Resume Tips

How to Add More Leadership Experience to Your Resume

Regardless of the field you might be interested in going into, leadership experience will help your resume stand out. 

There are five methods of showing your leadership skills on your resume. Let's take a look.

See more resume tips and my approach to building resumes. Check out my Resume Tips page.

Show that you produce results on your resume

This may seem counter intuitive, but unless you can show you can produce results for a manager, you will never be a leader. Leaders deliver accomplishments to the organization and those accomplishments underscore your capability as an individual.

Where do you find your accomplishments? From the work and reporting you do during the course of the year to your manager.

Action verbs on your resume show leadership capability

Action verbs almost automatically show leadership capabilities because action verbs imply movement and change. The contrast of using action verbs to passive responsibility descriptions on your resume is a striking difference. You don't want to show much of the responsibilities you have in your work on the resume; you want to concentrate on the results you've delivered.

The way to do that is to start your bullet points for a position with an action verb and then a result that you delivered. 

Of course, you want to provide some context to the work you do that is a responsibility ("project managed multi-million dollar projects to completion" vs. "coordinated project work between three different project managers"). But this is limited. You want it to be like one bullet point for a position.

The rest of the points for a position should be results, starting them with action verbs. 

Action verb examples

There are many verbs that can be used. Here are my favorites, because they are focused on accomplishments:

  • Delivered
  • Created
  • Directed
  • Lead
  • Coached
  • Increased
  • Decreased
  • Improved
  • Exceeded

Focus on leadership needs in the job description

One of the critical methods of improving chances for an interview is to ensure that, where you have the job skills, to match those that are in the job description. That includes leadership job skills.

For example, if the job description says that you must demonstrate experience leading teams, your experience leading teams needs to be part of your resume. 

Often, even if the rest of your job skills don't entirely match the job description, nailing the leadership job skill on your resume will help overcome deficiencies in other areas.

Note: you don't need to be a manager to lead teams. There are plenty of examples in cubicles where matrix managed teams is the norm. If you don't have "manager" in your title, you can use these matrix managed projects to demonstrate leadership.

Demonstrate leadership through specialized knowledge important to the business

There is some truth to "knowledge is power." Being a Subject Matter Expert means you know a lot about some specific subject. If that subject is associated with the job description -- and it usually is -- demonstrate that knowledge in what you put into your resume.

How do you know you're an expert in an area? Outside of credentials, if people in your department get asked who to talk to about "x", and the people in your department direct the person to you, you're an expert. 

When you are an expert, you tend to get asked to show that expertise to the rest of the department, either through presentations or written updates about the subject or both. Use those types of accomplishments to show on your resume that you have expertise in a particular area -- especially if that expertise is needed on the job description.

Develop external leadership skills

While the best leadership skills to show on your resume are those you have from your work experience, you may not have the ability in your current position to show any. This could be a result from the type of work you are doing, you are new to the workplace, or the current position's work doesn't lend itself to leadership skill development.

If that's the case, you may need to apply some external work to gain leadership skills needed on a resume. 

Here are two examples:

Take a leadership course

A leadership course will help enhance your skills and knowledge, and will also give you the opportunity to meet like-minded professionals.

Or, look at things you have already been involved in to add to your experience on a resume. Volunteering in your neighborhood as a youth, or part of a church or camp group can be counted as leadership experience in some capacities. Take a look at the other places you’ve lead a project as well. A community art, festival or dance might have been a leadership experience if you headed a project or cleanup crew.

Find a way to include these types of activities into your volunteer work, leadership experience and skill sets on your resume.

Volunteer in Your Community

There are many ways you can get some leadership experience outside of work, and one of the best is by volunteering in your own community. For example, you can volunteer at homeless shelters, hospitals, refugee camps and whatever other organizations are in your area. You could also mentor a young child or teen.

Volunteering helps you to make a difference in the life of another person and shows your dedication to community efforts. Working within the leadership structure of the volunteer organization can provide valuable leadership experience that can be included on the resume.

Regardless of the position, showing leadership skills on your resume can provide a powerful differentiator of your work compared to other people interested in the position. When we compete with everyone on the planet for work, every competitive advantage we can show on a resume is worth the effort to get the interview.

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Resume Tips

How to dramatically improve your resume…even if you don’t know how

Here is the frustrating question: “I need to redo my resume because I want a new job. What should I put in it?”

It’s a frustrating question…because I can’t answer it. So, I ask questions. And then I start frustrating the person asking the question, usually because they don’t know the answers.

You can’t blame the person, either — I was once like that in my career. I wanted out of a job, but I knew I needed to update my resume. Then, when I updated my resume, I started to go looking for jobs.

When I found something I thought I would like and would qualify for, I submitted my resume. This is especially true if you not only want out of a job, but out of the entire industry.

We start thinking we need to update our resume, so we try and figure out how to do that. Then we update the resume and send it out into the world.

Unfortunately, this is not a successful approach.

See more resume tips and my approach to building resumes. Check out my Resume Tips page.

When you’re redoing your resume, you start with a different question

The question is this: Does my resume match the job description of the job I want?

That drives a different set of actions on your part.

You need to find a job that appeals to you. Always a good thing, right? A job that appeals to you?

Now you have something to work with. Get ten of these job descriptions of jobs that appeal to you and now you really have something to work with.

