NEWS + ADVICE
Make Sure Your Resume Is Not a Bore
I read a lot of resumes and the majority are boring. Just think how recruiters, who read far more every day, must feel.
Why should you care?
Boring resumes usually do a bad job of making the case for why you should be considered. Unless you’re highly regarded in your field or a well-known expert in your industry, a boring resume hurts your chances of getting hired.
No one thinks their resume is boring. Take yours out and check it against this list.
1. Do you start each job’s section listing responsibilities?
Job responsibilities are meaningless as they say nothing about how well you met each responsibility. If your job is uncommon or the firm is small or new, do write a sentence or two describing the scope of your work. Otherwise, just omit all this and move straight into the achievements you want to highlight.
Bullet points are far easier for hiring managers and recruiters to clearly see your value than dense paragraphs are. Worse, many of them are unclear and boring. Does your resume use bullet points? If not, consider changing to them.
First, look at each bullet point. How often have you repeated the same verb to start? I constantly see resumes which say managed or performed or trained (or worst: ‘responsible for’) time and time again. The same old verb 3 times out of 5 bullet points or several times in each job’s bullet points. This undercuts the achievement’s value. Use words that vary. Pick those most appropriate to your work and career field and the next job you want. There are resume verb lists everywhere online. Don’t get carried away with unusual words but do think about the meaning of what you did in the context of the job you want next.
- Should ‘managed’ be: ‘led’ or directed’ or ‘oversaw’?
- Could ‘wrote’ be swapped out for: ‘authored’ or ‘conceived’ or ‘created and briefed’?
- Were you ‘coding’ or ‘checked coding for quality control’ and at what level?
- Did you ‘assist’ or ‘execute’ or ‘organize’ or ‘complete’ X work?
Certainly, in very technical jobs, there are precise words for each step – and you still can choose a variety for most actions which convey each properly.
Second, do the majority of your bullet points show a complete achievement with the task, the actions you took, and the results? Intelligence and military people often say that they cannot do that because their work is classified. But the topic of the work is classified. ‘Gathered and analyzed data from multiple sources’ is not. ‘Briefed executive management’ is not. ‘Minimizing risks to local actions’ is not. ‘Trained new staff in-country on security practices’ is not.
How many of your bullet points have verbs which indicate you’re able to work well with others? Most employers seek people at every level who have good soft skills. Consider if work can be described in terms such as: coached, led, trained, collaborated, partnered, cooperated, communicated, or enhanced. Bonus points for demonstrating diversity.
If you’re seeking a management role, be sure that some of your bullet points clearly show any past achievements that included managing people. The same is true for program/project management. If you want a subject matter expert role, demonstrate the breadth and depth of your expertise.
Once you have more than two jobs within your field, employers are interested in whether you have progressed to higher-level work. Titles are an obvious way to show this. You may want to modify your title to clearly track with the most common titles in your field. In some technical fields this may be as simple as adding a number – Help Desk Technician 3 – or it may be Jr. Systems Engineer, Systems Engineer, Senior Systems Engineer. Perhaps you need a bigger change because the company term is unusual for the work or just too long. I had a title once that was 11 words long and unusual; on my resume, it became the appropriate and far more common ‘Employee Relations Manager’.
Progression is also shown by the words you select in defining your achievements. Early in your career, you may do one small part of a much larger task, and as you grow, the portion of the task and the size of the task usually increase. That should be clear in your words. Hence, you may move from inputting data to analyzing data to developing reports or leading a team of data analysts. While some technical jobs include a fair amount of the same work at multiple levels, the work that shows your progress should be the first bullets in each new job to ensure that is not lost in an often boring similarity.
Check your resume to see if you are clearly demonstrating progress. This helps reduce boredom and supports your value to a potential employer.
4. Skills lists
In many technology fields, a list of specific software or hardware or systems is vital. Somehow, it became common to list all sorts of skills and knowledge at the top of a resume. Many hiring managers and recruiters I work with actively dislike skills lists. Worse, most are meaningless and take space away from demonstrating your value. These boring lists often include leadership, management, budgeting, communications, interpersonal skills, teamwork, and on and on. Many are 12-20 ‘skills’ long.
Dump the list!
Demonstrate the skills you want to highlight by ensuring your achievements show them clearly.
5. Functional Resumes or Sections
I like the concept of a functional or hybrid resume but most of the hiring managers I have worked with ‘just know’ that they are hiding something bad. In the beginning these seemed like a great way for someone to show how work done in an old career field applied to the new career they wanted. Military members in transition often use them for this reason. Stop!
Hiring managers want to see what you achieved with the context of the actual work and the organization. If you feel an achievement is not enough to show skills you want to highlight, you might consider starting some bullets point with the skill.
- An example –
Leadership: Took over an overdue project for a difficult client and led the team to on-time status with high client ratings within 60 days by working closely with client management to understand issues, ensure team members could contribute effectively, and managing clear communications in all directions.
Far too many resumes start out boring and get worse. A summary is an advertisement for your value. It should be short and interesting. All the same issues that persist in achievements show up in summaries. We are all outstanding in our field (old joke), leaders, superb communicators, fabulous people managers, experts among experts.
Think of your summary as the written equivalent of your elevator speech.
- How are you going to make me interested in reading more?
- What is interesting about you?
- What makes you an individual, not a cog?
Consider getting help with this. Ask your peers and others in your field what they think about your summary. Accept the best advice, ignore the rest. Ask an old boss or two what they remember about you most vividly, what made you stand out.
And finally, formatting will not save you from being boring. Many have tried, few succeed.
You do not have to become a terrific writer or, worse, engage in fiction in your resume to become more interesting. Just invest the time to present yourself with pride and energy.
Patra Frame is CyberSecJobs.com’s HR Management Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 4:28 pm