Part 4: HOW TO WRITE A BULLETPROOF RESUME HIRING MANAGERS LOVE
Your resume has always been an important part of getting a job. But it’s undoubtedly increasing in influence in the wake of the modern hiring funnel and especially the use of ATS.
As we saw in the previous section, you need to make sure your application passes the inquisitive robot eyes. But your resume won’t just be analyzed by the ATS – a real hiring manager will also read it if you’ve succeeded in writing a good enough job application with our tips in mind.
So, how do you make the resume bulletproof and ensure the hiring manager will also love it? In this part of the guide, you’ll get to read the four steps it takes to write a bulletproof resume. You’ll also get tips on how to add an extra bit of magic to your resume and get that hiring manager to give you a call.
THE STEPS TO WRITING A WINNING RESUME
Let’s start by looking at the process that can help you write a bulletproof resume.
Step 1: Understand the job you’re applying for
Before you do anything else, do these three things: research, research and research. The most effective way to land that job interview is to actually understand what kind of role you are applying for and if you are the right candidate for the role.
Now, as mentioned in the previous segment, researching the job posting and the company matters because it allows you to use the right keywords to get past the ATS. This is essential but you also need to understand the job posting and its nuances to get past the hiring manager who’ll read it later.
Research and start thinking about your resume in terms of the following questions:
- What are the skills and qualifications the employer is looking for?
- What are the day-to-day activities of the role?
- What is the company’s vision and how does the role impact that?
- What kind of culture is the workplace cultivating?
- What are my specific strengths and weaknesses in terms of the role?
Now, you might not always drop your resume as a response to a specific job posting. Job portals allow you to add your resume to their database and used when appropriate job openings in your chosen industry and field open up.
It’s still important to understand the kind of roles you are looking for and the industry in which you want to operate. Therefore, you always want to research job profiles in your dream job, company website’s you’d like to work for, and past job postings in order to understand the language and the keywords used. This will help you better tailor your resume to meet the industry and job role demands.
During your research, write things down, as it’ll help you during the resume writing process. The keywords you pick up, the company culture, buzzwords in the industry and so on. Having a comprehensive list of the findings of your research in terms of words and concepts will help make the next step quicker.
Step 2: Start practicing the writing
Once you’ve done your research and you have the building blocks, it’s time to start writing. Don’t think you can just sit down and write your resume in one go. It usually takes a few times to get it just right – be patient and willing to scrap whatever you already have.
Start by creating a rough draft resume. In it, you want three compartments:
- The skills – Write down all the skills you have without thinking too much about it. You can list anything from your ability to manage client portfolios to reading fast.
- The qualifications – Include all of your education and any other certificates and qualifications you might have.
- The job titles – List all the jobs you’ve ever held in your life with a list of tasks you needed to perform.
The idea is really to write down everything. Don’t think at this point whether it’s worth mentioning something; just mention it all. You also don’t need to worry about the format here, as you’ll improve it when you start editing your list.
Once you’ve done that, you can start analyzing the list you have in front of you against the research you’ve conducted. What are the keywords that popped up and do you have them listed on your resume?
At this point, it’s helpful to see if certain qualifications or skills are not worth adding to the resume and simply removing them. However, remember that you can also combine different skills and achievements together. Certain skills also possess the power of transferable skills – be smart about using these.
In terms of combining skills, remember you don’t have to write everything under the skills section. For example, let’s take an example of your proficiency in different coding languages. Instead of writing it in the skills section and listing all the different languages, you can mention it under the job section in relation to the work you’ve done. For example, you can write something like this:
- “IT Support Person at XY – Developed customer service applications using C++ and Java.”
If the knowledge of C++ and Java is not emphasized in the job posting, you don’t need to specifically list them again in the skills section. It’s enough to mention a real life experience of you using them at work.
When re-writing the resume, do combining like this. Remember the tips for the ATS but keep in mind you want the language to look natural. Don’t turn it into a list of skills but use real language and short but coherent sentences.
At the heart of your resume writing should be a simple question: What is my USP or the unique selling point? You want your resume to have a unifying message. Something like:
- “I’m great for this role because I have 10 years of experience in customer service and I add value through my knowledge of different customer service applications”.
Now, you don’t need to write this to your resume, but you want this message to resonate from the resume. For example with the above sentence, your resume’s focus should clearly be on:
- Showing the 10 years of experience – listing the roles and achievements in these roles.
- Highlighting your skills in customer service applications – mentioning your use of them, the names of the applications, and how you’ve actually used them in your jobs.
Keep tweaking your resume with the above in mind and you’ll soon have a solid structure to build on.
Step 3: Quantify your achievements
Good resumes cut all the fluff and get straight to the point. As you are writing and re-writing your resume, you need to start making a distinction of sayings that don’t really mean anything and those that have an actual quantifiable impact. For example, consider these two examples:
- I worked as a sales manager helping the company grow.
- As a sales manager, I increased the monthly sales by 4%.
The first sentence doesn’t really mean anything – it doesn’t reveal anything other than that you worked as a sales manager. But this you could just list as the job title. On the other hand, the second highlights your quantifiable achievement as a sales manager. It turns your resume into a list of things you’ve done not just pretty words on paper.
There are three important ways you can quantify your resume:
Step 4: Make it pretty and clear
Your content should now be much clearer and concise. Therefore, it’s time to turn your attention to the template you are using – to make sure the resume looks professional and that it is easy to read through.
