Resume Writing Tip #4 – The “So What” Rule

Hiring managers want to understand the positive impact people had in their various positions as much or more than the actual roles & responsibilities they had.  I find that, way too often, people spend too much space listing all of the various aspects of their job responsibilities (what they did) without stating what they actually accomplished for the benefit of the company they were working for.

I recommend following the “so what?” litmus test.  After reading each section of your resume, assume the readers are saying “so what?” to themselves.   Make sure you are answering this question for each job.  Give some real quantifiable results that you produced.  Increasing revenue, increasing market share, reducing cycle times, reducing costs, etc. – and by how much?  Anything that can be quantified to show that you actually made a difference rather than just performed your job function.  Look at the following two examples and decide which is more compelling to someone that doesn’t know you.

  • “Managed the central Texas sales region made up of six account reps and three sales engineers”
  • “Grew revenue 35% year-over-year within the central Texas sales region and achieved in excess of 125% of quota three years in a row”

If you are a member of the senior management team, it is OK to describe growth-related achievements of the company itself (revenue growth, etc), even if you were not the VP of Sales.  You were a member of the management team that led the company to these results.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #3 – Skills Summary Section

For someone fresh out of college or someone that only has a couple of jobs under their belt, this would not be appropriate.  But if you have taken a path that has enabled you to develop a diverse set of skills, you might want to put this smack dab at the beginning of your resume.  Similarly, if you are competing for a General Manager or executive-level position, you probably need to show diversity.

When developing a Skills Summary section, be careful about the order you put the skills in and even the ones you choose to list at all. They should match the type of job you want.  It’s fine that five years ago you had a job as an HTML programmer and LAN administrator.  But if you are going for a marketing management job, you won’t want to overload the Skills Summary section with a bunch of high-tech skills.  Since this section is almost always situated at the very beginning of your resume and will be the first thing the reader looks at, some people will decide to read further strictly based on this section.

Finally, don’t mention specific employers or job titles in your Skills Summary section.  Skills are areas of talent like business development, sales, M&A or financial.  The layout for this section could look something like this:

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See the rest of my 10-part series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related 5-part series for Job Hunting and a 7-part series for Interviewing.

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Resume Writing Tip #2 – The “Objective” Statement

This is purely my personal opinion, but I think they are a complete waste of space.  I liken them to the “What would you like to change in the world?” question in a beauty pageant.  There are only two possible answers: “Achieve world peace” or “Solve world hunger”.  It’s the same with an Objective statement.  Having read thousands of resumes over the years as a hiring manager, I always completely ignore it.  It’s common to try and fit your resume onto two pages (or three if you have 12+ years of experience).  So the space taken by an Objective Statement just isn’t worth it.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #1 – Formatting

I put a lot of effort into formatting of resumes.  After you get your basic content correct, I recommend putting a lot of attention into the formatting.  Look at spacing, font size, readability, margins, indention, etc.   Especially make clever use of line spacing, bullets and bolding.  I recommend avoiding underlining and italics if possible.

Basically, section titles (ie – Professional Background, Education, etc), company names and job titles are the first thing you want someone to see upon initial glance.  So these should be bigger and bolder than the rest of the text.  At the other extreme, the actual years of service at a particular company (ie – “1999 – 2003”) is one of the least important pieces of information, so it should carry the smallest font size within the document.

One other trick is to hold your resume at arm’s length to see if the important section titles and information are readable and easily discernable from the rest of the resume.  Also see my related post explaining a “quick-glance” test related to identifying formatting problems.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.