Action Item -- find 10 job descriptions you like

Search for jobs that interest you, then find job descriptions of jobs that you believe you qualify for and interest you. Get 10 of them! It will show you common skills and requirements for the position and allow you to compare them with your resume.

Job descriptions drive resume building and/or modification

Remember that the only purpose of the resume is to get the interview. Nothing else. So the person actually reading your resume is going to do something very straightforward that few people remember: that person is going to look at your resume and compare it to the job description. The more check marks you get for job skills needed for the work on your resume compared to the job description, the bigger your chance of getting an interview.

It is as simple, and as complicated, as that.

You have a base set of skills, education, and experience to put in your resume, of course. But to have an effective resume, a set of job descriptions will drive your content, show your strengths, and highlight your weaknesses.

And having this rational look at your resume against job descriptions will show how you need to drive your career to gain the skills you need to get the jobs you want.

Job skills are the currency of job searches

The key here is that the person reading your resume and trying to decide if you deserve to get an interview will first try to answer this question: Can this person (you) DO the job? Do you have the job skills?

If the job description calls for advanced laser surgery for the eyes and you’ve never used a laser machine before, you won’t get the interview. “Can you do the job?” is the first big question that needs a ‘yes’ answer in order for you to move on in the process.

Let’s get specific steps for what to do - similar position

Do you have at least one job description of a job that appeals to you? Hopefully more than one from different companies for the same type of position so you can get a more complete picture for your resume.

Here’s what you do:

Look at the required job skills on the job description and see if they are on your resume. Look at each one on the job description and find it on your resume. Do you find each one? Great. You’re covered.

  1. If you have the job skill but it is not on your resume, you’ll need to add it on your resume
  2. If you don’t have the job skill, you’ll need to see how you can add this job skill to your portfolio

Look at the soft skills in the job description and see if they are on your resume. Soft skills are things like ‘team player,’ ‘works well in a fast-paced environment’ and all that ‘plays well in the sandbox’ stuff.

  1. If you have the soft skill but it is not on your resume, you’ll need to add it on your resume
  2. If you don’t have the soft skill, you’ll need to see how you can add this soft skill to your portfolio

Look at the certifications on the job description and see if they are on your resume. You see where this is going.

  1. If you have the certifications needed, add them to your resume
  2. If you don’t have the certifications, you’ll need to figure out how to get one

When you do this analysis — especially with multiple job descriptions for the same type of position — you’ll quickly discover how much is missing from your resume that should be in it.

Plus, you’ll quickly see what holes you need to fill in terms of your job skills and certifications in order to up the number of check marks you get when a person reading your resume starts comparing it to their job description.

Here's what to do -- promotion or new industry

What I’ve been demonstrating here is applying for a new job that is, essentially, the same as your own, just in a different company. It’s an important use case, for sure, and it will answer the critical question of “what should I put in my resume?”.

But there are other use cases. The two that come top of mind are these:

  • Going for the promotion. One of the great ways to know if you are ready for a promotion is that you already have the job skills to do the work in the promoted job. Comparing these promotion job descriptions to your resume gives you clear guidance on what you already have and what you still need to get. This helps you plan what skills you want to acquire so you can continue moving forward in your career.
  • Going to a new industry. Time to get out of the coal mining industry? Want to go into healthcare instead? (Not likely, but you get the idea). You can take job descriptions from that new industry and compare that to your current resume and see what needs to happen in order to have a shot at getting a position in your new, desired industry. Remember that many jobs have many transferrable skills, so it is not as far fetched as it may seem at first blush.

The job description drives the resume

Each of us has our own set of job skills, performance, and experience. We want recruiters to find us. The way to do that is to match our job skills and experience to the job descriptions. The better they match, the more likely you are to get the interview. 

The key points in the resume, then, are those that match the job description.

Going through this process will also show what you need to work on next to get that next position, whether it is in your own company, a promotion or something entirely new. 

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Resume Tips

How to find business results for your resume accomplishments

One of my most consistent resume themes is that your resume must show your accomplishments. Logical — but where do you find your achievements to put on your resume?

This is a big deal to a lot of people. Defining an accomplishment is one thing. What happens, though, is once you define an accomplishment, you are suddenly confronted with where you are going to find the results you think you had? Once you recognize that great achievements mean showing your measurable results, you need to find the measurable results.

For a lot of people, knowing where to find measurable results is a big stumbling block to building out an awesome resume.

It’s hard. So let’s make this easy. Let’s go through the five places to grab those results your resume needs.

Achievements in your resume can come from performance review goals

Most companies have some sort of goal setting as part of your performance review. Sometimes they are SMART goals; sometimes they are not. There are team goals, individual goals, poorly written goals, goals that are not measurable, goals that are awesome and even Wildly Important Goals.

Yeah, I know, a lot of these goals can be pretty stupid — they are corporate goals that don’t match what you do on your job but cascade to you anyway. They are goals that talk about all the external activities you might need to do, but have nothing to do with business results.

Personally, my opinion is most performance review goals suck in most organizations because they never get to something measurable that shows you how your work is contributing to the organization.

But, you start there.

Someone said you have these goals to accomplish through your work. Your manager will write up comments on how well you matched up to those goals. You’ll probably write a self-review that says how you accomplished those goals.

