In Part I of “How to Write a Resume That Doesn’t Suck”, we shared 5 professional tips to write a great resume. In this article, we’ll share the remaining tips to help bring your resume to another level!
Showing that you have every skill it takes to succeed in a job is great, but it’s usually not enough to win you an interview, especially if you’re going after popular career routes such as management consulting or investment banking.
This is because there are just way more talent supply than job demand for these companies. Once companies weed out those who don’t qualify, they are still left with too many good options.
The secret I picked up from a mentor when I was in management consulting is to “have a spike.”
In Pro Tip 4, we talked about using each bullet point to showcase a single skill. Let’s say there are four skills you need to cover, and you have enough space to write up 12 bullet points. Which of the following three options would you go for?
Option A: 3 bullet points for each of the four skills
Option B: 12 bullet points on a single skill
Option C: 2 bullet points for three skills, and 6 bullet points for the fourth skill
These are obviously extreme cases, but as a general rule of thumb, you want to cover all your bases but shine on a particular skill - like a T-shaped talent. Option C would be what you want to go for here.
The spike helps you make a stronger impression on the hiring manager. You could be known as “the guy with strong creative background” or “the woman with strong analytical skills.” The hiring manager can get excited thinking about all the projects you can help with, which reinforces both their confidence and curiosity in you.
Humans are trained to find patterns. When there’s chaos, our natural instinct is to see the patterns and make sense of it.
Our brains go through the same pattern-recognition process when reading a resume. If it takes too much work to find a pattern, we get agitated and lose interest immediately. This is why you want to structure your resume in a way that’s easy for the readers to pick up important information.
Other than formatting your resume in a way to help readers easily find your contact information, dates, and locations of your past experience, one thing that most people overlook is the sentence structure.
See which of the following examples makes it easier for you to differentiate the tasks and the results:
- Won Best Teammate Award in 2018
- Ran online advertising campaigns, drove 40% traffic increase.
- Managed Facebook ads and Google AdWords
- Successfully launched new product by developing Go-To-Market strategy and collaborating with teams of five to execute it
- Managed online advertising campaigns such as Facebook ads and Google AdWords; drove 40% traffic increase
- Developed Go-To-Market strategy for new product launch; successfully executed strategy
- Collaborated with teams of five to execute strategy; won Best Teammate Award in 2018
These two candidates offer the exact same information, but Candidate A puts them all over the place, while Candidate B presents the information in a structural and consistent way. With Candidate B, you always know where to find the results (after the semicolon), and you can see the causal relationships between the tasks and the results.
This technique will suggest to the readers that you’re well-organized and a good communicator, strengthening their confidence in you.
Another way to create confidence in your reader is to show them your career has advanced. Promotion is obviously good, but career progression doesn’t have to be just promotions.
The reason why recruiters like to see promotion is because they are looking for validation. If your boss likes you enough to promote you, your chance of being a top talent is higher. If your boss promotes you earlier than usual, that chance increases even more.
The same thought process can occur if recruiters see that you’re given more responsibilities, or your work scope has expanded.
This is where contexts might become helpful. In your bullet points, show that your work scope has expanded from regional to global, that you’re managing more product categories, or that you’re taking on multiple roles!
Using words your readers are familiar with seems obvious and trivial, but people often underestimate how big of a difference this makes.
There’s science behind this: Our brains see familiar words as pictures, not individual letters. According to neuroscientists at Georgetown University, there’s a special area in our brains that process words we know well in whole at the speed of light. For words we are not familiar with, we have to look at individual letters and process them at the speed of sound, which is slower. Someone legitimately points out this is probably why tongue twisters are easy to read but difficult to sound out.
Recruiters often have to read resumes in bulk from various backgrounds. If your resume is full of unfamiliar words, the readers’ brains will not be able to process the information quickly. This means if a recruiter is underwhelmed by your resume, sometimes it’s not because you’re not qualified, but rather because your resume just didn’t “click”. This also explains why career switchers have a harder time getting interviews.
So avoiding acronyms is a good start, but it’s not enough. Do your research and use industry terms your readers are familiar with. If you’re switching career tracks, highlight skills that are transferable in their language, not yours. Speak their “industry dialects” so they can spend their brain processing power getting to know you rather than understanding the words.
The final touch you can make to your resume is to turn it three-dimensional. Make your personalities come across so that your readers don’t just see a piece of paper, but an actual person.
There’s a balance to strike here. As interesting as your personal life may be, you’d want to keep your resume professional.
A common way for people to show their personalities on resume is to add in an “Additional” section, in which they can talk about hobbies (e.g. surfing, karaoke), special awards or accomplishments (e.g. Best Dad Award from your children), or volunteer experience. You can also use this section to address any question your readers might have when reading your resume, such as a gap year or a short working experience. You know what people say - the best defense is good offense!
Resume writing is a daunting task. Part of the reasons being it forces us to look at ourselves in the mirror, asking many hard questions: What skills have I accumulated over the past years? Have I advanced and become a better version of myself? Do I have the right skills for the new job I want? Will people want to interview me by looking at my resume?
I hope these Pro Tips help make the resume writing process a tiny bit easier! If you need more help, here’s a list of 800 action verbs at your disposal. To make this resource extra useful, our team categorized them under different situations, and ranked them by their strengths.
Download 800 Action Verbs for Your Resume for Free