The mission of this section is not to teach you how to “write” a resume. A number of great books exist that can help you accomplish this goal. We find that even when people purchase resume books for assistance, they rarely create a resume that they are happy with. Instead, we find that people rewrite their resume over and over again without feeling any satisfaction.
Your resume IS A STRATEGIC TOOL that…
- Is about your future and your capabilities
- Tells a cohesive “story” of you
- Highlights your strengths and skills
- Focuses on your results
- Promotes the skills you want to use
- Supports you in conducting a stellar interview
Your resume IS NOT…
- A job description
- A complete history / laundry list of all the things you have ever done
- Technical documentation
- A fabrication of your experience
- Something you can “whip together” in 30 minutes or less
Our intent is to teach you how to look at your resume not as a chronological list of responsibilities but rather a strategic marketing piece that sells your talents on paper. In order to accomplish this goal, you must first really understand what your current resume says about you. The following six-step process helps you assess your current resume, identify themes, write achievement statements, create a compelling summary statement and format your resume for visual appeal.
Step One: Make a list of Keywords
Make a list of the top 10 skills and abilities that are most pertinent for the specific jobs that you want to apply for. You may also want to review several job descriptions to identify skills and experiences most valued and include them on your list.
Step Two: Learn How to Identify Themes in Your Resume
In developing effective themes, several issues need to be addressed, including a resume analysis, framing key issues, storytelling, multiple themes, and sources of themes. Now, is the time to identify what your resume really says about you. We do this by using a process we call identifying themes. A theme is a core idea or concept that encapsulates the best of all your experience to date. Themes are based on skills, experiences, abilities and more that are mentioned many times in your resume.
Each resume is unique, with unique experiences, skills and abilities that highlight potential themes. A resume analysis focuses on several basic questions. What skills do you want to present to hiring managers? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Where are the consistencies and inconsistencies in the resume (i.e. dates, jobs, sabbaticals, etc.)? Taken together, the answers to these questions provide a detailed look at your resume. An effective theme must be consistent with the key elements of your collective experience.
To identify themes, scan your resume for the following:
- Words, phrases, or terms used multiple times
- How the task statements are organized
- How the task statements are prioritized
- Intentions that are not communicated in writing
For example, if you see the phrase “product marketing requirements” several times, circle the phrase and write this phrase on a blank piece of paper. Repeat this process several times until you have identified all words or phrases used multiple times. Now, ask yourself the following questions:
- What type of position is your resume currently targeting?
- What skills and experiences is it promoting?
- Do any of the keywords or phrases match the keywords that you identified in Step One? If so, which ones?
- Do the keywords represent your core strengths? If not, why?
- Are these the areas you want to present?
- What themes (strengths / experiences) do you want to highlight or feel that best represent where you are going with your career?
- What areas are you downplaying, if any?
- Where are the consistencies and inconsistencies in the resume (i.e. dates, jobs, sabbaticals, etc.)?
Step Three: Framing Themes to Organize Your Resume
The next step in theme development is to identify/label several compelling ideas that help shape the rest of the resume. Framing your themes in your resume helps to:
- Direct the development of purpose-driven content
- Communicate most important content first
- Build a cohesive story of your career over the lifespan
To form the basis of your themes (see example below):
- Select about six “keywords” that best represent your experience / future career path
- Rank their importance in priority order
- Write a personalized description for each
|Content Development||Creating new content for the e-learning industry||1||CD|
|Content Acquisition||Working with partners to purchase content for resale.||1||CA|
|Marketing Communications||Writing marketing materials for e-learning company||3||MC|
Go through your resume and review every bullet (resume statement) and make a note at the end of the resume about which theme best represents the statement. For example, if you listed one of your themes as “Product Management,” review your resume to find all of those statements that describe something you did in the area of product management. At the end of the statement, write “PM” so that you can reference it later.
If one of your themes is Product Management and you do not have any statements listed on your resume, ask yourself the following question, “For each job that I have held to date, have I worked on product management assignments that are not listed in my resume?” If so, describe your experience in this area for all jobs. If not, then do not list it as a theme until you gain specific experience. This might be one of the areas highlighted in your Career Roadmap as needing development. If you are currently engaged in a learning and development assignment, make note of this.
