After interviewing tips, what is the second most anxiety-inducing professional skill? Resume writing.
Though I have my opinions whether a piece of paper is the best representation of the skills an individual can bring to the table, the reality is that almost every job application starts with one. And if yours doesn’t dazzle, then you won’t move forward to an interview—or perhaps even have your resume read at all.
Having written dozens of resumes myself, I can attest that it isn’t easy (or fun), but it’s an imperative skill for your professional success.
Below, I outline my top tips for writing a kick ass resume that will get you noticed—and I include some snippets from my resumes throughout the years as examples.
My only caveat is that every company, brand, and recruiter is different—so take these suggestions and tweak them to what works for you.
It’s all about your audience
Every storyteller knows that if your audience isn’t invested in the story, they won’t keep reading. Chances are, you will have 30 seconds to grab the attention of your audience (in this case, a recruiter or hiring manager) before your resume is either put aside or given further consideration.
When you write your resume, you must shift your lens to that of your audience. It’s kind of about you, but it’s actually ABOUT THEM. Recruiters have to read hundreds of resumes that all look the same and their goal is to find the right person for the role.
So why are so many resumes crammed with words that require so much work? Does your audience care what college you went to ten years after the fact? Is it important to your audience the actual chronological order you completed your career?
Your goal is to make it as EASY as possible for the recruiter to recognize your skills are a PERFECT fit for the job. So, we are going to do everything in our power to minimize distractions in your resume, clarify your accomplishments, and create interest so that they want to learn more about you.
You may need to start with a clean slate, but I suggest you approach your resume through this lens while reading the tips below and entice your audience so they continue to learn more of your story.
1. Put your best foot forward—highlight your relevant experience FIRST
This is my number one tip to set your resume apart from the rest.
Instead of starting your resume with your “professional goals” (which tends to focus less on your audience and more about what you hope to achieve), start your resume with your “relevant experience.” Under this heading, curate 3-4 bullet points of your best work from the arc of your career that are directly applicable to the job for which you are applying.
If someone is going to spend 30 seconds deciding your professional fate, make sure they are seeing your best, instead of burying the lede somewhere in the body of your heavily-worded resume.
If you can convince them that you have the experience necessary for the role in those 30 seconds, they may continue reading the rest of your resume, or just skip ahead and give you an interview!
For an itinerary planning job in the affluent market:
With The Air Travel Group, I negotiated contracts and managed accounts for tour operators, securing quotes on contracts and managing their terms from start to finish.
As an Experience Development Manager, I worked with partners to design unique itineraries for an affluent Guest market in addition to executing the logistics of their entire vacation.
As an avid traveler, I have extensive travel and itinerary planning experience, including living and working abroad with Disney English in Shanghai, China
2. Tailor your resume for EVERY JOB
Create multiple base resumes that can be tweaked to correspond to a job at a moment’s notice.
In my “resumes” folder, I have a marketing resume, a copywriting resume, a leadership development resume, a communications specialist resume, etc. Each one serves as a base that I tailor for each job I apply for based on the job description.
While reading over a job description, take note of key words, phrases, or skills that are highlighted and make sure to emphasize that in your resume. I’ve even gone so far as to bold key phrases in order to draw the recruiter’s attention to my skills that appropriately match the job description.
3. Accomplishments over tasks
Many resumes read like a job description.
Performed opening procedures in accordance with safety protocol
Utilized excel spreadsheets to maintain an annual operating budget
Leveraged people skills to inspire employees
If anyone else with the same job function applies to the same job, both resumes will read exactly the same. This will not allow you to shine because these are task-based resumes instead of accomplishment-based.
Unless a job is so unique it requires explanation (and I’ll provide an example below for such a situation), focus on what YOU brought to the job and how this translates to VALUE ADDED for your potential employer.
The more specific the example, the better. Quantitative examples are always better than qualitative. While you may believe you have great people skills, it’s a subjective assessment and can’t be proven on a resume. Instead, focus on measurable outcomes and save wowing them with your charm for the interview.
For a project manager position specifically related to corporate training:
I partnered with the Disney University training and delivery team to create a presentation designed to inspire and motivate employees. We engaged with General Managers and Executives across property to implement and roll out the program to Cast. The communications and marketing strategy spanned multiple platforms and I personally delivered the presentation to over 2,000 Cast Members over six months.
