Tech

I reviewed 800 résumés in 65 hours to help job searchers during the pandemic. Here are 6 tips on how to build one that stands out, along with actual examples.

  • Eugene Hayden has worked at companies like Google, KPMG, and Boston Consulting Group.
  • He organized a marathon where he reviewed résumés to help people in his network impacted by COVID-19.
  • Hayden recommends quantifying your achievements, describe impact not processes, and only including the most relevant experiences.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Last summer I organized a résumé marathon where I reviewed 587 résumés in 49 hours to help people in my network who were negatively impacted by the pandemic. The idea came to my mind when I asked myself what I could do as an individual to support my followers on LinkedIn and TikTok.

I’ve personally created more than 480 versions of my own résumé for tech and management consulting companies. I learned many lessons and was able to secure offers from Google, KPMG, and Boston Consulting Group.

For this second marathon, I reviewed 800 résumés and it took me two weeks (65 hours) to finish going through every single one.

This time around, my comments were focused on four major elements:

  • Quantifiable impact (strong action verbs, achievements, numbers, and metrics)
  • Format (bullet points structure, résumé template layout)
  • Style (section titles, buzzwords or clichés, grammar, punctuation)
  • Skills (evidence of hard and soft skills)

Common mistakes that I found in 800 résumés:

  1. Lack of quantifiable achievements (86% of résumés had this issue)
  2. Repetition of action verbs (72%)
  3. Weak action verbs (56%)
  4. Responsibilities are not accomplishments (32%)
  5. résumé length was too short/long (17%)
  6. Unable to parse data (2.5% will never be seen by recruiters because ATS can’t parse data)

Here are six easy rules and recommendations on making your résumé stand out:

1. Quantify each bullet point (if you can)

Why are quantifiable achievements and impact so important in your résumé? It’s not about exact numbers, percentages, or values, it’s all about the way you think. Hiring managers and recruiters are looking for people who perfectly fit the role, able to achieve goals and evaluate their personal impact. The best résumé is the one that shows how you are perfectly qualified for the job to which you are applying.

DON’T describe your achievements without providing numbers, percentages, or values

Bad example: “Worked for Projects, Companies, News domains of Thomson Reuters Middle East leading news and intelligence provider Zawya”

DO: Quantify your achievements

Better example: Worked with the GM to develop new customer acquisition strategies, growing sales by 10% and maximizing profitability by 11%”

Why is this important? In the first example, a candidate describes routine processes. In the second example, he/she tells a better story about what was the personal impact and how it was measured. This information helps a recruiter evaluate it. The person with the second type of mindset will likely take the initiative, solve problems, and present findings to senior management. To increase your chances, please use quantifiable achievements in your résumé.

2. Be creative and use synonyms

Why is this important? It demonstrates your ability to look at your experience from different perspectives. Instead of saying “developed” four to five times, consider using “created”, “designed”, “innovated”, “advanced”, “automated” etc.

DON’T duplicate action verbs

Bad example: 

  • “Did customer research…”
  • “Did day-to-day admin and banking tasks”

DO: Use strong action verbs and make it straight to the point

Better example: 

  • “Chaired 30+ customer research calls, resulting in 100+ users participated in the study”
  • “Troubleshoot 50+ bugs on daily basis to improve client satisfaction by 10%” All these metrics you can directly measure or estimate

Why is this important? In the first example, a candidate is not able to find proper synonyms and describe his/her experience, these bullet points also lack quantifiable achievements. In the second example, a candidate demonstrates his/her achievement and leadership skills. Based on this information, a recruiter will likely recommend the second candidate to a hiring manager.

3. Start bullet points using strong action verbs

Why is this important? Weak action verbs, such as “analyzed”, “monitored”, “supported”, etc. are about processes, not results or achievement. Strong action verbs, such as “Improved”, “Led”, “Managed”, “Spearheaded” etc. demonstrate actions, impact, or achievements of a candidate.

DON’T use weak verbs that describe processes

Bad example: “Collaborated with organizers to establish marketing strategy”

DO: Use verbs that describe actions, impact, or achievements

Better example: “Launched the Furman First Gift Program, which raised $20k towards scholarships for future Furman students in need; Strategically assessed state of donations and spearheaded the office of development to overachieve a target quota by 7%.”

Why is this important? In the first example, a candidate demonstrates a process-oriented way of thinking. In the second example, a candidate shows a results-oriented way of thinking. Considering a candidate, whose role is to support a manager and achieve targets, it’s obvious that the second candidate has better chances to succeed.

4. Your résumé is a story about the results, not responsibilities. Put the most exciting bullet points on top.

Why is this important? Recruiters have 20-30 seconds to review each résumé, your chances will be higher if you start with the most significant achievements.

DON’T describe your responsibilities

Bad example: “Key responsibilities: Accurately and quickly processing data from the sales team to Smartplay’s internal management software”

DO: Demonstrate your personal impact and start with the most important achievements

Better example: “Investigated 200+ potentially illegal transactions and presented 3 process improvements to senior management, resulting in a 14% accuracy improvement in fraudulent transaction flagging”

Why is this important? In the first example, recruiters are not interested in processes, so there is a high probability that the résumé will not attract their attention. In the second example, a candidate demonstrates an achievement, initiative and actions: investigation, presentation, improvements. Companies prefer hiring great candidates with a leadership mindset, therefore the second candidate has better chances.

5. Cut back everything that’s irrelevant to getting the job

Why is this important? If you can’t focus on what is important in your résumé, you can’t focus on important things at work. If your résumé is 1000+ words long, it will demonstrate that a candidate is not able to highlight the most important parts of his/her career (exceptions are candidates with 10+ years of experience). A recommended size of a résumé is 450-650 words (for candidates who has less than 10 years of experience)

DON’T use long paragraphs of text, this is not an essay

Bad example:

Eugene Hayden

It’s not necessary to include everything on your résumé.

Eugene Hayden


DO: Use two or three bullet points per each position (one to three lines each)

Better example:

Eugene Hayden

Highlight the most important achievements.

Eugene Hayden


Why is this important? In the first example, it’s not easy to scan and understand key achievements of a candidate. In the second example, it’s clear what exactly a candidate did. If you make it straight to the point, recruiters and hiring managers will appreciate it.

6. Use correct section titles and formats

Why is this important? I found 20 résumés (2.5% of 800) that weren’t recognized by the ATS. It happened because many of these résumés used multiple tables, images, and incorrect section titles.

DON’T use tables, charts, icons, or images of any kind

Bad example: using a section title “Work Experience >6.5 years” or “Professional Exposure”

DO: use standard titles, e.g. “Experience”, “Professional experience”, “Leadership experience”, “Projects” etc.

Better example:

Eugene Hayden

Pay attention to formatting.

Eugene Hayden


Why is this important? In the first example, the information from a résumé wasn’t parsed to the system, therefore it wasn’t seen by a recruiter. In the second example, the information was parsed and a candidate provided three dimensions of his/her experience: product, engineering, and leadership experience. It’s likely that recruiters and hiring managers will invite the second candidate to participate in the interviews.

Good luck on building your perfect résumé!

Eugene Hayden previously worked as an industry manager at Google, senior consultant at KPMG, and researcher at Boston Consulting Group. 

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