What differentiates a great resume from a good one? How do we know if including something different or unconventional in our resumes will work for us instead of against us? The Citadel Search team had a robust discussion about the best resumes that stood out to us over our 18 years of experience as a recruiting agency. Here’s what we unanimously agreed on.
4 Tips To Write A Great Resume
1. Career Summary
Some of the great resumes we have seen, included excellent career summaries at the start. Not only did the branding statements serve as hooks that effectively captured our attention, but they were able to provide us with a relevant, concise and eloquent summary of their career experiences and skills.
Most resumes include summaries that simply reiterate what is stated in their work experience and thus fail to value-add. Other summaries ramble on about experiences or skills that are not relevant to the job they are applying to. These are not useful in helping you stand out or form a lasting impression on the hiring manager. Make sure your career summary is concise and highlights your career experiences and aspirations that are highly relevant to the role. Especially if you are transiting mid-career and offer skills from different domains, then it would even be more pertinent to showcase the key highlights of your experience and how you offer transferrable skills to the new domain in your Career Summary.
2. Tailor Your Content of Resume to the Job
Great resumes that have made an indelible impression are also those that are especially targeted to the job they are applying for. These include the use of keywords that describe their accomplishments and skills relevant to the job. It is important to remember that everything in your resume matters because hiring managers use it as their primary source of information for forming an impression of you. Omit details that are not relevant or important to the job you are applying for as this may lead the hiring manager to think that you may not be the best fit for their position. Similarly, be more targeted and selective, elaborating on the more relevant experiences. An accompanying feature that accentuates this strength is the “skimability” of their resumes where important information is conveyed in the shortest amount of time.
To distinguish a great resume, one would be able to see if the candidate had put in effort in thinking through what is required on the job and provided key projects, key skills and even researched the challenges the role on hand is facing. For example, if the job uses a certain tool or system and the candidate has the relevant skills, showcase the skill, level of expertise and results produced with that skill. If the organization is keen to expand in that market and you had the knowledge to do so, indicating your proven competence and how it translated to results will be an appealing factor. Therefore, we have to change our paradigms that you only have one standard version of your resume!
3. Write in Active Verbs
Great resumes that stood out to us are also those that primarily write in active voice. A sentence is written in active voice when ‘the subject of a sentence performs the verb’s action. For example, “I completed my homework” is written in active voice compared to “the homework was completed by me” which is written in passive voice. Resumes that use active voice stand out because they convey a strong, direct and confident tone. Furthermore, the use of active voice helps to emphasise the actor, themselves, before the action, thereby spotlighting the person at the fore of his various accomplishments.
This attribute can be further strengthened through the use of power words. For instance, instead of “led”, try using “spearheaded”, replace “planned” with “organised”, and change “worked with” to “collaborate”. Such words pack a punch and are more likely to compel the hiring manager to invite you for an interview where she or he can get to know you better.
Useful Active Verbs
4. Useful Visualisations
While it is often risky to differ from resume templates that are most commonly used, a particular, impressionable resume that included an unconventional feature was well-received as it was useful and value-adding. This candidate used a (horizontal) timeline as a visual summary of her work history. While different, we found this useful as it effectively conveyed her entire work history at a glance, enabling us to sieve out the most critical information, and subsequently identify her as a good fit for our client.
Having a career timeline is especially useful when you are making a career switch (switching from IT a Business Analyst to Digital Marketing role for example), as it would allow the hiring manager to have a clearer view of your career paths. You can also showcase your interest and passion for the new role by including self-initiated projects or courses, related to the field, that you have accomplished. All these would aid hiring managers in seeing the relevant transferrable skills or capabilities you have, putting up a stronger case as to why they should hire you.
Showcase Impactful Visuals
As such, resumes that include unconventional features are not necessarily bad. Ultimately, it boils down to whether these features are value-adding and appropriate for the job at hand. For example, it would do a digital content creator well to include a few aesthetic features in his/her resume as a way of exhibiting their personal style. Give samples of what you do through useful links that help people understand your capabilities. We find candidates who do that tend to stand a much higher chance for interviewers to have a better visualisation and impression of their technical and creative competencies.
Moving your resume from Good’ to’ Great’ is critical because it determines whether you will have the opportunity to secure an interview with the organisation you are interested in and, by extension, the opportunity of working within the organisation.
As such, Citadel Search’s Resumes Service imparts our candidates the skills to fine-tune and perfect their resumes. Alternatively, you can read more on Resume Tips – Avoid Common Mistakes People Make In Resume to improve your resume writing skills.