dedicated to them on your resume is best.
Adding volunteer experiences and internships are highly recommended as they too highlight your skills. And it’s okay to toot your horn! Add any awards and achievements you received at work. This shows how your previous employer recognized your value to the company.
4. What makes you uniquely qualified?
You only have one chance to make a first impression. If you don’t have one already, write a ‘Professional Summary’ to include at the top of your resume. This should be 2-3 sentences that summarize your experience and skillset. Try adding the title of the job you are applying to in the first line of your summary.
For an Inbound Marketing Specialist position, you could begin your summary with “Experienced Inbound Marketing Specialist with a proven track record of successful campaigns for attracting website traffic.”
As mentioned earlier, listing every technology, tool, program, etc. you have experience with is not necessary and can sometimes hinder the chances of getting your resume looked at. Your summary is the perfect place to catalog some of these skills – specifically the required skills seen on the job description. Below is an example of what we find our hiring managers respond well to:
Highly skilled and motivated software engineer with more than 10 years of industry experience. Strong expert level skills in C++, Python, and C. Expert and deep understanding in networking software (L2/L3/L4). Creative and a life-long student of new technologies and tools in software and network.
- Expert: C++, Python, C, OOP, Linux, Windows, Tcl/Expect, GDB
- Proficient: Java, Visual Basic, pSOS, VxWorks, AMX, Git
- Novice: Machine Learning, Big Data, R language
This summary is clear, concise, and relevant. It tells the recruiter or employer that the rest of the resume is worth a read.
When writing your resume, continue to ask yourself “Can I perform this job?” Each section and all information should be able to answer “yes” and explain how so. Ultimately, your resume is your ticket to an interview, and it is your job to make sure that ticket is accepted.
About the Authors
Julia is the Senior Client Partner, Executive Search Consultant at Common Agenda. Julia focuses her attention on business development, managing some key client accounts, and high-level search engagements. Whether a growing startup, Fortune 500 company, or technical society working towards a better tomorrow, Julia and her colleagues at Common Agenda are trusted advisors and partners to organizations looking to recruit transformational leaders. Connect with Julia on LinkedIn.
Laurel is the Manager of Administration & Client Relations at Common Agenda. In addition to managing administration and client engagement, Laurel handles special projects and marketing for Common Agenda and plays a significant part in the recruitment process. Laurel specializes in sourcing for IT, Marketing, Sales, and Association professionals and has subject matter expertise in Non-profits and Technical societies. Connect with Laurel on LinkedIn.