And those goals are what management thinks are the most important things you should be working on to help them accomplish THEIR business goals.

Even if they really aren’t. Even if they can’t be measured. Even if they don’t have a lot to do with what you accomplish for the business.

Take a look at your goals as defined. See if you made the goal. See if there is something you can measure that shows how you met the goal.

If you can see those three things, you have an accomplishment you can put on your resume.

“Achieved a 3% productivity increase as measured by a reduction in cycle time from current standard.”

Your department goals can show your achievements on the resume

Many companies (not all) will also have department goals established for your manager to achieve. Those goals usually get divvied up among the team.

If that’s the case, you can take your work effort and show how that effort helped achieve your part of the department goals.

The need here is to have you question how your work will help achieve the goal. If you are given a vague subject, vague tasks, and an approach that is your own, you don’t know really how your work will help achieve the department goal.

So ask. “If I do x, y, and z, will that achieve my portion of the department goal? How will I know that?” Once you can do that, you can see if you have an achievement to include on your resume.

Your project results

Most of us are given projects to complete over the course of the year. You either work on the team that is doing the project or you are given a project to complete by your manager. Hopefully one that contributes to the department goals!

Here, it sounds like you are just getting a series of tasks to complete to finally end up at some end state. And, usually, the objective to achieve is not clearly stated. Nor is the accomplishment.

Instead of just accepting the set of tasks from your manager, it’s important to ask what the objective is when trying to complete the tasks. Important to ask, when all the tasks are accomplished, what the benefit will be to the department (or business — but usually the department). Important to ask how that achievement can be measured (numbers are good).

Projects are true knowledge work — you need to define the objective, have an approach to achieve it, measure the end results. Most people just accept the tasks and do them and never get to the point of knowing the objective of the tasks or how to measure success.

Cubicle Warriors, on the other hand, do. And the results go on their resume

Your lowly status reports offer a wealth of accomplishments for your resume

I get chided about status reports. A lot. No one wants to do them (including me). No one thinks anyone really reads them. A lot of managers never do (seriously). No one thinks they are important.

Well, they are important, but not necessarily for your manager or employer. They are important because they represent an entire history of your accomplishments over the course of a year. Written correctly (and, I would suggest, written like resume accomplishments should be written), status reports can give you a treasure trove of accomplishments worthy of putting on your resume.

And, as I contend, status reports represent a continuing, week-by-week story of accomplishment to your manager. Tough to beat that.

Ask what these tasks will accomplish for the business (or department)

Finally, you usually get tasks that are not part of your performance goals, department goals, a project. They are just tasks that your manager asks you to do.

Unless you ask what the importance is of the tasks given to you — how they will benefit the department or business – you’ll never get what you need to put on a resume.

This might come off as a little off-putting (why ask about the tasks you get?). But really, knowing how the tasks fit into the bigger picture is an important way to help you accomplish what is really being asked for by your manager. Asking what the success criteria are for the set of tasks is not an unimportant question.

After all, you don’t want to spend a whole lot of time working on tasks only to find out that what you did didn’t really meet what was (not) asked for when you were given the tasks in the first place. That never happens, right? Right?

The important takeaway here is this: you need results to put on your resume (and, for that matter, your performance self-review). These five places to gather up your accomplishments go a long way to giving you the results you need to have a really good resume.

See more resume tips and my approach to building resumes. Check out my Resume Tips page.
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Resume Tips

The 7 sections of a resume explained

Let’s get resume building back to the beginning for a bit. Let’s start with the basics and go through what sections every resume should include. Even though many, if not most, resumes don’t include all these sections. To their peril.

Each section has unique attributes and all of them together strive to build a story that gets you the interview. Let’s take a look.

Resume sections on the first page

Contact Information

You would think this is relatively straightforward and, for the most part, it is. But there are some tricks here.

First, for anything going to the Internet, you should just have your name and email address for your contact information. I don’t recommend putting in a phone number unless you are submitting a resume to a corporate web site with job openings. If you’re putting the resume up on Monster.com (which I don’t recommend), you’re mostly asking for unwanted calls.

Second, your email address does make a difference. Where you host your email makes a difference. Having an @aol.com, @hotmail.com, or even @yahoo.com suffixes are not the best. Having a prefix of ‘hot_dude’ isn’t professional either.

Best: [email protected] or your name @gmail.com or @outlook.com. It’s a quick judgement by a person reading the resume and an easy to throw out your resume out just because of the email address. Note: I didn’t say this was fair. Just real.

Job Skills

Most people don’t have this for a section – they include their job skills, if at all, buried in their work experience. The person reading your resume, however, has a job description in front of them and that job description has a section on….job skills. Required ones. Often preferred ones. But they are always there because job skills are the currency of getting job interviews.

So what are job skills?

  • What you need to know to do your job
  • What software you use to do your job
  • What skills you need to work in this type of culture or team, more commonly known as ‘soft skills.’
  • What certifications you have that help you prove you have what it takes to do your job.

You need a place to list all of them so the person reading your resume can easily find them to compare to the job description.

Profile

Your profile, usually right under the Contact section, is a 2-3 sentence description of who you are and what you bring to the position.

Think of it as your elevator speech you’re making to the person reading your resume.

You can be a person just graduating looking to start building an impactful career with a company to an executive responsible for global operations in a particular industry  responsible for a $10 million budget. What’s your pitch in 2-3 sentences?

