How to write an effective resume that gets interviews

Over the past few months, I’ve worked closely with two ex-hiring managers at very competitive companies to identify the key elements that result in a winning resume. In this post, I want to share the most useful and actionable resume advice you will ever get, with examples. If you incorporate this advice, you will have your most successful resume ever.

By far the most important tip is that your resume must demonstrate QUANTIFIABLE impact

To get shortlisted for an interview by any top employer, every line on your resume must be effective and must showcase specific skills or competencies relevant to the job.

Unfortunately, most resumes are ineffective and are filled with lines like this one:

Responsible for the coordinated management of multiple related projects directed toward strategic business and other organizational objectives

This is an example of a real resume line that 95% of job seekers would also use to describe a project management experience. Can you identify why it’s ineffective?

It’s simply not specific and does not demonstrate enough impact or core skills. It fits more into a job description than a resume. Remember that recruiters and hiring managers spend an average of just 10 seconds looking at your resume or CV. It needs to stand out.

Let’s now look at a couple of lines that are significantly more effective for the same project management experience:

Managed a 5-member cross-functional (product, engineering, sales, support) team and coordinated with six business partners toward the successful launch of an e-commerce platform.
Managed a process re-engineering project to improve and consolidate end-to-end service processes; restructured communication flow among 10 departments, and cut down paperwork by 75%

Notice the difference? These lines can be used to describe the same work experience, but they are just so much better. Why?

They demonstrate impact by

  • using action-oriented words (e.g. ‘Managed’, ‘restructured’). For a list of action words, click here.
  • using metrics with tangible quantifiable values (e.g. ‘cut down paperwork by 75%’). Other examples could include “reduced cost by x%”, “reduced the need for 3 FTEs”, “reduced process time by x hours/week”, “increased revenue by $x,000”…. For real examples of proven resume lines with quantifiable impacts, check out Resume Worded. It’s a searchable database of real resume lines, sorted by job and skill.

They are also specific and demonstrate core skills (e.g. teamwork, communication, leadership) RELEVANT to the the job you’re applying for (in this example, project management). This also works for those companies that use automated resume screening tools (i.e. ATS).

That’s what recruiters and hiring managers look for. Almost every line on your resume needs to show real impact and demonstrate skill sets which are relevant to the job you’re applying for. It’s what makes your resume stand out and beat out people with 5 years’ more experience than you.

Notice that the above example lines sound much less like a job description. Instead, they actually showcase the results you made at your organisation. Think about it, the recruiters and hiring managers reading your resume already KNOW from the job title what the role is about. Instead, they want to know how good you are at it. Action words and quantifiable numbers help you demonstrate that.

Other common questions/advice:

  • 1 or 2 page resumes?: In almost all cases, if you’ve had less than 10 years of experience, stick to one page. It sometimes varies from country to country.
  • What template should I use?: Go simple. In fact, even Harvard links to this template on their careers page. Keep the font simple too; make sure it’s a common intersystem font (e.g. Arial, Helvetica, etc.). Oh, and make sure you submit it in PDF!
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread: Obvious stuff here, but you’d be surprised at how many resumes we’ve seen that have spelling or grammar mistakes.
  • ….more to be added! Bookmark this page.

Linked resources:

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