An Opinionated Guide To Crafting Your First Business Analyst Resume
You’ve heard it before.
“Writing a resume is hard.”
It’s one of those things that everyone knows, but no one wants to admit. You want to make sure you stand out. But you don’t want to appear desperate. And you don’t want to sound like everyone else. So how do you write a resume that showcases your skills and experience? And how can you make sure it stands out from the crowd?
If you’re like most people, you have probably read a lot of advice on how to write a resume. Things like:
- Use simple, straightforward language
- Highlight your strengths
- Tailor your resume to the job you are applying for
- Use action words
- Don’t be afraid to brag a little!
And if you’re like most people, that advice has probably been informative but not genuinely actionable. This is because most resume advice focuses on style, format, and grammar. But the reality is, those things are relatively unimportant. Instead, what matters is the content of your resume.
Content is always the king.
But most of us have no idea how to write effective resume content. So instead, we focus on things like our past job titles and duties instead of writing about our accomplishments with a strong focus on the role we are targeting in the future. As a result, our resumes are full of dull, generic information that does nothing to sell us as candidates for our dream jobs.
Writing persuasive resume content that gets results is even more critical if you are a new graduate or a career changer. As a new graduate, you are trying to get your foot in the door. As a career changer, you are trying to jump from one job family to another. In either case, you’re starting from scratch, which can be daunting.
I have learned this firsthand.
In the last few years, I have had the opportunity to give resume guidance to many young professionals looking to break into the field of business analysis. I’m genuinely grateful to those who showed faith in me and trusted my feedback. It’s been gratifying to be able to help them grow in their careers as business analysts.
In this guide, I am sharing the same dos and don’ts I shared with them in the hope that it reaches a broader audience. By the end, I hope you’ll have all the tools you need to create a killer resume to help you land the business analysis role you have always wanted.
N.B. For the rest of this guide, I am assuming you have never held a job with a business analyst title before.
Let’s get started.
Don’t malign the goldfish
You used to have ten seconds to get someone’s attention on your resume to help them decide if they wanted to interview you. But recent studies show that you might only have seven seconds. Or less.
We can debate whether these studies are accurate until the cows come home. But the truth is that the average attention span of a human is shrinking. It now sits at a “whopping” eight seconds. One second less than the average attention span of a goldfish.
Imagine a tight labor market with hundreds of resumes for each open role. How much time do you think the average recruiter or hiring manager realistically spends deciding if they want to interview you?
Let’s just say it’s not a lot. So your resume needs to be tip-top to grab your reader’s attention. And grab attention fast!
Can anyone hear me?
Let’s start with the absolute basics of what needs to be on your resume.
Start with your contact information.
Include your full name, phone number, city, state, email, and LinkedIn URL at the top of your resume. Of course, ensure this information, especially phone and email, is accurate. You don’t want to give out bad contact information to recruiters and hiring managers. Trust me, I have seen this happen!
There is no need to include your full postal address on your resume unless it’s a strict cultural norm where you live. However, there are several good reasons to skip it altogether.
Adding the postal address to a resume can give it a dated feel or may attract unwanted bias in the selection process. In addition, thanks to the power of the internet, your resume will land in places you might not even want it to.
In 2022, I still get recruiter emails and calls off a resume I posted to a massive job portal seven years ago when I was first looking for a business analyst role in the USA. Of course, I pulled it down immediately after I landed a job. But the internet never forgets.
My old resume has made its way into recruitment databases that I have no knowledge or control over. As a result, nothing overtly wrong or harmful has happened, but I have occasionally been on the receiving end of “recruitment calls” that have been borderline creepy. So let’s avoid the possibility of landing a stalker or two in the process if we can.
If you’re looking for hybrid or remote opportunities exclusively, make sure you state that here, right at the top of the resume. It’s good to have that squared away.