This, by the way, is not simple nor easy.

When I was in high school taking all of those exams for getting into college, I really hated my life being shriveled down into a single page with pencil-filled ovals as answers to questions. It doesn’t get any better as an adult; I think my life and career are far more than 2-3 sentences at the top of a resume, but there you go.

You especially have to take your baseline elevator speech and then, on top of that, shift it around a bit so that it represents you but also addresses the need in the job description.

You can spend a lot of time on this. And you should.

Professional Competencies

What are you good at in your job? Think of this as taking your job skills and then describing 4-5 competencies you focus on using your job skills.

If you were a nurse, for example, you can focus all those job skills on what you do as an emergency room nurse. Or a hospice nurse.

If you were a project manager, you can focus it on what type of project manager you are and the unique parts you address. You could be a software development project manager focusing on PeopleSoft implementations or an infrastructure project manager focusing on Microsoft applications across the planet.

What happens here is that you start to build what you do matching up with the job description.

It also forces you to think through what you’re good at and, to avoid the ‘curse of competency,’ describe what you want to do.

For example, I’ve outsourced services and departments to other states and other continents. I hate doing it because it invariably means I’m supporting having people getting laid off — usually when the people getting laid off are actively training the people taking their jobs. I’m not a real happy camper doing those kinds of projects.

So I never mention them as a professional competency.

Professional Accomplishments

This one hardly ever shows on a resume. Yet, it is the killer section to show on the resume. Why? Because it consolidates the best of your best career accomplishments into a single section, making your best accomplishments easily found by the person reading your resume.

This section shows that not only can you do the work, but you also deliver results. If your smart (and Cubicle Warriors are…), this is also the section that you tailor what you have accomplished in your career directly to the job description that is looking for specific kinds of results.

For example, on job description I looked at as a project manager was a specific callout for managing ‘10,000’ hour projects. In other words, big, long, resource intensive projects. So what projects do you think I listed under Professional Accomplishments? Yeah, the 10,000 hour ones.

Most people bury their accomplishments in the Work Experience section — if they really list them at all.

Why bury that massive accomplishment you worked on five years and two jobs ago just because your current company knows your strengths and doesn’t care (which is why you’re leaving!)? Don’t bury the lede, as they say in the reporting business. Put your career accomplishments in a separate section.

Resume sections on the second and subsequent pages

Work Experience

Here is the section everyone has on their resume. This is the one most people focus on when building their resume and then modifying to meet a job description.

From my viewpoint, this section is a “one and done” part of the resume — how many more results and accomplishments are you going to get out of that position five years ago anyway? If you don’t have results and accomplishments in your past positions now, you should get them in there. But once they are, there isn’t much more you can do. So, done.

The exception, of course, is your current position as in that position you are consistently adding more business results and accomplishments. That should make sense. But the rest of the work experience? One and done.

The common advice for this section is straightforward:

  • You put in dates of employment. Months are enough, day dates are not necessary. March 2015, not March 25th, 2015.
  • You need to list the company you work(ed) for and the discreet positions in each company
  • You need to list your job title
  • You need to list your accomplishments — business results — in the position

I have a few other items for this section. Here they are:

You need a one-line description of what the company actually does

This is because people regularly assume everyone knows what your company does and what you do for it. Not so much.

I was always amused when I worked for a Regional Operating Company (da phone company) that started off with 100,000 employees and a friend or acquaintance would casually ask me if I knew John Smith in Ohio when I worked in a different state in a different division doing a difference job. Not really. So why would the person reading your resume know what your company does? What part of Alphabet do you work for and what do you do?

Give the person some context about where you worked in the company…so you can relate that to the job description.

You list your generic, standard job title

You list your generic job title. And you list your real title the company gave you.

The reason you list your generic job title is because when people search for qualified candidates for a particular position, they don’t look for the ‘Senior Department Data Guru of the Data Information Division.’ No, they are looking for a Data Janitor.

True story — a coworker actually put ‘Data Janitor III’ as his title below his signature stuff even though he was a Database Administrator. It proves the point, though. If your official title is Data Janitor III because your company likes weird job titles, you’ll never get found when the title being searched is ‘Database Administrator,’ the common, standard title in the industry.

So you list your standard, generic job title so that you can be found. You don’t even need to put in ‘Senior’ or stuff like that. Once they find you with the generic, standard title, it’s a question of money. But they need to find you first.

You list your job title provided by the company

Then your company designated title goes in the section as well with some label on it saying it is the company title.

The reason you need the company title for the position is that when the background checkers go looking for you at that company, they are going to ask if you worked there and if X was your job title. If your job was Database Administrator is the work you do, but Data Janitor III was your company job title, the background check is going to ask if you were a Data Janitor III at that company. Not Database Administrator.

Bad form to get kicked out of the hiring process because you simplified to get found and then got rejected because of some company’s stupid job title.

How far back should you list your company work experience?

As with all good answers, it depends.

If you have less than ten years experience, you list all of the positions at all of the companies.

If you have more than ten years experience, ten years is good enough. Ask yourself what you were doing ten years ago and see if much still applies. Usually not.

