What’s Holding You Back From Writing a Better Resume?

I have met thousands of people who perform miracles at work every day. They pour their heart and soul into their work and offer their employers their knowledge and skills to help make those companies a success. But you would never know it if you looked at the resumes most people write for themselves. People can usually articulate what they do, but they generally don’t convey why what they do is important or who derives value from their actions. They neglect to tie their job tasks to impact. They fail to create a compelling argument for why a hiring manager should give them a chance. The reasons for this vary from person to person but here are the most common excuses I hear from job seekers. Do any of these sound like you?

1. I just did my job; I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. Companies hire people to create positive outcomes for the company. If no positive outcome is achieved, the person will not last long. Think about what makes you good at what you do and what would happen if you didn’t do your job properly. What problems would arise and what opportunities would be lost? Think about the value you bring to the position and the qualities you bring to the job that make you good at what you do.


2. Writing about what I achieved would be bragging and I don’t want people to think I have a swelled head.A resume is not a list of the things you do or the skills you have. It is a marketing tool and the goal is to entice the reader with enough information to peak their curiosity and get them to ask for more. As long as the information you are presenting is truthful, it’s not bragging. Hiring managers may be looking at hundreds of resumes for the same position. They may spend only a few seconds looking at your resume. They are not really reading it, but merely scanning it for relevance, fit, and impact. Your resume needs to communicate these things quickly and with very little effort on the hiring manager’s part.

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3. I was in a support role and didn’t have any impact on the bottom line. Think past the tasks associated with the role and reflect on the impact your job had on those around you and the business as a whole. For example, IT professionals build efficiencies within systems to improve the service to the end user. This allows the end user to do their jobs more accurately and faster. Administrative Assistants act as gatekeepers for their bosses and help prioritize their workload so the boss can concentrate on the most mission-critical efforts. The assistant develops systems and processes that help their boss save time.


4. I’m not sure what impact I had. I never got to see the sales information. You don’t need to have exact figures in order to show impact. It is appropriate to estimate dollars, numbers, and percentages on a resume as long as you can back up those estimates with sound reasoning during the interview. For example, if you streamlined a process that in turn allowed you to create an additional sales cycle or introduce a new product, you should be able to estimate what the increase in new revenue or volume would be. If you automated a process that previously took at least two hours on average to complete and now it is completed with the click of a button, you can certainly show the impact of your actions.


5. I achieved things as part of a team. I can’t take credit for the entire project. Agreed. You should never embellish your accomplishments or take full credit where it is not due. However, you can say that as part of a team, as co-producer, co-author, etc. that you accomplished something and write about the overall impact of the project you were part of.


6. I plan to explain the impact of what I do during the interview. Good luck getting to the interview. Without proof of your accomplishments in the resume, it is unlikely that you will get to plead your case in the interview. Use the resume as the teaser for what’s to come in the interview. Give them enough information about your actions and results to leave them wanting more. Don’t leave them in the dark and assume they will ask for more if they want it because they probably won’t.


7. I don’t want to write too much on my resume about what I did because doing so will make my resume too long. You can create impact without being verbose. Concentrate on delivering a key metric and a succinct glimpse or the accomplishment and you will be able to keep the resume to a reasonable length.


8. I just graduated from college and I haven’t done any meaningful work yet. Perhaps you haven’t done much paid work yet, but you’ve certainly done work that will help you prepare for the next steps in your career. Focus on the accomplishments within your coursework, internships, volunteer positions, and leadership roles on campus.


9. I know I had an impact , but I have no idea how to quantify it. Take a look at previous years’ performance reviews for indicators or your impact or talk to colleagues about projects you worked on. Impact isn’t just about the numbers. Perhaps you introduced some “first-ever” initiatives or reversed an “at-risk” relationship with a client. Discuss the successes within these accomplishments and use phrases such as “significantly improved’ or “substantially reduced’ to prove impact.


10. I was not in my job long enough to show impact or the last company I was with failed and there is little opportunity for me to show stories of success.You may still be able to discuss projected results or impact for a company where your tenure was short. If the company was struggling, write about what you did contribute. Perhaps you set up the company’s first infrastructure or built the company’s sales pipeline from the ground up. Separate your successes from the failures of the company, and if possible, back those successes up with a quote from a supervisor, client, or vendor.


Break free of these resume writing excuses and instead opt for creating a resume that focuses on your strong stories of success and measurable achievements.




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