This is also an excellent place to add a link or two to an online profile or activity you’re proud of. This could include:
- A blog
- A writing portfolio
- A project or work experience portfolio
- Contributions to open-source projects
- Social media handles (where you share professional thoughts and ideas)
- Badges or achievements on online learning platforms if relevant to the job (for example, Salesforce Trailhead for Salesforce Business Analysts)
Trailhead | The fun way to learn
Learn new skills from anywhere. Learn new skills from anywhere. Get hands-on and learn the Salesforce, digital, and soft…
What’s important is to ensure that these links are relevant to the job you’re targeting. But don’t stress too much if you don’t have anything “extra” to share. Chances are slim that most recruiters or hiring managers will take the time to see what you’re up to outside your resume before they decide to call you for an interview. But it doesn’t hurt to stand out in the eyes of the select few who do make the time.
In terms of style and format, be mindful of a few points:
- Don’t put the contact information in the document header. Some ATS (application tracking software) programs can’t or won’t read the header and footer content.
- Keep the contact information to one line and one line only. You need to optimize the space at the top of your resume as much as possible. See Mind the fold next to learn why.
Mind the fold
When it comes to resumes, it’s all about location, location, location.
The top one-third of your resume is prime real estate. You will even hear resume experts talk about optimizing the area “above the fold” because what you put here is what gets read the most. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that gets read before the recruiter or hiring manager decides whether to invite you for an interview. So make the best use of this space.
N.B. If you’re curious about the origin of the phrase “above the fold,” it refers to what you would see first of a tri-folded letter when you pull it out of an envelope.
Ideally, the top one-third of your resume should include your:
- Headline (see Anchor me, please below)
- Contact information
- Professional career summary (see TL; DR: below)
Once these critical elements are in place, you must decide what comes next: experience or education.
If you are a new graduate just entering the workforce, lead with your education as it is likely your most “relevant experience,” at least for the time being.
However, if you are an experienced professional looking for a career change, lead with your experience and keep education to the bottom of your resume.
Anchor me, please
A succinct headline is an absolute must on a resume. Ideally, right below your name at the very top. This is the biggest missed opportunity I see on resumes!
When coming up with your headline, think along the lines of the headlines you find on LinkedIn profiles (minus the emojis!). A good LinkedIn headline should give you a quick snapshot of who the person is, what they do, and what matters to them without opening their full profile page.
Similarly, your resume headline should be strong and tell the recruiter or hiring manager precisely what it is that you do or aspire to do in your next role.
Here is a small hack to make sure you stand out even if you don’t have a job with a business analyst title yet. Draft your resume headline in a way that includes a key phrase. Of course, that phrase is the exact job title you are aspiring to.
Because it anchors the person looking at your resume. Seeing your name next to the job title you’re hoping for has a strong psychological impact on the reader. They start to associate that title with your name. This might seem extraordinary, but I’ve seen many people successfully use this approach, especially those transitioning into new job families.
If you don’t have any business analysis experience or don’t feel confident calling yourself a “business analyst” yet because you only have limited business analysis experience while holding another job title, call yourself an “aspiring business analyst” or the exact job title listed in the job description.
N.B. Business analysis roles come in many different flavors with many other titles. Here are 36 of them:
36 Alternative Job Titles for Business Analysts
One of the frustrating realities in our profession is that job titles are used inconsistently for business analysts…
Don’t leave the recruiter or hiring manager guessing your intentions for your next role. Instead, spell it out for them. This is especially important if you are a career changer.
For example, if you have only ever held QA analyst positions and are now interested in making the jump to business analysis, clearly state this intention in the headline. Otherwise, don’t blame the reader if they assume you are interested in making a lateral move (QA to QA) and likely threw your name in the hat for a BA role without even looking at the job title or description.
Apart from the headline, a profile summary is an absolute must in the top one-third of your resume. Resumes don’t need objectives or personal statements, but a professional career summary highlighting your key achievements in three to five sentences is an excellent way to go.
It’s essential if you are a new graduate or a career changer looking for your first business analyst job. Here is your opportunity to bridge the gap between your past experiences and future aspirations and “show” the recruiter or hiring manager why you would be great in a business analysis role. Don’t leave it up to them to make this assessment. Lead the conversation yourself!