It’s kind of like a game I play based on the job interview question, “What do you see yourself doing five years from now?“. My answer is along the lines of, “If someone told me five years ago I would be doing X, living at Y, and had gone through A, B, and C, I would have told them they were nuts.” So, ten years experience.

Exception (this is where the ‘depends’ stuff comes in):

Ten years ago was before the Great Recession. If you had significant accomplishments before the Great Recession, say, and then got laid off and it took you forever to get back to where you were before the Great Recession, you’d want to hang on to those listings in the Work Experience area.

Those accomplishment show you can get the business results needed for the job description before you. Don’t give up awesomeness just because you and millions more did whatever it took to feed your family and pay your bills doing whatever you could to make it through the bad times.

Education

This is the last section you have in your resume and it is relatively short, like the Contact section.

This is where you list your collegiate and post-graduate formal education.

Often, people will put their certifications here, but I don’t recommend that. If it is a certification that directly supports your position, the certification should go right into the job skills section of the resume. Don’t bury it here on the back page of your resume.

What you CAN put in this section outside of formal education, is other events that shows continuous learning, whether that is classes in your field, seminars attended, etc.

But the real net of this section is one thing: Your college education, including your degree if you completed college, and your post-graduate degree(s).

The whole purpose here is to give the information to the background check people that a) you have a degree, and, b) where you got it from so they can go check.

I got questioned once on my resume because I listed the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire as my school and just ‘Business Management’ as my degree. But I didn’t say it was my degree, so the background check people asked whether I actually received my degree. So I changed my resume to read: ‘Degree: Business Management.’

Sometimes, it’s the ridiculous things that can get you thrown out of consideration for a position. At least this background check company asked. And then they verified.

So now what?

Check to make sure your resume has these seven sections. If it doesn’t, start to get the information needed to build the sections you’re missing.

The resume is important for one thing: getting the interview. You want to use these sections to do just that.

See more resume tips and my approach to building resumes. Check out my resume tips page.

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Resume Tips

Resume Tip: Why saying a proven track record of success is worthless

Writing a resume is tough. You are supposed to compress your life into one page or two, or three or five — depending on which resume pundit you listen to — and provide those pithy statements about your work. For help, you search the Google to find out great examples of phrases to use on resumes. One of the phrases that’s sure to come up is “a proven track record of success.”

That describes you, right? All through your life, you’ve had one success after another. It is proven, to you at least. Everyone else? Not so much.

Resumes need specificity

Remember the purpose of your resume: demonstrate your job skills so that you get an initial interview. You don’t get a job from the resume, you get the interview. You can’t do that with general statements about your work. You don’t have a “proven track record of success” unless you show the track record on the resume through results.

The “results” piece is important. It does you no good to simply list all of your previous positions on your resume and the mind-numbing formatting requirements that go along with them and not include your results. Think of it from your customer’s perspective — the one making the decision to interview you or not. What’s more impressive: a grocery list of job skills or stating a job skill and then showing a result from using the job skill?

How to demonstrate a proven track record of success on a resume

The way you prove your success is stating your job skill — project management, for example — and then tie that skill to a result — delivered ten projects on time, under budget with superior customer satisfaction through consistent management of tasks.

In sales, it is called a feature with a benefit. The feature is your job skill. The benefit is the result you achieved using the job skill. People buy things because of the benefit they think they will get from the purchase. What you want purchased is an interview from your resume. So you need to have the person reading your resume see the benefits of possibly hiring you.

Results, of course, can’t simply be stated without proof either. You can’t say “decreased cycle time.”

Proof is shown through using numbers that show the result and stating the reason the numbers came into being.

Anyone can throw out statistics to show whatever point they want showing. Besides, people relate to stories, not dry statistics alone. Well, some people do, but not most.

Your reason for achieving the number is part of your success story. And the reason for the number coming into being provides the logic between the result and your job skill. By “consistently managing tasks” in our project manager example, it shows how you went about getting (the number) ten projects delivered.

Or, if your number is increasing inventory turn by 5%, you could have done that many different ways. By saying that you increased inventory turns by 5% through increasing best selling items in stock and reducing poor selling inventory, you now have a good reason for hitting your number.

Include results in your summary at the top of the resume

Besides focusing on your results throughout the body of the resume, include results in your summary at the top of your resume as well. It’s hard to break down what you represent to a prospective employer in a small paragraph, for sure. Consequently, it is easier to say something like “a project manager with a proven record of success” instead of doing the hard work of drilling down to what you represent to a a hiring manager.

Since recruiters take so little time to read your resume, that top paragraph can get you thrown into the electronic trash can if all you include is general statements without results. Instead of proven record, say something like “consistently exceeded sales targets for ten years.” Or, “I deliver results focused on reducing expenses through cost controls.”

The point is to show the type of results you deliver in your work and briefly show what you do to get the results.

Then the body of your resume can go into the specifics in each of your positions.

Your next action on your resume

Pull out that resume. Take a look at what you think are your critical job skills that are important to potential employers. Do you have concrete results represented by a number in the result? Do you have a reason for each number on the resume?

If not, get your proof and get it in the resume. A “proven track record of success” is worthless without it.

See more resume tips and my approach to building resumes. Check out my resume tips page.

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Resume Tips

Great resume advice – that is really terrible

There is a lot of resume advice out there (including this site). The brutal truth is...a lot of that advice is not very good. If you follow that advice, you won't get the interview and wonder why that happens when you are following supposedly good advice.