First, make sure you follow the tips from the previous post if your application is going to be posted through an ATS. You want to read the specific job posting tips on how to format the file. Here’s a recap of things you want to keep in mind:
- Word-format is generally OK; although some systems prefer you send them a PDF-file.
- Don’t choose a font smaller than 11 points and pick a traditional font like Aria or Tahoma.
- Don’t use special bullet points but if you use them, opt for the basic black bullet point.
- Always add your contact details at the top of the resume.
- Don’t use footers, as they are often not analyzed by the ATS.
- Don’t add images or graphics to your file, unless the hiring manager has requested these. If you know the resume goes directly to the hiring manager and not through an ATS, you can be more playful with graphs. However, know that an ATS might penalize you against these.
Go over each detail and ensure your resume is free from spelling errors or factual mistakes. It’s a good idea to have a friend, colleague or a recruiting manager look at your resume. They can provide you with good tips and are perhaps better able to notice mistakes in your resume.
TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR RESUME BULLETPROOF
Now you know the winning formula in terms of the writing process. But what are the magic additions to make to your resume to make it stand out? There are a few other details to keep in mind when bullet-proofing your resume.
Tell a story
Hiring managers will prefer reading resumes that read almost like a story rather than just a compilation of things. What this means is that you want your resume to be coherent and have that USP – a central message.
As mentioned above, you want to relate different achievements together and combine skills. You want your sentences to read like this:
- “During my 3-years at University of X, I obtained the Bachelor of Art qualification and developed my communication skills.”
Rather than to write it like this:
- “Bachelor of Arts from University X”
- “Skills: Good communication skills”
The other powerful thing the first example does is show progress. You moved from starting at the university, studying there for three years to gaining a degree and improving your skillset. You show the hiring manager how you are continuously progressing.
It shows you are improving in each role, obtaining a new skill from here and there. To the hiring manager, this is more exciting. It helps them read your journey of obtaining new skills – rather than just a cold list of skills in random order.
Focus on landing an interview, not a job
Keep in mind that your resume is not supposed to be a complete catalogue of your skills and achievements. You use your resume to get into a job interview, not to get a job – very few people are hired just based on the resume.
This essentially means you still have time to impress the hiring manager even after you’ve sent the resume. The objective of the resume is to make the hiring manager want to know more about you because he or she thinks you are the right fit. You want the person to get excited about knowing more – therefore, you don’t need to reveal all the details.
Don’t be afraid to show your networks
Name-dropping is not a bad practice when it comes to writing a bulletproof resume. If you’ve worked or been mentored by a big CEO or industry influencer, then mention it on your resume. You should also include any startups you’ve helped on their path to greatness – even if they didn’t officially hire you at any point.
Showing off your contacts is not bragging. It just shows you’ve been active in the industry and that you have an entrepreneurial mind set. Just remember that when you mention a name, you need to actually have a connection with that person – don’t claim you worked for Tim Cook if you never did.
Always include references
This is admittedly a rather obvious magic ingredient to mention but it’s crucial in terms of making your resume bulletproof. You need to include references to your resume. There is nothing worse to a hiring manager than the sentence “References available upon request.”
This just adds an extra step for the hiring manager to take – they must contact you, then you give the references and they contact them. Instead, you can just include them and the hiring manager can automatically contact the person. By omitting this information from your resume, you might end up getting a certain rejection.
As a side tip, remember to notify your references about your application to the specific post and always ask for permission before you include them into your resume!
Use action words
The most important thing is to match the words you use in the resume to those used by the employer in the job posting. It is all about keywords!
However, you also want to make sure that the words you use are as action-packed as possible. What does that mean? It emphasizes action – an actual accomplishment instead of just a passive description of what happened.
Below is a chart of some of the best action verbs in various skill categories:
Be upfront about social media
Remember how nearly 60% of employers use social media to research candidates? The question is not whether the hiring manager will look you up on social media but when. When the social media scouting is going to be this obvious, you might as well get ahead and be upfront about it in your resume.
It can actually work in your favor to include your professional Twitter handle, LinkedIn reference and even Facebook account (if it’s public and professional) on your resume. It tells the hiring manager you’re professional about your social media use and you know how to use it to your advantage.
You do have to remember a few important pointers, however. Here are the social media rules you must keep in mind:
THE SECRET OF WRITING A BULLETPROOF RESUME
What makes a good resume?
Your resume needs to be a crisp and clear introduction to your talent and you as a person, of course. But the most important thing you need to do is show understanding of the role you are applying for. It shows the hiring manager you value the job opening and that you are actually passionate about getting it.
You don’t want to sell yourself in the resume – you don’t want to fake and polish your image. But you need to truthfully show to the hiring manager why you are the best person for the role. It’s not about you, but what you can bring to the company and the specific role. With the help of the above tips, you should be able to do just that.
Also read other parts of the Job Application Guide
HOW TO DOUBLE YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING THAT JOB INTERVIEWRead Part 1
THE 3 LITTLE-KNOWN HIRING CRITERIA THAT MIGHT COST YOU THE JOB INTERVIEW OR OFFERRead Part 2
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN SENDING YOUR JOB APPLICATION TO AN APPLICANT TRACKING SYSTEM (ATS)Read Part 3
ELEMENTS OF A WINNING COVER LETTERRead Part 5
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