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Your Resume’s Goal: Aiming for WOW!

In 2021, antiquated as it may seem, employers and recruiters still ask for your resume (afterward, they’ll visit your LinkedIn profile and check your digital footprint). I don’t foresee this changing anytime soon.

Your resume is your primary marketing tool presenting a concise summary of your experience, skills, knowledge, credentials, and education. Envision your resume as a brochure selling what you’re able to offer employers. 

It’s no secret it’s raining resumes these days; therefore, your resume needs to be competitive. It needs to clearly show how you created value for your employers, not that you just put in clocked time.

Your resume will solicit one of 3 responses: 

  • No 
  • Yes 
  • WOW! 

You’re aiming for WOW!

There are 4 cardinal rules to follow to create a resume that WOWs:

  • Respect your reader (Be a good date for the reader.)
  • Create continuity (Show career progression.).
  • Show quantified results. (Employers don’t hire opinions.)
  • Don’t undervalue the importance of keywords. (Assume your resume will be vetted via an applicant tracking system.)

When I read a resume, I look for answers to the following questions:

  • Can I relate to your career narrative?
  • How did you add value to your current and past employers? 
  • What is your career direction?

Of the 1,000’s of resumes I’ve read; the majority are simply a list of opinions. The predictable “I’m a team player,” “I’m a fast learner,” “I’m detailed oriented” appear on almost every resume. Rare is the resume that quantifies. If you can’t quantify, then it’s an opinion.

HARD TRUTH: Employers don’t care about your opinion; they care about the results you can achieve. 

What you think of yourself is a far second to what your resume’s reader will think of you by what your resume conveys. Just because you claim to be XYZ does not mean you are XYZ. Prove it undeniably (i.e., “Exceeded quarterly sales targets.” vs. “For the past 14 quarters exceeded quarterly sales targets by $25,000 to $45,000.”)

Businesses revolve around numbers, so should your resume; keep this in mind when interviewing.

Remember my column a few weeks back, ‘There’s No Universal Hiring Methodology’? —there’s no such thing as a “killer resume.” Don’t sweat your resume’s format, or whether it’s in reverse chronological or functional. Focus on telling a great ongoing career story, quantifying your accomplishments, having no grammatical errors or typos, and keeping it to 2-pages. 

Your goal, the reason you want your resume to WOW, is to make the reader say to themselves, I must meet this person!

When it comes to your resume’s format, design it for skimmability. With a quick scan, the reader should grasp your expertise and have a solid understanding of your core skills, accomplishments (I repeat: Quantified), and career direction. Since the reader’s eyes naturally return to the left margin once it’s ready to move on to the next line of text, don’t center your text. Align your text to the left, even your section headings. This significantly improves readability. Don’t justify your text. This setting leaves uneven gaps between words making the text harder to read. 

You don’t earn points for creativity. All points are earned via your content. Creative resumes aren’t more effective than a 2-page resume that WOWs. Most employers find “creativity” frustrating. As well, assuming your resume will be passing through an ATS, a resume with bells and whistles can’t be read by the computer and therefore will be discarded. Save your creativity for your portfolio. 

One last word on your resume’s format, have generous margins. Resumes with text crammed edge to edge look messy and unprofessional. Bottom and top margins should be no less than 0.5″, your side margins no less than 0.75″.

The contents to include in your resume:

  • Contact information
  • Resume summary
  • Professional experience
  • Skills/Certifications
  • Education

I realize constructing a resume to do all the above-mentions asks a lot from a 2-page document; however, I’ve seen it done.

In next week’s column, I’ll discuss presenting your contact information, which most jobseekers don’t enough credence. In the meantime, brainstorm the following:

  • Details about your current and past roles
  • Accomplishments you’re proud of (remember to quantify)
  • How you compared to your peers
  • Career milestones and firsts

About the author

Nick Kossovan

Nick Kossovan

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send him your questions at artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

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