Whether you’re five months into your career or 15 years deep, everyone struggles with how to put their best foot forward on a resume. Resume writing best practices aren’t always black and white, so it can be difficult to identify what will work best for you.
To provide some clarity, let’s look at three common challenges people face with resume writing. While solutions can differ based on each person’s unique background and career goals, these scenarios offer direction to help you take a strategic approach for your situation.
Resume Writing Challenge #1
Demonstrating results without numbers
Craig is the Senior Vice President of Business Development at a privately held medical device company. He is beginning to explore new opportunities because he believes he has reached his fullest potential at this company. Craig has brought in a substantial amount of new business resulting in millions of dollars of revenue. However, he is unable to disclose specific dollar amounts on his resume because of his confidentiality agreement. Craig wonders if the value he can bring to a potential employer will come across if he can’t cite these figures.
To overcome the challenge of showing accomplishments without including figures, many people opt for percentages, as they can seem impressive. However, a percentage alone doesn’t provide the full picture. For example, if Craig wrote “increased sales by 20%,” it doesn’t tell a potential employer what the existing sales base was, so the growth may not have been that impactful.
Craig should look for other ways to describe his impact on the business. He could include the strategies he developed to drive the sales increase, how he led the firm’s global expansion into new regions and the timeframe in which that growth occurred (if it happened in a relatively short time period). Other things to mention are how he broadened reach into new sectors, expanded existing customer accounts and built a global team.
If numbers are the strongest way to demonstrate your impact on an organization, but you cannot include them, then the best alternative is to show the specific strategies you’ve used and actions you’ve taken to drive company growth.
Resume Writing Challenge #2
Linking to social media accounts
Sharon, a freelance Digital Media Producer, has been consulting for 10 years and is now seeking full-time employment as Director of Interactive Marketing with a digital media company. Since a strong online presence will reinforce her expertise, Sharon worked tirelessly to edit her social media handles, update her LinkedIn profile, streamline her portfolio and carefully review her blog posts for errors and relevance. Now, Sharon isn’t sure if she should include external links on her resume.
While there is merit to adding external links to your resume, whether or not you should depends on the situation. If you are applying to a job that requires social media expertise, it can be beneficial to add your handles, portfolio and LinkedIn profile if they will make you a more competitive candidate. However, if your accounts are not up to par, online content could hinder your chances at a job opportunity. If you decide to include external links, triple check them to ensure that they are error-free, present you in the best light and align with your personal brand.
Resume Writing Challenge #3
Including technical skills
Adam is the IT Director at a men’s apparel company, where he has spent the majority of his 20-year career. He is updating his resume so he can apply for the Vice President of Technology role at several other organizations. As he moved up in his current company, Adam became less hands-on with applications and systems development and more focused on management of enterprise-level projects and implementations. He wants to show prospective employers that he has the technology know-how, but isn’t sure if technical skills should be included on his resume because he’s no longer current on their day-to-day use.
Including a skills section on your resume can be beneficial, but it depends on the job you are targeting. If there is a certain level of expertise in particular applications, networks, hardware or other technology that are necessary to the job, including those skills on your resume could be key to your progressing through the hiring process. However, if your desired role is at a senior level – where only basic knowledge is required because the focus is more strategic – you don’t need to provide a laundry list of every technical skill you’ve gained throughout your career. Instead, highlight your proficiency through descriptive bullets in the experience section.
Craig, Sharon and Adam each face a critical choice on what to include on their resumes. You may have to make a similar decision, where the direction you choose will depend on your current situation, as well as the role you are targeting.
As you update your resume in preparation for a job search, it’s important to make sure that your experience, key contributions, results and expertise are communicated in the strongest possible way. Optimal resume writing practices are not always black and white, so taking a more strategic approach can help you work through the gray areas and better position yourself for job search success.