A pretty format and creative word choice will only take your résumé so far.
With the average job receiving 250 applicants, building a standout résumé matters, especially if you have some rocky patches to explain, like job gaps or career shifts.
In my time as a career coach, I have been sent hundreds of résumés that are in dire need of help. Like so many people, a recent client, Sarah, came to me struggling to find a new job after having been laid off a few months prior. She sat down already feeling defeated, “I just don't know how to get myself into another role...who would want to hire someone who has job gaps and was laid off?”
Everyone has a story for their career setbacks and I wanted to understand hers. Sure, Sarah’s job history was a little spotty, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t a hard-working and dedicated employee. Turns out, her layoff story was telling: after the company laid off 70% of their staff, she was one of the last they let go. Why? Because she was an incredible, hardworking hire. This meant helping her craft a résumé that stands out in the pile, and even more importantly, an elevator pitch so that she’s memorable to the interviewer.
Here are three ways to make your résumé showcase your strengths and help you stand out.
1. Focus less on what you've done and more on what you want to highlight.
Your résumé is all about showing where you’ve been as it relates to where you’re headed. This means taking the thread of your past and relating it to your future. Sure, you can list out your past jobs and roles, but cater your résumé to highlight skills and job experiences that relate to where you’re going even more so than where you’ve been. This is especially important if you are looking to make a career transition into a field you might not have direct experience in.
Look at the job you are applying for and focus on the responsibilities it lists that you have experience in, whether direct or indirect. Don’t leave off the skill section of the resume, you can really capitalize on this to outline what skills your current position requires that translate into the new role.
Under each job, focus primarily on the responsibilities that relate to your past, and apply also to the job announcement--ideally tasks you want to do more of. Be sure that your first bullet under each job is always your best bullet. This means it’s high impact, quantitative, and results-driven.
2. Don’t neglect the power of soft skills.
The value of soft skills is on the rise in the job market. By 2020, it is estimated that skills such as problem-solving and communication will increase the perceived value of employers by over one third. Why? Because robots are taking over the workforce. But they cannot compete fully with a human being in their soft skills.
Use your résumé language as a means to describe a soft skill the hiring manager is looking for. You can use facts or stats from your job history to show, not tell, what your communication and management skills have done. Weave together your soft skills of customer service, collaboration, or public speaking into the outcome these skills have formed.
3. Showcase your achievements.
Roles are often either task-oriented or results-oriented. Resist the desire to simply outline the day to day tasks completed in your job history. When I reviewed Sarah's résumé further, she had only included a bulleted list of job duties performed each day (project management, product research, and market testing). Although it is great to showcase what you can do, hiring managers are looking to see what the results you provided the company. That means getting out of tasks and into results.
Don’t be shy about quantifying your results to the best of your ability.
In fact, Sarah’s work for the company resulted in saving $1M in revenue. This should’ve been a major highlight on her résumé as it showcased her ability to complete tasks and make a positive impact.
Sarah did some major revamping considering these tips and was able to get in the door for multiple interviews. She used her résumé as a talking tool within the interview and was able to illustrate what she could bring to the team to lock down not one, but two job offers.
If you are on the job market or considering a new opportunity, review your résumé to be sure it is a positive representation of you. Don’t let this single piece of paper make or break your next career move!