Remove information that detracts from the core themes that you have listed in your resume. We do not want you to delete information demonstrating various skills and abilities built up over the years. Rather, we are talking about those statements that seem to come out of left-field. For example, if you are trying to transition from Sales Engineering to Product Management and your resume contains the statement, “Organized a filing system to make it easier to find information,” I would recommend that you remove it. This statement does not sell your strengths in sales engineering or product management. As a matter of fact, it appears to be more administrative in nature.
Step Four: Ensure your resume is achievement oriented
We have done a lot of work to find and develop themes in your resume. Now we are going to switch context a bit to take a deeper look at how you write about your work / career history. We only have a few minutes to capture a hiring manager’s attention, so it is up to us to find the most compelling way to write about our achievements, skills, abilities, and knowledge. At the end of the day, employers want to know how you will deliver value to their company! Rather than being a laundry list of past job responsibilities, the information in your resume should strategically focus on:
- The most important skills and experience that match your position(s) of interest.
- Skills and experiences that you most enjoyed and want to continue doing.
- Tangible results you achieved/what you contributed in each position (i.e. quantitative and qualitative outcomes).
There is a big difference between a responsibility statement and an achievement statement. A responsibility statement describes a job function or task. An achievement statement qualifies or quantifies specific achievements in a job or task. Responsibility statements are more common because they are the easiest to write. Typically, a person will look for a job description and write their resume using a similar format to a job description because they think it increases their chances of landing the job. This is not an effective means of selling your strengths.
Employers want to know what achievements you have had in those given areas! Achievement statements are difficult to write because they require lots of thought. Below is a sample demonstrating the difference between responsibility and achievement statements:
|Duties and Responsibilities||Achievements|
Problem-Action-Result (PAR) Format
The PAR method (Problem/Situation, Action, Result) is an effective way to develop achievement statements for your resume. In order to develop the best achievement statements, you need to first describe the experience. Your statements should include background information, the actions that you took, end with the positive conclusion and the impact that your actions had. Each story should be no longer than one sentence.
Your Achievement Statements should follow the Problem-Action-Result (PAR) format:
- Describe the situation you helped to solve or key challenges you overcame
- Describe the actions you took to solve the problem or overcome the challenge
- Describe the results of your efforts (i.e. improved efficiency, greater customer satisfaction, reduced costs)
Sample Achievement Statements
- Increased productivity 20% as lead engineer on Hewlett Packard’s HMS technical team.
- Reduced theft 47% by instituting “Shoppers Spy,” a tight yet discreet security program.
- Enhanced staff morale through a six-month incentive program that also instigated a 10% increase in sales.
- Awarded “Top Salesperson” three consecutive years.
Benefits of Writing Achievement Statements
Making your resume achievement-oriented will help spark the employer’s interest and communicate that:
- You have the necessary experience or skills.
- You are effective at this work or at using these skills.
- You take pride in and enjoy your work.
Your Achievement Statements will also instigate interesting conversation and will help you explain and focus in on your strengths during an interview.
Questions to Help You Write Achievement Statements
Consider the following questions to help you identify your key accomplishments and draft Achievement Statements for each position you have held by describing the following:
Problems or difficult situations you were able to resolve.
Challenges/emergency situations that you handled successfully.
What did you create or build?
Ideas or concepts you were involved in developing.
How you demonstrated leadership in the face of a challenge.
Situation where you followed instructions to realize a goal.
Situation where you were able to identify a need and satisfy it.
Change in which you made active contributions.
Involvement in programs that increased sales or profits.
Plans you initiated to reduce costs.
Situations in which you assisted someone else in realizing his/her objective.
Suggestions you made that helped save time and/or money.
Award or special recommendations you received because of particular contributions you made.
Situations where you were able to perform within standard operating procedures when other circumstances were against you.
Ideas and suggestions that helped increase the performance of a work group.
Plans you recommended that were able to increase the efficiency of a team.
Plans you conceived to enlarge your client base.
Ideas that you contributed that enabled those in charge to maintain better control.
Plans you developed and/or implemented to improve efficiency and enable the reduction of staff.
Procedures you were able to automate that significantly contributed to the improvement of the quality of a department’s work.
Words Count – Use Strong Action Verbs
Use strong and compelling action verbs to begin your Achievement Statements, for example: