Responsible for handling 50+ client calls per day.
Exceeded sales goal by 7%.
Trained 5 junior team members on compliance procedures.
In an effort to be as truthful as possible, has your resume ended up being kind of, you know, boring?
While it’s obviously incredibly important to be honest in your resume, that doesn’t mean you can’t spice it up and highlight certain skills over others. In fact, there are plenty of ways to slant an experience to your advantage or more creatively describe your responsibilities to a particular hiring manager.
For example, you’ll often find job postings that stress soft skills like teamwork or communication. You can add these traits to otherwise stale bullets, which can help you seem not only more qualified, but also more interesting.
To illustrate this, here’s a little exercise. Let’s say your original resume bullet is this:
Developed framework for globalization initiative to improve the sharing of institutional knowledge.
Here are five different ways to describe the same project, each emphasizing something different: impact, teamwork, communication, independence, and motivation.
1. If You Want to Show: Impact
Whether a job posting lists this as something it’s seeking or not, it’s always a good idea to stress the impact you were able to make in a particular area of your work. Hiring managers, after all, always want to hire people who have a track record of making things happen.
To do this, try stating the results of your work explicitly, using numbers if possible. In this case, we’ll point to just how much you improved the sharing of institutional knowledge:
Developed a framework for company-wide globalization initiative to improve the sharing of institutional knowledge, improving efficiency of weekly communication and eliminating 50% of all-staff meetings.
2. If You Want to Show: Teamwork
This is another skill that almost every hiring manager wants, but you’ll see it emphasized in some job postings—if, say, you’ll be working on a small or close-knit team—to a larger extent.
To show your affinity for teamwork, try including the number of team members you worked with on a particular project. This is also helpful for projects on which you assisted but feel uncomfortable taking full credit for in your resume.
Collaborated on a team of 4 to investigate existing business communication practices in order to develop a framework for knowledge dissemination to support the company’s new globalization initiative.
3. If You Want to Show: Effective Communication
Almost all work-related responsibilities or projects include some component of communication and, likewise, almost all job postings seek strong communicators.
The key here is to make a point of highlighting this often-overlooked part of your day-to-day activities. To do so, use verbs like “presented,” “liaised,” “wrote,” “drafted,” and “communicated.”
Liaised with senior leadership and sought feedback and input during the development of a framework that improves efficiency of company-wide communication, ultimately cutting unnecessary all-staff meetings by 50%.
4. If You Want to Show: An Ability to Work Independently
Many job postings will seek this, but even if a job posting doesn’t explicitly call for the ability to work independently, it’s a good idea for you to have some bullets focusing in on what you did specifically to contribute to a larger project. It can look suspicious if you keep referencing participation in a group, and not your own work.
Managed implementation and deployment of company-wide wiki as part of an effort to improve communication across departments, leading to a sharp reduction of unnecessary all-staff meetings.
5. If You Want to Show: Motivation
Motivation may seem like a soft skill, but for many positions in sales or at startups, it’s a nonnegotiable. And you better believe recruiters are combing through resumes trying to glean some information about how motivated a candidate might be on the job.
To get this trait across, take the initiative to show initiative.
Initiated the development of a framework to improve the efficiency of company-wide communication after a group analysis of current business communication practices suggested areas of possible improvement.
A resume can be a really dynamic document if you put in the effort and try not to get boxed in too much by thinking about your jobs as just what your responsibilities included. Whenever you’re ready to apply for a job, first look at the job description and highlight the points and skills that seem important. Then, look at your resume with fresh eyes, and consider how you can better incorporate the skills you’ve pulled out from the job description.
That, my friends, is what career counselors mean when they tell you to tailor your resume.
Photo of person writing courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author