You know you’re a leader, but does your resume show it? It should. Before you have that initial meeting with a potential employer, your resume creates that all important first impression. You want to brand yourself as a great leader, loud and clear, to increase your chances of landing your perfect position!
We spoke with Donna Svei, an award-winning executive resume writer and job search advice blogger at avidcareerist, on how to achieve a “top of the stack” resume. Her previous work has given her the experience and knowledge to know what makes recruiters and hiring managers want to meet you.
Boring marketing speak or tired catch-phrases can make your resume fade to unmemorable – the professional kiss of death. You need to stand out with some action verbs and finessed storytelling that show your leadership and innovative thinking. The following list is divided into “what” and “how” verbs. “What” verbs show “what” the change, progress and results are that you’ve achieved – while the “how” verbs show “how” you achieved them. Donna advises that the perfect balance is 70/30 (what/how). Try incorporating some of the example verbs below or see a list of Donna’s 100 favorite power verbs here.
“What” verbs, to show what you’ve done:
- Redesigned – you know how to address problems and reduce inefficient processes.
- Conceived/Pioneered – you are full of exciting ideas!
- Launched/Piloted – you invented and guided something to success.
- Solved – you took the initiative to root out a problem and solve it.
- Transformed/Revitalized – you took something that was not working optimally and turned it into something amazing.
- Modernized/Transformed – you may not have invented it, but you made it work.
- Orchestrated – so much better than “leading”, since the very definition is to arrange and direct.
- Spearheaded/Mobilized – shows how instrumental you were in a project, stronger than “helping”.
“How” verbs, to explain how you did it:
- Coached/Mentored – you have helped those around you to be their best.
- Motivated/Uplifted/United – you inspired and developed teams.
- Collaborated/Contributed/Partnered – you work positively with others.
- Prevented/Avoided/Controlled – your strong managerial skills have kept bad situations in check.
If you want to show that you can lead a team and get results, share actual numbers. Saying you’re great at driving a team to reach sales goals pales in comparison to “grew departmental sales and revenue by 200 % in six months”. The numbers do the bragging for you and show real results!
Job specific qualities
Using catchy words and phrases is expected, but you need to match up these achievements and personality traits to concrete work situations. Let each piece of your experience form the big picture that is you today. If you were the supreme leader of a team that achieved a significant goal, be clear which company that was for (and remember to share those solid results/numbers!).
Show your leadership in different venues
Donna recommends to, “Show your leadership across work groups. Yes, talk about the team you manage, then, if you can, add accomplishment statements that showcase your cross-functional and inter-organizational leadership experience. Demonstrate that you can perform with a wide cross-section of people in a variety of situations.”
Less is more
Since you have a limited amount of space on your resume, your word choice is crucial. Make sure you highlight pertinent achievements, quantify where possible, and tailor your experiences to your target job. You’ll make a better impression focusing on fewer projects and showcasing responsibilities more in-depth than listing your entire work history. Ask yourself “does this piece of information directly highlight my leadership capabilities and make me seem the perfect fit for this role?” If not, cut it.
Your resume precedes you. Don’t just look good on paper. Good doesn’t cut it. Showing that you’re a great leader, the one that they need, helps get you the perfect position.
Carol Peitzsch is a wordsmith specializing in marketing, communication and branding text. With over 25 years experience in the corporate world – from Silicon Valley to Europe – she shares her knowledge through various media outlets and gives lectures at the EU Business School in Munich.