For a position outside of TWDC (who may not know the role of Disney Ambassador):
Walt Disney World Ambassador/Public Affairs
With over 75,000 employees, Walt Disney World is the largest single site employer in the United States. Walt Disney and his marketing executive created the ambassador program over 50 years ago, and I was the 73rd WDW employee selected to serve as an official company representative and spokesperson. Ambassadors serve two-year terms.
As an official spokesperson for the Walt Disney Company, I wrote for many of the company’s internal and external platforms. These included articles for the internal Eyes & Ears magazine, scripted videos, Twitter and Facebook posts, email updates to mailing lists, posts on our official Ambassador website, Disney history presentations, and more.
I worked with the Public Relations and Marketing teams to deliver over 200 interviews on behalf of the company including radio, television, print, and online media in addition to national segments on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Wheel of Fortune, and Good Morning America.
4. Don’t be a robot
For some reason, many resumes read like an overwrought dissertation. But if you were a recruiter, would you enjoy reading a hundred resumes like the task-based examples above?
It’s ok to speak like a human—and preferably like a human who is really excited about the job! Keep it succinct and simple, but feel free to infuse your passion into what you’re writing and don’t be afraid to use the pronoun “I.” You are a person and you need to come alive on the paper.
If you find yourself having to explain, “what I’m trying to say is…” then start over and write what you’re trying to say. You don’t need to try to sound fancy.
Listed under “other relevant experience” for an itinerary planning position:
Living abroad in Shanghai, China offered me the chance to become immersed in a foreign culture and expand my communication skills. It also pushed me to find new ways to research tour destinations and plan itineraries.
Listed under my bio on LinkedIn:
For seven years, the Walt Disney Company's unique work culture offered me opportunities to train and grow in multiple fields including Consumer Insights, Operations Management, Training and Development, Public Affairs, and Corporate Citizenship. I believe we should be constant students, sharpening our skills. Through my personal travel blog, I have learned about SEO, Google analytics, and social media marketing while simultaneously doing something I am passionate about--writing and photography. Because I am always looking for new challenges, I also run a direct sales business and an investment property LLC to sharpen my business and financial skills.
5. Get it in someone’s hands
The best way to increase the chances of your resume being seen is to get it in someone’s hands.
Do you know someone who knows someone? Can you reach out with a professional email to someone via LinkedIn to let them know you applied for a job within their department and would appreciate a contact?
We are heading into an employer’s market and competition for jobs will be fierce. Blindly sending resumes to job postings will be tough—no matter how great your resume may be. If you can find any kind of “in” or even just assure that your resume is seen, that is half the battle.
But you better be sure if you get your resume into someone’s hands that it is damn good.
The last few bits of advice aren’t groundbreaking, but they are worth mentioning
Don’t be afraid to list any portfolios or personal websites you may have. I always add a link to my LinkedIn account (which I keep up to date with content I’ve created during my free time) and my website. This will allow your audience a chance to get to know you even more as a person, if you have successfully piqued their interest with your resume.
After “relevant experience,” feel free to list your jobs in chronological order, but I still keep them relevant. Any previous job not related to the application, I’ll list at the bottom under “other experience,” right before “education” which goes at the very bottom.
Do NOT go more than two pages. And even then, only if you have very solid, very relevant experience that must be mentioned. If you are applying for an entry level job, there is definitely no reason to go more than one page. Remember, no one is going to read your entire resume, so don’t make them search for answers.
Include your contact information, including a PROFESSIONAL email address
CHECK YOUR SPELLING AND GRAMMAR (ironically, I spelled grammar wrong on my first draft of this article and my husband caught it--whew!)
If you’re daring: I have seen more resume templates that play with design and spacing. Word has some templates and you can even find some on Canva.com. These may be best suited for creative roles—marketing, design, etc. But I think they are much more pleasing to the eye and easy to digest, so if you are daring, or applying for a job with a progressive company, it might be worth the risk to stand out!
Resume writing isn’t easy—especially when writing isn’t everyone’s forte to begin with! Take these tips and start by applying the principles to your resume. Once you’ve polished it up a bit and achieved this format, ask a professional you trust for feedback. This will provide them with a greater foundation to provide detailed feedback and make your resume really shine.