How to Write a Strong Resume that Captivates Employers
Updated: Apr 16
You spend several hours a day searching for jobs and submitting resumes but you're not getting any interest or you're receiving rejection emails from employers. So what do you do? It’s time to take a fresh look at your job search process and that includes taking the time to reevaluate your resume.
In this post, I share my top 3 tips to help you significantly strengthen your resume and improve your odds at getting a job interview. These tips that have worked for me, my friends, and clients. You will learn to:
streamline your resume to provide only the most essential information,
include professional accomplishments that illustrate the value you can bring to any employer, and
target your resume to address the employer’s needs.
By the end of this post, you should have gained a better understanding on how to create a powerful resume that emphasizes your strengths and presents you as the ideal candidate to employers.
Tip One: Streamline the Information in Your Resume
It’s natural for a job seeker to want to include everything (and anything) under the sun when trying to portray his or her wealth of experience and skills,. However, the wordier your resume is, the less effective it becomes. Resume readers (i.e. HR professionals, recruiters, hiring managers, etc.) want to spend as little time as possible reviewing resumes. When there are literally hundreds of resumes coming in on a daily basis, employers need to be able to quickly identify and understand your experience.
My Rule of Thumb: Keep professional summaries 5-6 lines and each resume bullet 2 lines max. For example:
Too Wordy: Applied expert budget management and cost control skills to achieve a 30% reduction in operational expenses by conducting comprehensive data analysis and identifying significant inefficiencies.
Streamlined: Achieved 30% company cost savings by eliminating operational efficiencies.
It's not uncommon for resumes to break a few common grammatical rules, because they are supposed to provide quick snapshots of your professional experience. To further streamline your resume, avoid using pronouns (e.g. “I”, “me”, “ours”, etc.) and use articles (“the”, “a”, “an”, etc.) sparingly.
Tip Two: Highlight Your Professional Accomplishments Not Your Job Duties
When reviewing resumes, I often noticed clients simply list their job duties. For example:
Generated various financial reports for management use.
Directed and produced national training events and conferences.
Performed data entry and reconciled bank statements with general ledger.
I often tell my clients that their resumes should not read like another job description. Instead should “show” how you have utilized the skills and knowledge to make an impact in at each employer by providing specific examples.
Employers care less about your day-to-day job duties and care more about what you have accomplished. Including accomplishments, whether big or small, in your resume will show employers how you have created value in all of your roles and depict you as a dedicated worker willing to go above-and-beyond to complete a project or achieve a goal.
Quantify your professional accomplishments if possible. Using numbers and metrics in your resume breathes life into your experiences, boosts your credibility, and helps employers envision the value you can bring to the role they're trying to fill. Employers value statements like the following:
Improved customer satisfaction by 20% through personalized customer-focus approaches.
Achieved 287% Y.oY. increase in agency revenue and attained 85% client retention on SEM client accounts.
Attained 70% customer acquisition and 60% revenue growth by streamlining client vetting process.
Increased workforce by 60% through aggressive recruitment and employer branding efforts.
Achieved 139% ROI from email marketing initiatives and segmentation strategies.
Every profession has metrics that can be used to quantify their professional accomplishments. Click here to download a list of common metrics.
If you’re stumped trying to remember your professional accomplishments, the following tips may help spark some inspiration:
Reflect on past projects you have worked on. What goals did you achieve? What problems did you solve?
Think of numbers or metrics that matter most to your job. What numbers have your boss brought up in weekly meetings or in your performance reviews?
What have you helped your employer reduce or eliminate (e.g. time, budget, expenses, customer or staff turnover, web bounce rates)?
How many people have you helped (e.g. # of team members you have led, # of users or customers your work has impacted, # of employees you have supported).
Another way to brainstorm your past accomplishments is to use a personal favorite - the PAR method. PAR stands for Problem, Action, and Results. Think about past problems or challenges you faced, what actions did you take to address the problems/challenges, and what were the results achieved. Then streamline the information to make it no longer than 2 lines.
Download the Professional Accomplishment Worksheet to help you frame your significant accomplishments.
Tip Three: Target Your Resume to the Job You Want
The “one-size fits all” approach implies a lack of effort to the employer. It shows that you have no particular interest in the position that they are trying to fill and you will take any job that you think you’re qualified to handle.
Even if the jobs you’re applying to share the same job title, each employer will have different requirements that are relevant to their specific needs. Therefore, it’s crucial that you take the time to scrutinize every job posting to identify exactly what an employer is looking for.
A simple way to make sure your resume addresses an employer’s needs is to incorporate keywords and phrases from the job description (where applicable). When quickly scanning resumes, employers will look for those specific keywords to assess whether or not a candidate is worth further evaluation (e.g. phone screening, in-person interview). Using keywords and phrases in the job description is also crucial if a company utilizes an ATS or online database to collect and filter resumes.
You will have to make some edits to every resume to ensure it’s relevant to what the employer is looking for. This includes switching up your accomplishments to ensure your resume is aligned with what is important to the employer.
A strong resume streamlines your job search process, demonstrates what you bring to the table - your value, and gets you one step closer to landing the job you want. However, it requires a lot of consistent effort.