You’ve finally found it: The job listing that appears on your computer screen with a glowing beam of light and a rousing rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus” playing on repeat.
Alright, maybe that’s a little bit dramatic. But, the point remains the same: You’ve found an open opportunity that sounds like it could be the perfect fit for you. There’s nothing you want more than to land this job, and you know you have the qualifications to make it happen.
But, every time you return to your resume to make those oh-so-necessary tweaks, you’re confronted with the same glaring issue: All of your experience sounds so boring.
You assisted clients. You made cold calls. You analyzed data. Blah, blah, blah. Yes, it’s all important information. However, when your main goal is to stand out from the competition and grab that hiring manager’s attention, you wish there was a way to make it all sound a little less snore-worthy.
The good news? There is! As with anything, it’s not so much about what you say—it’s about how you say it.
A Quick Word of Caution
First things first, be forewarned that there’s a big difference between making your experience sound better and blatantly lying.
While there are some clever tactics you can implement to spice up the way your qualifications are presented, the content itself should always be truthful. Your mom was right—honesty really is always the best policy.
1. Focus on Achievements
One of the biggest faux pas I see is that the summaries of past positions read like straight up job descriptions. They detail the daily duties that person completed (think answering phones or planning marketing initiatives), rather than the things that person accomplished while in that role.
Remember, hiring managers don’t only want to see what you’ve done—they also want to see how good you are at it. So, make sure to set your sights on your achievements, rather than just your daily tasks. And, as always, quantifying your bullet points is highly recommended!
Cold called prospective clients to increase sales of Dunder Mifflin paper.
Increased sales of Dunder Mifflin paper products by 23% in the first quarter through effective relationship building and cold calling.
2. Include Examples
Admittedly, this tip will work better for some people than others. However, anytime you can show rather than tell, that’s a great opportunity to separate yourself from the pack and make a powerful impression.
This doesn’t need to be anything complicated—no, you don’t need to mail a USB full of presentations or a leather-bound portfolio after you’ve submitted your application.
But, if there are natural places where you could include a real example (whether it’s a website or the specific name of a project you worked on that the hiring manager could Google) directly on your document, that’s a surefire way to add some flair and added context.
Created, planned, and executed various community events.
Spearheaded the creation of St. Louis’ first ever “Restaurant Week” promotion.
3. Remove Cliché Words
Managed, led, communicated, assisted.
They’re all words that appear at the front of nearly every single bullet point on nearly every single resume that has ever been written. In fact, these verbs are so oft-repeated that most people’s eyes just skip right over them.
As you might guess, using the same language as every other resume that’s in that ever-growing pile isn’t a great way to stand out and make your mundane experience sound a little zippier.
This is why it’s smart to go through your document with a fine-tooth comb, identify those cliché words you’ve used numerous times, and find a more creative way to replace them. Need some help? This list of 185 powerful verbs will be your lifesaver.
Managed a team of 10 customer service associates.
Directed a team of 10 customer service associates to provide outstanding service to clients and increase repeat business by 48%.
4. Include Testimonials
Alright, the idea of including testimonials might seem a little strange. However, rest assured that this doesn’t need to mean listing an entire page of glowing recommendations from past supervisors. In fact, there’s a relatively easy way to incorporate positive reviews from past employers without being over-the-top about it.
The secret to doing it? Think back on any compliments or recognition you received from a boss—whether it was done in passing or in a formal performance review. Then, include that as a bullet point.
“Most people don’t know you can use the praise and positive feedback they’ve gotten from their superiors on your resume. But you definitely can,” says Muse writer, Aja Frost, in her article on how to best describe entry-level positions.
Add this to your resume:
Recognized by manager for ability to take complex technical topics and distill them to a broader audience in a manner that’s easier to comprehend.
You know there’s a lot of competition in your job search. And, feeling like your experience is so dry and dull that only a Ben Stein voiceover could do it justice is definitely discouraging.
However, you don’t need to resign yourself to having a resume so boring it makes the hiring manager’s eyes instantly glaze over. Instead, roll up your sleeves, get to work, and use these tips to transform your past positions from humdrum and tiresome to engaging and attention-grabbing.
TopicsJob Search , Syndication , Resumes & Cover Letters , Resumes , Candidate Experience: Application Under Review
Photo of person working on resume courtesy of David Lees/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author