Having proper format, length, and style in your resume is a good first step in having a resume that can get you hired. For great results, you’ll need to take your resume to the next level. This process will take some work and may be frustrating as you search for the right words or the best way to frame certain experience. Rest assured that it will be well worth it.
Advanced resume writing is all about substance and little about style. One key thing to remember about writing a great resume is that there is no substitute for proof. Being able to include specific, measurable achievements speaks volumes to employers. For example, if you were the employer, would you rather someone who thinks they can do the job, or someone who has done it and can prove it?
Experience – What do I write there?
In working with job seekers, the most common source of frustration is trying to write what they did at a specific job. Too often, people end up writing a list of what they did at their last job. Unfortunately, they focus on the wrong things.
Typically, job seekers will focus on job responsibilities – what they did at a company – or their job duties. It’s not uncommon to see a resume like this:
While this is helpful in describing their job, it’s not particularly impressive. Even if reformatted into nice bullets, it’s clear what this person did, but it’s not clear how this person performed and what they have accomplished. It does not communicate why the employer should hire this job applicant. To show value, it’s important to emphasize achievements and what sets you apart from other job seekers interested in the same position.
By emphasizing achievements, the reader not only gets an idea of what type of work was performed, but the employer gets an idea of the results that were achieved. Employers believe that the best predictor of future performance is past performance. A person who can show impressive results in past positions is much more likely to get a call to interview than someone who simply lists job duties or responsibilities.
In the format above, the first bullet provides a broad description of the position and the company, while subsequent bullets focus on achievements. This helps to provide some context to the employer in terms of your company size and your role.
The achievements written here are constructed in the "Problem – Action – Result" (PAR) format. When writing about your past experience, state a problem that occurred, what action you took to mitigate the problem, and state the result you achieved.
|Scrap||Key player in LEAN initiative||$20,000 in annual savings|
|Underperforming department||Open door policy, accurate and timely resolution of issues, hands-on management style||20% increase in retention, 2008 most improved department|
|Confusion in scheduling 7-day work week||Convened cross-functional task force||Reduced missed workdays by 22%, saved $10,000 in temp labor costs|
Writing in P-A-R format will not only make your resume deeper with details, it will also make it shorter. Many resumes that originally were at 3-4 pages can be condensed into 1-2 pages with use of effective P-A-R language. Most of all, though, P-A-R language will help the employer understand what you have accomplished and make them take the next step of interviewing you to learn more.
Quantify your accomplishments with metrics and details as much as possible. Employers love to see numbers on resumes. They can significantly increase understanding and show measureable results. If you use numbers, try to provide some context as well. For some salespeople having $300,000 in annual sales may be great, while that may be very poor for other positions, so providing context is very helpful. If you don’t have numbers, P-A-R language is still useful to back up your claims. It is still much more impactful than a resume that simply lists job duties.
Since the resume is a marketing piece, everyone wants to look their best. However, it is imperative that you are honest about everything you list in your resume. Embellishing your qualifications and providing inaccurate or untruthful information are grounds for immediate disqualification or discharge from the job.