In the context of any hiring process, a resume functions as an easy-to-scan overview of an applicant’s experience, accomplishments and relevant skills. It’s a sales document designed to present the applicant in the best possible light.
But in an effort to describe their own abilities and aptitude for the role in question, job seekers sometimes make vocabulary choices that ultimately fail to produce their intended effect on hiring managers.
Luckily, the most common linguistic resume errors can be easily fixed by focusing on what hiring managers hope to learn from your application materials and providing well-contextualized examples of your workplace talents.
Avoid the use of subjective terms on your resume.
Because the majority of jobs in all fields require employees to work with colleagues and integrate into a team dynamic, hiring managers actively seek out candidates with a talent for collaboration. Therefore, it makes sense to emphasize your teamwork-related capabilities on your resume and in your cover letter.
That said, simply stating that you are a “strong collaborator” or that you “work well as part of a team” won’t do much to impress a hiring manager, largely because these subjective claims can’t be immediately proven. Anyone can say that they’re “collaborative” on their resume, but that doesn’t make it true. Hiring managers know this, so they’re not likely to pay much attention to the presence of these phrases and adjectives on your application.
Instead, “show, don’t tell."
If it’s not a good idea to include subjective terms on a resume, then how can you express your collaborative skills in a way that hiring managers will understand and appreciate? The strongest method involves presenting examples of past situations and circumstances in the workplace in which you used your teamwork talents to achieve a desirable goal.
For instance, if you worked with a group of colleagues to increase sales numbers for a new product by 300%, your resume should include a bullet point beneath that job explaining your role in that initiative and the fact that it occurred as a result of a strong team effort. Providing clear descriptions of situations that made use of your collaborative skills gives hiring managers a fact-based understanding of how your commitment to cooperation can benefit them, and that can carry you much farther than a subjective evaluation of your own abilities without evidence to support your statements.
Use your resume to highlight accomplishments that exhibit your collaborative talents.
We all know that our resumes should include explanations of our job duties and responsibilities, but the most effective resumes also highlight a candidate’s concrete accomplishments. As the previous example indicated, giving a specific account of how teamwork led to a successful professional outcome (like increasing sales numbers by 300%) makes your case on factual terms.
Also, if you’ve headed up a work team or played a key role in unifying a team around a common cause, those roles should be highlighted on your resume, as they distinctly bolster both your claim of collaborative skill and your leadership skills. Don’t be afraid that “taking credit” for leading the team will undermine the collaborative aspect of the successful task; all teams need leaders, and your capacity for guiding your coworkers and supporting their efforts speaks well of your overall sense of teamwork.
Don’t overlook the potential of your cover letter to further establish your interest in and aptitude for collaboration.
If you’re in the market for a new position, you probably know that your cover letter is an essential element of any future employment candidacy. Your resume offers employers the basic facts about your employment history: where you’ve worked, how long you spent at each job, the “greatest hits” of your professional accomplishments, and your educational credentials and job-related “special skills.”
However, your cover letter gives you the opportunity to directly present a case for how your abilities and background make you a prime fit for a particular position at a particular company. If a job ad lists collaboration as a top-priority characteristic of an ideal candidate, then you can use your cover letter to connect your collaborative triumphs with the needs of the job as expressed in the posting.
Highlighting your collaborative skills in a resume and cover letter:
A sample bullet point to include on a resume:
May 2015-present X Corporation Anytown, USA
Regional Sales Manager
Interviewed, hired and coordinated a team of 6 salespeople, who handled a total of 300 client accounts spread across three states. In 2016, this team earned the company’s highest sales figures, increasing X Corporation’s 2014 sales revenue by Y% and leading to the promotion of three team members into management positions.
A sample paragraph from a cover letter that emphasizes collaboration:
Z Company’s dedication to a collaborative environment attracts me to this role, as I’ve led teams in the past and can attest first-hand to the invaluable nature of teamwork. When I consider the work experiences in which I take the most pride, my time as the regional sales manager for X Corporation stands out in especially bold terms; I had the privilege of overseeing a highly-motivated group of 6 talented salespeople, and I regularly scheduled team meetings in order to gather their input on the sales process and to craft plans for putting their ideas into action and for utilizing their strengths as effectively as possible. As a result, X Corporation experienced a profitability increase during the years of my regional management, and three of my team members received promotions into leadership roles of their own within two years of my start date at the company. I find team-building and cooperative work both incredibly satisfying and instrumental to any successful business, and it would be an honor to bring my experience and passion to Z Company.