The first step to finding a good job is creating a good resumé. But developing one involves a lot more than simply jotting down where you’ve worked and when – resumés now need to tell the story of your career. “A resumé shows three things: this is what I’m good at, this is the value I bring and this is how I got to that point,” says Amanda Steele, Head of Human Resources at Palette Skills.
Unlike in the past, when a resumé would simply list past job experiences, today’s CVs need to show managers that you not only have the skills they need, but that you’re the right person for the position, too. “The biggest change in how resumés are getting read, especially given that the influx of them is incredibly high, is that HR managers are really looking at the quality of their content, not so much the format,” notes Steele.
How can you put together a resumé that captures the attention of hiring managers? Here are five tips.
Tip #1 – Be specific
Most people don’t feel comfortable bragging about themselves, which makes proving your worth to a potential employer all the more challenging. You do need to talk yourself up, but do it in a way that’s specific to your skills. Don’t simply list “interpersonal skills” as one of your strengths – drill down on the skills that would be an asset for the job. Are you great at problem-solving? Do you have excellent negotiation skills? Have colleagues asked you help to draft emails because of your stellar communication skills? Don’t wait until you get an interview to share that information – let your resumé do that for you, suggests Steele.
Tip #2 – Share your accomplishments
Hiring managers don’t want you to list the tasks you completed in previous positions – they now want to know what value you added to the companies you worked for. Did you help co-workers learn how to use a new content management program? Include that on your resumé, but also include the outcome: faster integration of new software in your department. “People will list some of the duties related to a job, almost like a job description in some ways,” says Lauren Murray, program officer of Palette Skills’ SalesCamp program. “But what they fail to do is take that next step and say, ‘This was the impact, this was the result.’”
It can be tough to go through your job history and translate what you did into what you accomplished. Start by looking at your previous jobs’ duties and think about what you were expected to accomplish. An administrative assistant, for instance, might have been tasked with organizing and restocking the workplace lunchroom each week, a duty that they could say resulted in a clean and organized work environment.
Tip #3 – Customize your resumé
It can be time-consuming, but consider making subtle adjustments to your resumé with each company – something as simple as tailoring your executive summary to reflect that company’s particular service or retail offerings. These kinds of tweaks show hiring managers that you’ve looked at the role and identified what makes you an ideal candidate. It also makes it easier for a hiring manager to scan your resumé and see why you’d be a good fit. “Make sure that you’re capturing the bullet points outlined in the job posting and align your achievements to what your impact will be in the new role,” Steele notes.
Tip #4 – Refine your executive summary
That little blurb at the top of your resumé should read like the author biography on the back cover of a book – you need to encapsulate in a short paragraph why HR should pay attention. Use these two or three sentences to say, “Hey! This is the way that I drive value. This is what I’m really passionate about. This is the work I want to be doing and this is what’s going to connect me to your mission.”
It’s also the ideal place to show how the skills you’ve learned in a different industry can translate into the new one you’re hoping to enter. If someone has no sales experience but starts their resumé showing how the skills they have learned relate to sales, then the hiring manager will keep reading, says Steele.
Tip #5 – Show your progression
Hiring managers also want to see that your skills or duties at your previous jobs have grown over time. Even though careers aren’t always linear, the value you add should get more complex as you move from role to role or job to job. “If it all looks like the same type of work and it doesn’t get more challenging, while it’s not a red flag by any stretch, it’s just not as interesting of a story,” she says.
A fresh, updated resumé can make all the difference when you’re trying to stand out in a large pool of candidates. Before you send it off, though, make sure to have someone else look it over for spelling or grammatical errors, says Murray, and save your file as a PDF unless otherwise noted, to prevent formatting issues. “A good rule of thumb,” says Steele, “is apply thoughtfully and you’ll see better results.”
Have you already brushed up your resumé? Consider applying to one of Palette Skills’ upcoming upskilling programs. All of our programs include career coaching and one-on-one job search support.
– Written by Glynis Ratcliffe