So let's get rid of some resume myths and why you shouldn't do what those pundits say.

See more resume tips and my approach to building resumes. Check out my Resume Tips page.

Your resume should be a single page long

Even if you are just coming out of college, your resume should be more than one page long. And if you have any sort of time in your career, even two pages is too short.

Yet pundits keep pointing to having a single page resume.

Yes, the first page of your resume is vitally important -- but most pundits don't address this. Instead, they simply promote having a single page resume.

You can't possibly describe your accomplishments on the job, describe your job skills, and show how your job skills match the job description on a single page. Unless, of course, you like reading 3.5 typeset or something.

Should your resume be one page? An emphatic "no" -- the first page is important, but if you need more space, you should use it.

Write a custom resume for every job

You have to wonder how people do this -- unless they are writing a single page resume!

Writing resumes is hard; writing a new resume for every position you apply for is difficult and time consuming. You'll spend more time writing resumes than finding jobs.

The key to customizing every resume for every job isn't to rewrite your resume for each submission, but have a way to customize your resume that is easily done and doesn't take too much time.

The key to doing this is having the first page of your resume be a summary of your work and customizing that single first page only, not the entire resume.

Using key words to beat the Automated Tracking Systems (ATS)

This is a bit tricky as ATS systems will reject your resume in an Intel microsecond.

So the pundits give you advice that says to "select key words" to put in your resume:

Another key to passing the bot test is tailoring your resume to include some of the keywords or skills from each job posting. If you’re unsure of which words to choose, Augustine recommends pasting the text from the ad into a free word cloud app, which will tell you which resume skills, technologies, and qualifications the posting references most frequently.

Here's the reason this is tricky: you need to have the ATS find your resume. But the way you do that isn't for you to figure out what key words to create in your resume -- how would you know how to do that? 

And besides, it's way overcomplicated. 

Do you want to know how to get your resume found for the position by those automated systems? And then have the human that reads the result figure out that you have the job skills to do the job?

Here's how:

  • Use standard job titles in your resume. If your corporate job title is " Data Janitor III," put that in your resume as your corporate job title. But also put your title in there as "Database Administrator" because that is the standard industry job title for the position you are looking for. 
  • Ensure that each job skill required or optional in the job description is in the job skills section of your resume. You have to have the skill, of course. 

Instead of you trying to figure out what key words to use, do those two things and, trust me, the automated system will find you. And so will the human who wants to give you an interview that reads the results.

Use the bottom of the resume to show your personal interests

Put your personal interests at the bottom of the resume. And the reasoning that is always given is that the hiring manager will somehow magically have the same interests as you and want to hire you.

My humble response to that is the hiring manager could also look at those interests and just as easily not bother giving you an interview.

Suppose you are an animal activist and you put that down in the personal interest area of your resume. Then you apply to a company that has a division -- one you are not applying into -- that does drug testing on animals (as it is required to do in the US). Do you think that company wants any animal cruelty activists employed in their company? 

Um...no.

Now if you get to an actual interview and you are asked about some job skill you don't have from your work, but do have from activities you participate in (like President or on a board of a non-profit group), you can consider bringing that up during the interview.

But the Cubicle Warrior rule is talk about business accomplishments and results, not personal hobbies or activities.

There are more...

You get the idea - it's tough to figure out what's "good" advice and what's "bad" advice.

Here's a framework:

  • Does the advice help you match your job skills to the resume?
  • Does the advice help you show your job skills on the first page?
  • Does the advice help you show your accomplishments on the first page?
  • Does the advice help you show you can achieve business results for the potential hiring manager?

I have a point of view of what should be in the resume, of course. If you read resume advice and wonder if it's good or not, this framework will help you make a decision.

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Resume Tips

Why using standard job titles on resume makes sense

I once had a coworker who, as was a requirement, humorously put his job title in his email signature as ‘Data Janitor III.’

It wasn’t far from the truth — he was a Database Administrator. Keeping data clean was part of his job. Now, should he put that ‘Data Janitor III’ into his resume? Nope. No one is looking for a ‘Data Janitor III.’ Instead, recruiters are looking for Database Administrators.

And while the story may seem silly, in a very real sense, we are putting ‘Data Janitor III’ on our resumes all the time. While some corporations are really taking their job titles to industry standard, a whole lot of them are not.

Putting that company issued job title as the only one on your resume is killing your job search.

You need to broaden your ability to be found by recruiters by using industry standard job titles

When recruiters, company or otherwise, have an open position, the requisition has an industry standard job title sitting at the top of it. When they then go searching for candidates, what do they do?

They put in the industry standard job title for the position. They put in ‘database administrator.’

And what do you have on your resume? ‘Data Janitor III.’

Do they match? No, of course not. And the search gods blow past your resume in nanoseconds all because your company decided to give you a ‘Data Janitor III’ title and that’s what you put on your resume. It is, after all, true: that’s your job title at your company.

This isn’t about your company, though. This is about a job search. And if you have great job skills for hire, recruiters need to be able to find you.

Adjectives about your job title are not needed either

See the ‘III’ in Data Janitor III? III means you are (probably) at the senior most level of that Data Janitor job title. That’s an adjective that isn’t needed. ‘Senior’ is another one. Vice President titles are thrown around like candy in the financial industry — it tells you nothing except some level of budget sign off that person has compared to others.