When you draft your professional summary, assume that the person looking at your resume will not look past this section. They won’t see or read anything else on your resume to decide whether they should call you for an interview. So what are the 3 to 5 key things you would like them to learn about you before they start looking elsewhere?
You would be lucky to have a recruiter or hiring manager spend more than ten seconds deciphering what’s on your resume and if it’s worth their time to read further. So make this an easy decision for them. Show them what you’re about.
Why two when one can do?
So far, we have discussed the essential elements you need in the top one-third of your resume. To quickly recap, they are:
- Your name
- Your contact information
- A headline
- A professional career summary
Your resume is like a marketing brochure. So treat it as such. Just like a good brochure, your resume should:
- Be easy to read and distribute
- Contain targeted information about your achievements
- Establish your authority and build trust by showcasing your credentials and results
If I am a hiring manager, I am reading your resume to find out if I should speak to you further. So tell me: What do you bring to the table? What’s in it for me if I were to hire you?
I don’t need to know your entire life history. Or a comprehensive list of all your academic and professional activities to date. I only care about the things that tell me about how you lead, communicate, and collaborate with others.
If you have less than ten years of experience, there is absolutely no need for a resume longer than one page. I would argue this point even if you have more than ten years of experience. While hiring, I can’t tell you how often I have come across three to five-page resumes. Yes, five pages! I wish I were exaggerating.
N.B.: I am talking about resumes here, not CVs, which have a different purpose and audience.
Sticking to a one-page limit is especially important if you are a new graduate or a career changer. Your resume needs to be tight and on-point. There is no place for fluff and extraneous information about your past roles, which are not directly relevant to the business analysis role you’re targeting. So skip this information, or you will only distract the recruiter or hiring manager.
For example, if you are a QA analyst trying to break into business analysis, I don’t need to know the details of how many test cases you ran a day or the number of defects you found in a week. Good for you, but I don’t care as a hiring manager looking for a business analyst. However, I would like to know how you used your analysis skills and findings to provide feedback on the requirements gathering or other related processes like a business analyst would.
Your resume is your narrative. Create it. Curate it. Edit it. Control it. Keep it neat, tight, and focused.
Escape from the Great Wall of Text
Concision is vital when it comes to resumes.
Recruiters or hiring managers often review dozens (or even hundreds) of resumes at a time. So you want to make sure yours is easy to skim. Focus on making your resume clean, professional, and visually appealing. Essentially, easy on the eyes!
Avoid using large blocks of text or dense paragraphs. Instead, use short sentences and bullet points to make it easier for the reader to scan through your resume. Keep your word choices direct and to the point to ensure your resume is packing the most punch possible.
If you’re a business analyst, you may want to highlight your skills and experience in analysis and problem-solving. But if you are cramming everything into your resume, it will be hard for employers to pick out the most critical information.
Give your resume some breathing room!
When it comes to resumes, less is more. And just because I recommend that you stick to a one-page resume, don’t do it at the cost of readability. Whitespace is your friend. Whitespace doesn’t just make your resume look better; it also makes it easier to scan and digest the information.
However, be mindful of the whitespace.
On one hand, if the margins and fonts are too small, everything starts to run together. The text becomes difficult to read. On the other hand, if you use too much whitespace, your resume can look unfinished or unprofessional. The key is to find a balance.
Remember: Every square inch of space on your resume is like Manhattan real estate. It’s prime property. So every role, activity, credential, and word must earn its place on your resume.
When it comes to your resume, ask yourself: How can I show off my skills and experience in the most impactful way?
Start by looking at your resume and identifying your most significant achievements. Once you’ve found them, take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
How do these accomplishments demonstrate your abilities? Can you provide hard numbers or data to back up your claims? Quantifying your achievements is a great way to make your resume stand out and show employers what you’re capable of.
