Good Resumes Get Read, Great Resumes Open Doors

by Staff - Original publish date: January 23, 2013

There is plenty of advice out there about writing a good resume. From grammarians parading the benefits of a bullet proof resume -- at least from a spelling and grammar perspective -- to hiring managers threatening to toss out your resume for failing to "suit their tastes," almost everyone has an opinion. Nothing is necessarily wrong. Resume writing is inherently subjective.

But despite the diverse viewpoints, there are some clear differentiators that go into the making of a great resume. I am not talking about writing just a good resume. Today’s job market demands greatness. For better or worse, good is not good enough.

Almost everyone who has had to present a resume knows the key elements that go into the making of a good vita -- strong writing, impeccable grammar, gripping action verbs, zero spelling errors, solid work history, professional formatting -- the typical cookie-cutter how-to list. While all of these are absolute essentials, none will actually help you secure your next job interview. After all, only a handful of candidates (from thousands) will actually receive an interview call because the average response rate is less than 0.5%. Alarmingly low!

It is impossible to present minute details about my art, but I am going to share two of the many factors that could transform a good resume into a compelling piece:

  • A good resume obsesses with tactical elements
  • A great resume focuses on strategy

Sure it's important to demonstrate your experience and academic credentials, but don’t create a chronological "dump-yard" detailing the jobs for the sole purpose of providing a career history. Every statement made on the resume must have a well thought-out strategy as its foundation.

Consider the example of a copywriter. Should she position herself as a cutting-edge technologically savvy copywriter who can use the state-of-the-art content management systems? Or, would she be more attractive if she were branded as a copywriter who is capable of maximizing performance? If she chose the latter, the following excerpt could be included in her executive summary:

"Exceptionally talented copywriter who has leveraged audience-focused writing to conceptualize ad copy that doubled conversion rates and increased revenues 1,400%. Won numerous awards for record-shattering results and out-of-the-box copywriting."

In this illustration, the copywriter cleverly showcased her ability to improve campaign response rates and provided some solid numbers to support her claims. The core strategy was focused on differentiating her as a professional who produced measurable results!

A good resume describes an experience; a great resume shares a story
I am sure you must have read about the 80-20 principle’s application to resumes -- 80% accomplishments and 20% duties. The principle omits an important concept: storyline. The following illustration will clarify this concept:

"First (from over 2,500 employees) to attribute bottom-line attrition to recent account cancellations. Championed 360-overhaul in relationship from near termination to highest revenue-driving account. Efforts were a result of constant follow-up, revised policy manual, and C-suite collaboration."

An average resume would present the above bullet as follows:

"Prevented a major account from leaving the company. Enhanced overall profitability."

In the first example, the writer shared background information and utilized the story to her advantage in many ways. She showcased not only her ability to turn around a relationship and catapult it to the position of a top revenue-driver, but also highlighted her ability to identify and solve problems. Furthermore, she took the prize away by explaining how she was the only one from 2,500 employees to spot the issue.

Resumes have come a long way since the 1980’s when they were mere chronological templates. Hiring managers need more meat to help them differentiate the ordinary from the extraordinary. A great resume can certainly fill this gap for those with the right experience and credentials.

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