Not all resumes are created equal. Over the years as a Career Coach and Career Preparation Professor, as well as a Marketing Consultant and Manager, I’ve written, re-written, reviewed, and critiqued hundreds of resumes. I can say confidently that the bad ones are worse than you think and the good ones are exceptional. I can also promise you that a well-written resume will not just yield more interviews, but will bolster your confidence.
So what makes a resume good? And how do you write a resume that will stand out?
Before we can understand what a good resume is, it’s important to start at the top and understand the objective of a resume as well as what a resume is not.
A resume is not an exhaustive list of everything you’ve ever done. This is worth repeating: a resume is not an exhaustive list of everything you’ve ever done. Along with this, a resume does not get you a job.
Okay, now that we’re clear on that, what is a resume, what constitutes one of the good ones, and how do you make yours good? A resume highlights your accomplishments, results, and achievements. It piques the readers’ interest.
Now what about those really good resumes? Good resumes showcase your value and highlight the impact you will have on a business. A good resume helps gets you an interview.
Bonus: a well-written resume also acts as a pep talk on paper. Whenever you need a reminded of all the tremendous accomplishments and impact you’ve had open the file and take a look.
So, what’s the #1 way to make sure your resume is one of the good ones? Highlight your accomplishments, results, and value you have added; do not laundry list your responsibilities.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “Oh no! I don't think my resume does any of this!" don’t panic. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can update yours to be results and accomplishment-driven:
1. Start with a fresh piece of paper (or Word doc). We’re starting from scratch. You can worry about layout later for now focus on the meat of your document here.
2. Start with the first role you want to describe. Ask yourself, “What did I DO in this role?” Write that down.
3. Reflect. Read what you wrote. If you’re like a lot of people you may have a summary in front of you that says something like, “Oversee vendor management team. Responsible for contracts, day-to-day activities of 3rd party vendors.” And so on, and so on.
4. Now crumple that paper up. Okay don’t actually do that, but if this was your default way to describe your job, this is what you need to shift. To do so ask yourself, “What did I ACCOMPLISH in this role?” Now write that down.
5. Reflect. Hopefully you’ve written something like, “Renegotiated 3rd party vendor contracts” and “Hired new employees to expand team.” Keep going.
6. Hone in on your best 4-5 accomplishments. That’s your resume! Well, that’s the start to your resume and the thinking behind a good one; now it’s time to take this further to make your resume really strong.
7. Highlight results. Here’s where you ask yourself a final question (and write the answer down). Ask, “What was the impact of my accomplishment?” When possible you want to quantify with numbers—dollars, percents, months, years, team members you manage, time saved.
8. Adjust for Impact. Now it's time to show your value and impact. Following our same example,adjust this to read “Renegotiated 4 3rd party vendor contracts in 6 months, resulting in a total cost savings of $45,000” and “Hired 2 new employees and restructured team to more efficiently support and align with 3 key business lines.”
See the difference? We went from “Oversee vendor management team” to showing the number of contracts managed, a near $50,000 in cost savings, and hiring and restructuring a team to better align with changing business needs. THAT is what a company cares about.
Whoever reading your resume will understand you managed a team and the overall vendor selection process, but more importantly, this person will know that you rocked out at it and will begin to think, “Wow! We are spending so much on our vendors. I know we’re being taken. If I hire this woman I bet she can get us some cost savings and help us determine if we need to restructure our team to offer better support to our key business lines. I need to meet her.”
She sees your value. She can envision the impact you’ll have on her team. She wants to interview you. That’s what you want. That’s what a well-crafted, accomplishment and value oriented resume gets you; and now you know how to write one.
Jane Scudder is a certified coach & workshop facilitator. She also works as a strategy & marketing consultant and teaches a Career Development & Preparation course at Loyola University Chicago. She lives and works remotely in Chicago, IL.
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