When employers glance at your resume, they should be able to see your successes immediately. Listing hard numbers next to each of your accomplishments will allow them to quickly understand the magnitude of your success. This will make you stand out against other applicants and increase your chances of being asked for an interview.
Some job seekers have a hard time quantifying their results because they feel they will be taking undue credit for a project that was a team effort. If you’re thinking along these lines, stop. We all know that most projects are a group effort. Stating impact numbers and percentages doesn’t mean you are taking sole credit for it all. Instead, it’s intended to give the recruiter or hiring manager context around the breadth, complexity, and impact of the projects you have contributed to.
Do I need to Google this?
When writing your resume, you must use language everyone can understand. That means avoiding acronyms, abbreviations, and industry-specific terminology. The last thing you want is to confuse the recruiter or hiring manager. They should be able to read your resume and understand what you’re saying without going to google it.
Imagine how frustrating it would be to read a resume filled with jargon you don’t understand. At best, your resume would be challenging to decipher. At worst, it would give the impression that you, as a candidate, are not concerned with making yourself clear.
Your resume is one of the essential tools you have to make an excellent first impression. It’s your opportunity to show potential employers you have the skills and experience they are looking for. It’s also your chance to prove that you can communicate well.
Clear communication, after all, is a hallmark of a good business analyst. It is one of the most important skills you bring to the table as a BA. And a well-written resume will show potential employers that you have the communication skills they need in a business analyst.
So when in doubt, err on the side of using full words and explaining industry terms in a way that will be easy for everyone to understand. Doing so will increase your chances of getting your resume read and making it through to the next round of the hiring process.
I got mad skills
When it comes to resumes, it’s important to focus on quality over quantity. Stuffing your resume with too many “skill” keywords can cause confusion and reduce readability. Worse yet, it can come across as spammy, which is a surefire way to get your resume relegated to the “no” pile.
It’s far better to focus on a few key skills that accurately reflect your strengths. Of course, you want to include enough information to show off your skills and experience, but don’t go overboard. This will help the recruiter or hiring manager quickly identify whether you’re a good fit.
So before you start jamming in as many keywords on your resume as possible, take a step back and consider which skills will impress potential employers and help you get the job you want. Choose a few relevant to the job you’re applying for, and ensure they’re prominently featured on your resume. This will help you create a resume that’s both easy to read and informative.
As a business analyst, you want your skills and experience to speak for yourself. So there is no need to stuff your resume with extra words to “increase keyword density” because it will backfire.
Target everybody, target nobody
You’re probably familiar with the adage “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
The same principle applies to resumes.
If you want to land a specific job, you need to target your resume to that position. But, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to write a resume for every job you choose to apply to. Instead, it’s often better to focus on a select few employers or roles that you’re particularly interested in.
Focus your time, energy, and attention on researching these employers and roles. First, identify essential themes, patterns, and keywords in the posted job descriptions. Then, create a resume that speaks to those things you identified.
If I were doing this today, I would pick three business analysis jobs that appeal to me and meet the following criteria:
- A job that would be my dream job right now, where I currently meet ~50% of the requirements.
- A job that could be my dream job two years from now, where I currently meet ~25% of the requirements.
- A job that I have the best odds of landing right now, where I currently meet ~70% of the requirements.
I would look at the role requirements for each job and analyze the skills, experience, and qualifications required. I would then craft my resume to highlight the themes, patterns, and keywords that appear consistently across the job requirements. By tailoring my resume this way, I have the best chance of landing an interview and eventually getting the job.
By targeting your resume, you signal potential employers that you’re serious about the role. Of course, it might take some extra effort upfront. But it will save you time in the long run and ensure that your resume stands out from the rest. After all, when you target everybody, you target nobody. So take a breath, research, and focus on creating a resume tailored to the jobs you want.
Friends don’t let friends make typos
Ah, the typo.
I do not want to write about typos or grammatical errors on resumes. The topic has been discussed for so long and to a tedious extent on every piece of resume advice ever written. Yet, one typo on your resume could be enough to cost you an interview.
