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How To Turn Your Resume From Blah to Fantastic

Resumes are hard. How do you condense everything you’ve done, years of your working life, into one or two sheets of paper? How do you talk about yourself to make it clear that you’re a good fit for the job, but don’t come across as self-important or bragging?

Most of the advice out there is generic, and so most of the resumes that folks submit for consideration are generic as a result. As someone who wades through a see of those resumes, my eyes often glaze over at the same-ness.

Here are some tips on how to make your resume attention-grabbing

Write a Summary to be a Resume‘s Theme

Are you a smart, motivated, capable individual looking for their next opportunity?

If you are, please kindly step aside and let the real talent come through.

If you’re not sending a cover letter, the objective statement gives you a short and sweet way to introduce yourself. However – not mentioning the role, what you can do for them, or mentioning hyper-relevant skills you know they’re looking out for, make the objective statement a waste of space on an already crowded paper.

Don’t Under-sell Your Value

Passive words are the killers of great aptitudes: helped, handled, worked, responsible for is not only a snooze-fest for the reader, but they also underplay the importance of what you did and how important you are.

Check out a thesaurus and get some colorful words in there: Spear-headed, Implemented, Achieved, etc are where it’s at.

Include Quantitative Details in Experiences

Quantitative (number-driven) information really drives home how bad-ass you are. It’s likely in your role that you have certain metrics and standards that your held to at your job. For retail, it might relate to loss-prevention or customer satisfaction, for factory workers it might be # of units produced, for salespeople, it’s called a quota. Whatever it’s called, use those numbers as ways to color how special you are!

Here’s an example:

Professional Spaghetti Eater (Jan 2019 – Present):

  • Ate Spaghetti everyday
  • Was the highest performing Spaghetti eater on the team
  • Was spaghetti eater of the month
  • Reviewed different kinds of spaghetti for other teams for best flavors

Here’s the same example with some qualitative info added in:

Professional Spaghetti Eater (Jan 2019 – Present):

  • Ate a minimum of 5lbs of Spaghetti everyday
  • Was the highest performing Spaghetti eater on the team with a 125% average achievement of weekly goals
  • Awarded spaghetti eater of the month for exceptional performance
  • Reviewed six different kinds of spaghetti for other teams to identify best flavors

Include (Relevant) Skills in Your Resume

Skills that you have that might not have been directly related to your past experiences or those that you picked up on the side still have a place in your resume. Maybe you got a certification that’s not 100% relevant to the new job, but it’s useful in your industry. Maybe you know how to work certain types of software that are important in your field. These are all things that are part of your professional “tool-box” that a future employer can benefit from. Cut out a space to highlight these.

Say No to References and Salary Requirements

If you have the line “references available upon request” – just delete it. If you have references listed, copy them to another document and save those for when they’re asked for. Your future employer may want to check references, and that’s totally okay (we don’t want to hire a psychopath) but now is not the time to worry about that. As I mentioned, your resume is only a page or two, so every inch is valuable real estate. I’d much rather read about your relevant skills and achievements than your old work-wife’s phone number (or how you’re not going to give it to me right now).

The same goes with salary requirements. You don’t want to make the mistake of not getting vetted and invited to the interview round by adding a number on your resume. This is come up in conversation – written on your resume make you look a little presumptuous.

Get an Uncomplicated Resume Format

Now, this doesn’t matter as much as some might think. But a nicely formatted resume does catch the eye – for about three seconds before we dive in. If you’re in a creative field, this matters a little bit more, because you want to show you have an eye for flair – that’s probably the place for bold, pink and glittery resumes. The rest of us can just take a breath and focus on the content. Just be sure that your name is big on the top, there are no grammatical mistakes, and you’re probably okay.

However, inconsistent formatting within the content shows carelessness and should be avoided at all costs. If you used bullet points in one job history, but the next has dashes – I’ll notice. If your label one work history entry Title – Company – Years but the next is Company – Title – Years, that’ll get read wrong by an applicant tracking system, and could possibly invalidate your resume. Best thing here? Have a few people proofread.

Related Post: Are Resume Writers Worth the Money?

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