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What is the purpose of a resume?

Julia Bocage & Laurel Lamundo

The primary function of a resume is to get you an interview. Your resume is a sales tool that represents you as a model candidate. Many people mistakenly think that a resume is just a document to show everything they have done in their career. This mistake often keeps their resumes out of the spotlight about their strengths and achievements that help them stand out to employers and/or recruiters. With this knowledge in hand, take a look at your resume. Does it sell you?

Ask yourself the following questions to help you create the best resume that convinces employers you’re worth interviewing:


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1. Who sees your resume?

It is likely that your resume will be entered into an applicant tracking system that searches for keywords to filter through resumes. This method is not limited to software systems, as recruiters and employers often use the same technique. It is extremely helpful to include keywords and other terminology from the job description on your resume.

Write and format yours for someone who reads a lot of resumes a day. Using a legible font, simple format, and clear and concise will make it easy for recruiters and employers to get through your resume.

Whether it’s a recruiter, Human Resources employee, or hiring manager, it’s likely that your resume will be seen by both technical and non-technical people. Ask a non-tech friend or family member to look at it and tell you how it reads. Are they able to understand your role(s) and the role you played in your past and present organizations? Quick Tip: Don’t Use Abbreviations! You might think the acronym is industry wide, but it’s better to play it safe and spell it out.

2. Do your responsibilities show value?

Make sure your responsibilities and accomplishments listed under each role prove your worth to former employers. Turn your generic responsibilities into quantified responsibilities by adding active verbs and numbers.

The STAR method is a popular resume technique that allows you to create informative descriptions of your experience and demonstrate that you have the skills the company is looking for. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action and Result.

  • Situation: What was the challenge?
  • Task: What was your task responsibility?
  • Action: What action did you take to complete the task?
  • Result: What was the result of your action? Was there a positive result and can you quantify it?

Example:

Situation/Task: Led an 8-person design team in setting up marketing campaigns and redesigning the company’s website.

Action/Result: Create user experience wireframes to redesign the website to increase user engagement resulting in a 45% growth in pageviews and a 25% growth in user satisfaction. Launched marketing campaigns that brought in $250,000 in donations and increased membership by 12% in less than 18 months.

Keep in mind that adding detailed information doesn’t mean adding everything you’ve ever done or used for a job. Keep it relevant.

For example, technical resumes often contain long lists of every system, program, language, etc. that the applicant has used throughout their career. If you feel it necessary to have similar lists, make sure they are relevant to the job you are applying for. And because technology changes often and can quickly become obsolete, don’t list them after a certain point in your career.

3. What if you have no professional experience?

If you are fresh out of school or entering a new field and career path, your professional experience will most likely be limited. Having projects on your resume helps employers see that you have the skills needed for the position you’re applying for.

For recent graduates, career turners and even candidates currently in the field, including your projects, your projects will complement a lack of professional experience, bridge job gaps and explain how and where you acquired the required skills.

Don’t forget to mention the projects that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Too many projects make it harder to see the relevant ones. If you’ve built a Netflix page as a side project and you think it adds to your qualifications, add it. If your former company gave you a project to build a microservice to improve web page search results, and the process emphasizes your skills, add it.

If the project was part of a previous job or internship, it should be listed under that specific role. If the project was a personal venture and/or you have multiple projects to showcase, it’s best to create a separate section on your resume.

Adding volunteer experiences and internships is highly recommended as they also showcase your skills. And it’s okay to conjure your horn! Include any awards and achievements you’ve received at work. This shows how your previous employer recognized your value to the company.

4. What makes you uniquely qualified?

You only have one chance to make a first impression. If you don’t already have one, write a “Professional Summary” to include at the top of your resume. This should be 2-3 sentences summarizing your experience and skills. Try to include the title of the job you are applying for in the first line of your resume.

Example:

For an Inbound Marketing Specialist position, you might start your resume with “Experienced Inbound Marketing Specialist with a proven track record of successful campaigns to increase website traffic.”

As mentioned before, it is not necessary to list every technology, tool, program, etc. that you have experience with, and this can sometimes hinder the chances of your resume being viewed. Your resume is the perfect place to catalog some of these skills, especially those required listed in the job description. Below is an example of what our hiring managers respond well to:

Highly skilled and motivated software engineer with over 10 years of industry experience. Strong expert level skills in C++, Python and C. Expert and deep understanding of network software (L2/L3/L4). Creative and a lifelong student of new technologies and tools in software and network.

  • Expert: C++, Python, C, OOP, Linux, Windows, Tcl/Expect, GDB
  • Proficient: Java, Visual Basic, pSOS, VxWorks, AMX, Git
  • Beginner: Machine Learning, Big Data, R Language

This summary is clear, concise and relevant. It tells the recruiter or employer that the rest of the resume is worth reading.

As you write your resume, keep asking yourself, “Can I do this job?” Each section and all information must be able to answer “yes” and explain how. Ultimately, your resume is your ticket to an interview, and it’s your job to make sure that ticket is accepted.

About the Authors

Julia is the Senior Client Partner, Executive Search Consultant at Common Agenda. Julia focuses on business development, managing some key customer accounts, and high-level searches. Whether it’s a growing startup, a Fortune 500 company, or a tech society working for a brighter future, Julia and her colleagues at Common Agenda are trusted advisors and partners for organizations looking to recruit transformational leaders. Connect with Julia on LinkedIn.

Laurel is Manager Administration & Customer Relations at Common Agenda. In addition to managing administration and customer engagement, Laurel handles special projects and marketing for Common Agenda and plays an important role in the hiring process. Laurel specializes in sourcing for IT, marketing, sales and association professionals and has content expertise in non-profit organizations and technical associations. Connect with Laurel on LinkedIn.

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