The Meat and Potatoes of Resume Writing
(Potatoes First — keep reading, there is some USDA Prime Tenderloin Filet in about 45 seconds.)
Resume writing is an art, with a sprinkle of science and psychology.
Your resume must grab a reader’s attention in anywhere from 6–12 seconds. Your resume must also “speak” to at least three audiences, here is who, and a few (but not all reasons) why.
- Talent Acquisition Staff (recruiting coordinators, recruiters, recruiting managers)
- Does your resume demonstrate your ability to achieve results?
- Does your resume have quantification in the form of #, $, %?
- Is your resume well written, and generally free of grammatical errors?
- Whatever they decide is important today.
- Human Resources (HR) professionals
- Do your achievements and accomplishments indicate your ability to positively impact the people and culture of the organization?
- Do your achievements and accomplishments indicate your Return on Investment (ROI) to your past organization(s), which can be an indicator of your future performance ability, thereby providing HR planning and forecasting for your salary within the range specified for the job?
- Hiring Managers
- Do your achievements and accomplishments demonstrate your proficiency or excellency as it relates to your ability to perform the job
- Do your achievements and accomplishments provide the hiring manager enough information to make the initial decision to bring you in for an interview?
This article provides basic instruction on writing concise, impactful statements on your resume, it does not recommend a layout, nor is it the end-all be-all article for resume writing. Your industry may dictate best practices, and is up to you to decide format.
DO NOT LIST YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION AS THE SYNOPSIS OF YOUR ROLE!
Paraphrasing Chris Rock — “People want credit for things they are supposed to do.”
“Maintains office operations by receiving and distributing communications; maintaining supplies and equipment; picking-up and delivering items; serving customers.”
Well, yeah, your supposed to. How did you contribute to the success of your business by doing that? Need help? Take your Job Description and think of actual accomplishments and achievements related to WHAT YOU GET PAID TO DO.
DO NOT list what you are responsible for!
Case in point — I have a 12-year-old who could list “Taking out the garbage” as a responsibility — guess what, it doesn’t always happen.
Where do you start?
For each role, list your Job Title and dates employed on the first line (leaving off the month can alleviate questions if there are date gaps), then the organization. What you did, is more important that where you did it.
Super Rockstar ← Bolded 2013–2017
ABC Company ←Not bolded
After that, write a role synopsis, following a similar pattern:
Reach, Scope, and Impact — Three items you must include to describe roles you hold(held). In 2–4 sentences, give a quick synopsis covering these three topics.
Reach: How far outside of your circle did your role affect? Does it affect only your department? Office location? Region? Country? Globally? Galactically? (Astronauts need resumes too)
Scope: How many people do you directly or indirectly lead or influence? How many people do you support/lead? What industry/sector/profession do you support/lead (Lead people, manage programs and processes. If you must manage people, follow Mark Shaw, he will help you understand how to fix “people management” issues.
Impact: What affect does your work have? Did it impact your team, group, section, location, company, continent, galaxy?
Example: “Serve as Operations Manager planning the training, professional development, and human resources of 240 employees in 6 countries, while managing a budget of $1.9M, concurrently advising executive leaders on strategic logistics planning.” (Reach — 240 employees in 6 countries. Scope — Training, Professional Development, and Human Resources & Strategic Logistics Planning. Impact — 1.9M budget to achieve success.)
PEW, PEW, PEW — Now on to Bullet Points.
A well-crafted bullet point follows this pattern: Action, Qualification or Quantification, Details of how you achieved results by taking the Action.
Action — What did you do to achieve results? A few words, MAXIMUM. Choose your words correctly, as context paints a picture. Stating you decreased a value may have a negative connotation, if you made it better, you improved it.
→ For example: “Improved employee engagement” has a more positive spin than “Decreased negative employee outlook”
Quantification — Numbers stand out on a page, quantify any impact your action had.
→ “Improved employee engagement by 33% in 1 quarter”. Now you have Action, and Quantification.
Qualification — Does not need to use numbers, provides a descriptive account
→ “Established key lines of communication and negotiated terms of agreement with a competing organization”
Details — Now your bullet point has an action and quantification or qualification, add brief details of how you achieved results.
- Do not put a story on your resume, only pertinent details. Story time occurs during an interview, if an interviewer asks you.
→ “Improved employee engagement by 33% in 1 quarter by implementing effective two-way interactive feedback process.”
→ “Established key lines of communication and negotiated terms of agreement with a competing organization resulting in unity of effort and security with the organization and local government”
Important reminder: Do NOT write a bullet that indicates you did something in order TO accomplish a task. If you didn’t accomplish it, don’t include it.
- ‘Developed comprehensive onboarding program to increase employee engagement.’
- When I read bullets like this, I read it as “You paid me money to accomplish a task, but I didn’t actually do it”
- Increased Employee Engagement 13% quarter over quarter after developing and implementing comprehensive onboarding program.
Further, minimize the use of filler words, such as a, the, and that, they take up real estate you can use for more valuable information.
Before: “Hired, trained, and employed 9 close security professionals operating in a high-risk environment, and on a fiscally constrained budget”
After: “Hired, trained, and employed 9 close security professionals operating in high-risk environment on fiscally constrained budget”
Before: “Established key lines of communication and negotiated the terms of agreement with a competing organization, resulting in the unity of effort and security with that organization and the local government”
After: “Established key lines of communication and negotiated terms of agreement with a competing organization, resulting in unity of effort and security with the organization and local government”
Before: “Planned and negotiated the acquisition of key company locations that enabled increased operational capability and output”
After: “Planned and negotiated acquisition of key company locations enabling increased operational capability and output”
Reworded bullets, minimizing filler words shortens each bullet by close to an inch. If there are 35 filler words on your resume, you can free up 35 inches of space, allowing more white space, or room to add substantial accomplishments.
Key Words — As you may well know, Applicant Tracking Systems scan your resume for Key Words. Ensure your roles and accomplishments contain key words that can improve the likelihood your resume will be a match for a position.
- KEYWORD STUFFING may get your resume past the ATS, but it will not pass muster with an actual resume reader. Ensure the keywords in your resume are used appropriately and in context with the action.
- Several Tools are available online that can assist you with ATS Matching.
Critical to Remember — Your resume must reflect YOU. It should be a personalized document tailored to your career. Professionals can spot templated resume text a mile away, and it is a turn off. You must also have a story to tell for everything on your resume. If someone else helps with your resume, copy and paste an 8-word string of text into a search engine. If you receive 10,200 results, congratulations, you are as unique as 10,200 other people looking for a job. If you have questions on the content, ask for clarification, it may simply be a phrase you are unaware. However, If an interviewer asks a question about the content, and you can’t answer, expect the “thanks, but no thanks” email shortly thereafter.
Jordan Murphy is a Human Resources leader with over twenty years of experience in Succession Planning, Talent Management, HR Analytics, and Talent Acquisition. He is also the first known Army Soldier to certify as a Senior Professional in Human Resources in a combat zone.