So titles like ‘senior’ Database Administrator, or Database Administrator III, or IT Database Administrator all start to limit your ability to be found.

Now some of you can take offense to this — you worked hard for that ‘Senior’ title. Or that III at the end of the title. I get that.

The deal here is to get found. The rest, as a recruiter once told me, is about money. And you can’t get to money until you’ve been found, had a phone screening, had some sort of face-to-face interview, and get to the point where there is an offer being created or presented.

So Database Administrator is your title.

How to present this on your resume

There is a risk here: you get the offer and listed your job title at your company as ‘Database Administrator’ and when the background check happens and they call your company and ask if you were a Database Administrator there, the answer will be ‘no.’ Because you were a Data Janitor III there – and that is what HR shows as your title.

You can lose that offer if this stuff doesn’t match up.

So what you do is wherever you list your job title, list the standard job title and then your company job title:

“Position held: Database Administrator    Company Title: Data Janitor III”

You get found because you have the industry standard job title. And you get confirmed by having your Company title as well.

Get your resume found

Getting found in a sea of resumes is hard. We make it harder, though, when we don’t remember the audience looking for our resume and how they do searching.

By putting in industry standard job titles, we make our resume easier to find and that leads to a chance at an interview.

See more resume tips and my approach to building resumes. Check out my Resume Tips page.
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Resume Tips

6 principles to use when writing your resume

There is an incredible amount of noise about writing your resume. Hundreds of rules, contradictory advice, many different formats – and no sense of what it takes to get the interview.

Often, it is really overwhelming. So we give up. We take something chronological, slap it together, describe what we do on our jobs (responsibilities), and then throw that resume at a bunch of job boards.

And, by the way, lose. Because writing a resume that way is asking, if not begging, to get your resume thrown into the nearest (digital) trash can.

Why don’t we spend a few minutes going over the approach, process, philosophy – whatever – you should use when writing your resume. Use these guidelines and get a much better resume out there. One that gives you a shot at getting you the interview.

Follow one philosophy towards making an effective resume

My philosophy towards resumes is simple: there is only one job for the resume and that is getting the interview. Not the offer. Not the face-to-face interview. Just moving you to the next step in the job search process.

There are corollaries to this:

Now, you may think that approach is crazy because you like some other pundit’s approach. That’s fine.

The point is this: pick an approach. Use it. See if it works. (Mine does)

An effective resume has a consistent structure

For example, when you get to the section for your Professional Experience, follow the same format for every position you’ve had.

Have your title first, then the company name, then the dates employed. Beneath that line, have one line of context around what the company does and, perhaps, your role in it.

Then below that, list bullet points for the business results you achieved working in that position.

Rinse. Repeat.

And, by the way, when I say consistent structure, that includes your font. Use the exact same font for the entire resume — a sans serif is preferred. Regular, bold, italics — all the same font family. This blog post, for example, is done in the Open Sans font family.

Use action verbs to start all results and summaries

Action verbs are the bomb. Using them sets you up to have a great bullet point about your results.

It even helps you get rid of passive language on your resume (the bane of my writing existence…).

Include 10-15 years experience on the resume and ignore the rest

Depending on your age, of course. If you haven’t been in the workforce for ten years yet, put it all in.

For those in the workforce for longer than ten years, look for a logical place to cut off the positions included in your resume. Consider accomplishments, though. If the biggest accomplishment you did was 11-years ago, make sure that you don’t cut it just because I said “ten years.” If job skills are the currency of resumes, accomplishments are the proof.

Always put in your college education and degree

I once got dinged in a background check because I simply said my college and “B. S. Business Management”. But I didn’t say I actually GOT the degree, just what the degree was.

Fortunately, they came back and asked if I got the degree…yes…and then I changed my resume to “Degree: B. S. Business Management”. Just to be clear.

Cheeeeze…

Include any professional certifications

The certifications show that you continue to learn, stay current in the industry you are working, and show initiative.

My only caveat here is make sure the certifications actually relate to the industry you are working in. A masters certificate in gardening doesn’t help much when you are an IT developer.

Follow this process and produce a better resume

What you want to do is, when reading any advice on how to put your resume together, bump up that advice with these six principles.

If it passes the so called smell test, great, the advice is worth considering.

And like I said, if you don’t agree with this philosophy and approach, that’s fine – but make sure you pick an approach and follow it.

Remember: it’s about the resume being able to get you to the next step in the job search process…the interview.

See more resume tips and my approach to building resumes. Check out my Resume Tips page.
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Resume Tips

Resumes need action language. This is how to get it.

Writing resumes can be tough. There are so many rules. Most of the rules don’t mean much. But this one does: Use action verbs to describe your work.

Most of the time, people put their job responsibilities on their resume. Maybe a line or two of that is okay, but most of the resume should be about the results your work have provided your department or business.

And the best way to describe your work is through action verbs. Or, a little more generically, your resume needs your active voice, not your passive voice.

I have trouble with that because no matter how hard I try, I am a passive voice kind of guy. Like that last sentence up there. I typed, “…your resume should be…” and that’s where I caught myself with that passive voice. I changed it to, “…your resume needs your active voice…”.

So how do you get your resume filled with more action and less passive words?

