Over the course of my career, I’ve read thousands of resumes. Most have been pretty forgettable. In fact, most of the ones I’ve seen look remarkably alike. Sure, the names and previous employers are different, but the actual content is very similar.
And the vast majority lack the very information I look for most.
The truth is, a prospective employer desperately hopes you are the right person for the job.
Think about it. There are two reasons for a job opening: an employee quit (or was fired), which means that person’s work is either not being done at all or has been added to another employee’s workload. Or secondly, the company is expanding, which means it has growth goals that cannot be met until they find the right person.
Either way, as much as you might want the job, the employer wants you to be the right person more.
How can you construct your resume that demonstrates that you are the right person for the job?
The Secret to a Killer Resume
If you want to construct a resume that causes a prospective employer to drop her pen, sit up straight, and say, “Wow! I’ve got to talk to this person right away” then write it with this one tip in mind:
Describe the results of your work not just the tasks that you performed.
In other words, don’t just describe what you did in your previous job but how well you did it. Be as specific as possible.
Let me illustrate. Here’s a typical description of previous work experience from a radio salesperson’s resume:
Responsible for calling on local businesses and advertising agencies in order to sell radio campaigns on a two-station cluster. Responsible for all aspects of the sales process including: conducting sales calls, creating proposals, writing radio commercials, and servicing the client. Was named Top Local Salesperson five times during my tenure. Proficient in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
Notice that the wording describes the activities performed but not the results of those activities. Yes, the last statement about being named “Top Local Salesperson five times” is a step in the right direction but even it can be improved.
Let’s make this better by substituting activities with results:
Was hired to bring in new business for a two-station cluster and to revive old accounts that had not advertised with the company for at least 12 months. In my first year, I sold more new business than any every other salesperson on the team. It totaled more than $177,000 in my first year alone. Of the 17 old accounts I was asked to revive, I successfully converted 11 into paying customers with a combined revenue of $241,000 per year. I exceeded my billing goals by 17% in 2011, 29% in 2012, and 18% in 2013. By focusing on the development of local direct business, I was named Top Local Salesperson — out of a team of 9 sellers — five different times. In recognition of my proficiency in using Microsoft Word and PowerPoint for client presentations, I was honored to be asked to lead three different sales training sessions for our entire sales team.
Now that is a resume that would get my attention! Why? Because this description is filled with tangible and specific results that prove this candidate can make things happen. And that’s exactly what I’m looking for.
Remember, specifics are always more believable (and persuasive) than generalities.
You might be thinking that it is easier for a salesperson to quantify specific performance because they have sales goals. True. But anyone can describe tangible results regardless of their position.
How about this example for an accounts receivables position?
Lowered our average collection time-frame from 125 days to 87 days, which saved the company $175,000 per year in carrying costs and write-offs.
Or this for a human resources professional:
Decreased employee turnover from 27% per year to 11% by fine-tuning the process by which we evaluate job candidates.
Even if you’re a recent college graduate with no work experience in your selected field, you can write results-oriented descriptions of college activities:
Was a key participant in my sorority’s campaign to raise funds for the Special Olympics. We raised $29,000 as a team, which was a 22% increase over the previous year.
It goes without saying that you mustn’t lie or stretch the truth on your resume. Doing so is grounds for dismissal even if you were to land the job. So, be honest.
Go back through your resume and look for general descriptions of tasks you were required to perform. Then rewrite those elements to illustrate specific, tangible, objective results. It will help your resume stand out from the rest.
It could even move your resume to the top of the stack.
If you’re an employer, what do you look for on an applicant’s resume? Share your tips in the comments.