Typos are a huge red flag for employers and can instantly discredit your candidacy. If your resume is riddled with errors, it won’t exactly inspire confidence in your abilities as a business analyst.
A business analyst, after all, is supposed to be known for his, her or their “attention to detail.” You would never dream of sending a client a document with typos or grammatical errors. So why would you do the same with your resume? Unfortunately, far too many job seekers still make this mistake.
A resume is one of the most important documents you will ever write. So before you hit the “submit” button, take the time to proofread it. Of course, proofreading your resume is essential. But sometimes, it can be challenging to spot your own mistakes. So have a friend or family member (or several) do the same. They’ll be able to catch any typos or errors you may have missed.
And trust me, it’s worth taking the extra time to ensure your resume is flawless.
Rip me into shreds!
Your resume is one of the most important documents you will ever create. It is key to getting your foot in the door and landing your dream job. It’s your first chance to make a good impression on a potential employer. So it is crucial to ensure it is the best it can be.
But how can you be sure?
One way to find out is to get feedback from other professionals and recruiters (especially recruiters!) on your resume. Whether you’re looking for help with the content, design, or both, it’s important to get honest feedback and welcome it with open arms.
1. Join online professional groups or forums related to your field.
2. Ask for feedback from people in your network.
3. Join in-person or virtual job fairs and talk to recruiters.
4. Attend workshops or events related to resume writing and job search.
5. Hire a professional resume writer.
These are all excellent ways to get more eyeballs on your resume.
Just be sure to take any criticism constructively and use it to improve your resume.
Don’t take offense if you don’t like what your reviewers have to say. If you don’t agree with something, ask them why they are suggesting it. Try to understand their view. You can, ultimately, choose to take or ignore their advice. But be thankful for the feedback. Feedback is a gift. Welcome it!
The more feedback you get, the better your chances of landing your dream job.
Finally, write for humans
Good content is about knowing your audience, whether you are writing a memo for your boss. An email to a friend. Or a resume for your dream job. It’s important to consider who will read your words and what you want them to take away from the experience.
The stakes are even higher when you are writing a resume because both bots and humans will read it, and your resume must speak to both.
Your resume will likely go through an applicant tracking system (ATS), aka bot, before it ever reaches a hiring manager’s desk. These systems are designed to screen out resumes that don’t meet specific criteria. So it’s important to ensure your resume is optimized for the ATS, which means you should:
- Use simple, clear language while avoiding complex sentence structure, jargon, and flowery or technical language.
- Stick to standard fonts and formatting. No fancy graphics or unusual layouts.
- Use keywords relevant to the roles, responsibilities, and qualifications outlined in the job description.
- Use keyword-rich titles for each section of your resume, such as “Work Experience” or “Skills.”
- Proofread your resume to ensure that it’s free of typos. A typo can be the difference between getting an interview and being filtered out by the ATS.
- Save your resume as a PDF, so the formatting stays intact when uploaded to an ATS.
Following these tips will help ensure your resume makes it through the ATS and into the hands of a human. But, while it’s important to make your resume ATS-friendly, you also need to ensure it stays readable and engaging so that a real person will want to read it. Because ultimately, it’s a real person who will decide to invite you for an interview.
ATS systems are designed to screen out resumes that don’t match specific criteria. So they are looking for reasons to say no. Humans, on the other hand, are looking for reasons to say yes.
What does this mean?
Keywords are indeed important in a resume. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should sacrifice readability for keywords. A resume that is crammed full of keywords and devoid of any personality will not make a good impression on a human reader.
So write your resume for humans!
Use clear, concise language to describe your experiences and highlight your skills. Don’t worry about cramming in every last detail. Instead, focus on making yourself sound like a qualified candidate that someone would want to meet in person.
If you can strike the right balance between being ATS-friendly and human-friendly, you’ll be well on your way to landing the job you want.
What other tips do you have for writing a killer resume? Please share them in the comments below!
Thank you for your time. If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to say hello, you can find me here!