Start sentences with action verbs

It’s a good bet that if you start a sentence with an action verb, it will naturally continue on for the rest of the sentence. Starting a sentence with an action verb usually forces fewer words in the sentence as well since a more passive voice — at least in my case — means more words are used to get the same idea across.

Action verbs. Gotta love ’em.

Measurable results are actions

This may sound weird, but when you build your accomplishment through measured results, you have (first pass: tend to have) actions naturally defined.

It’s hard to say that you “decreased your departments cost by 3%” and have that sound passive. When you say you’ve “processed 1,200 requests, up 15% over last year,” it’s tough to sound passive. That’s because when you put down some number, you naturally have describe what happened with that number. What happened was an action verb – decreased, processed.

So make sure you get your business results for the stuff you work on. Having the actual, measurable results will up your action orientation.

Use bullet points for your results

Yeah, yeah, I know. Bullet points suck. You don’t use them.

But that’s for presentations. Not resumes.

Resumes have a very finite amount of space — it is not like you are going to write a paper on your accomplishments. So bullet points, on resumes, rule.

The thing about bullet points is that it forces you to shorten what you say. Fewer words each have more significance in a shorter sentence. Fewer words in a sentence means (first pass: usually means) you are less likely to bulk up the language.

Bonus: most recruiters are brutal about how long they look at a resume. Scan is the name of the game (which is also true of blog posts like this one). Bullet points allow the recruiter to scan your resume, grabbing the bullet points of importance because they are easily found compared to a written paragraph.

Examples of action verbs to start your results bullet points on your resume

Here’s a few to start each of your results lines on your resume – copy and paste them into a text file and reference them next time you update your resume:

Delivered, processed, analyzed, completed, exceeded, established, designed, progress, introduced, deployed, implemented, increased, decreased, reduced, continued, removed, retired, launched, achieved, created, modernized, managed, concluded, adopted, added, partnered, improved, integrated, successfully, enhanced, expanded, solved, and saved.

What other action verbs have you used in your resume?

See more resume tips and my approach to building resumes. Check out my Resume Tips page.
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Resume Tips

Why soft skills should be included on your resume

You know what soft skills are, right? Those are the “playing well in the sandbox with others” skills. People skills.

They are the ways that you interact with the team, how you handle stress on the job, how you handle a “fast-paced environment.” It seems every company has a “fast-paced environment.”

But putting these people job skills on your resume? Is it really worth it?

The short answer: Yes.

But pulling up a list of “85 soft skills to put on your resume” is not the answer. Getting the interview doesn’t work that way.

Here’s why.

Soft skills on your resume are also part of the job description

If you look at job descriptions for positions you qualify for, you’ll notice that almost all of them include what are categorized as soft skills: works well in a fast-paced environment, team player, able to communicate with multiple (read: high) levels of management.

Those sorts of things have nothing to do with “hard” job skills — things like the ability to program in Pearl, for instance.

Companies don’t put soft skills on the job description for the fun of it. They actually want you to have those sorts of skills because they believe it helps describe their underlying corporate culture. It also may simply be their belief as to what their culture is in the company; but that’s a different story.

Okay, these soft skills are shown on the job description. So what?

It’s a good question.

The more job skills you have matching the job description, the better your chance of getting an interview

We all need to think about this for a bit from the viewpoint of a person reading your resume.

No matter how good, most likely, the person reading your resume won’t know nor understand what you do nearly as well as, well, how well you know your job. They don’t assume that because you say X, it implies A, B, and C.

So they are looking for check marks: does your resume say you have the skill that matches up with the job description? If yes, you get a check mark. If no, you don’t. Whoever has the most checkmarks gets the interview.

Is this fair? Of course not. But people want to point to what I call ‘the outward and visible signs of the inward and spiritual grace’ that you have the job skills. And that means they are on the resume. Not implied. But there.

When soft skills are part of the job description, it means you get more check marks for having the job skills that are required.

And the person with the most checkmarks gets the interview. That is all the resume does — get you an interview.

There are worse things than getting the interview…

Showing how you used these soft skills matters

You can’t just flat-out say you’re a ‘good team player’ and leave it at that. Nor can you just list “85” soft job skills on the resume. It doesn’t work that way.

Resumes need to show you use the job skills you have. That means that in the body of the resume, showing you are a good team player means you have to incorporate an example of that in the resume. (See: outward and visible signs above). And, as an aside, you need to talk about that during an interview as well.

By doing so, you get more check marks from your resume to the job description and that leads to more interviews.

Adding soft skills to your resume matters

While many companies may be pushy and picky about demonstrating the ‘hard’ job skills, there are also a decent number of companies who will look at your job skills, find you a little short on exactly what is needed, but the soft skills will push them over the edge and give you the interview.

Why?

Because your soft skills look like they could match up well with the team and culture. That you learn well and what you don’t know in the ‘hard’ job skills could be taught. That, in some companies, getting the right fit for the culture means a better probability that you’ll stay, saving rework on the hire.

Leaving off your soft skills — especially if you have the ones mentioned in the job description — is a critical mistake too many people make when preparing their resume. You want every advantage going up against the (Hundreds? Thousands?) other resumes submitted for the job.

It’s a way to win the interview quest.

See more resume tips and my approach to building resumes. Check out my Resume Tips page.
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