First impressions mean everything and although some might wince at the old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” nowhere does it hold more true than in the more competitive than ever employment search.
But how can you effectively communicate your talents, achievements, skills, and potential contributions to recruiters, headhunters and HR departments without crossing the line into boorish boasting? By remembering that it’s not bragging if it’s true, and by cultivating a different attitude as you craft your resume and incorporate language that embraces the art of selling yourself. So go ahead – brag on your resume. We’ll show you how it’s done.
Dozens (maybe hundreds) of other hopeful applicants have submitted their resumes for the same position and suffer no qualms about sharing their myriad, impressive accomplishments.
Potential employers expect applicants to highlight their achievements on resumes and during an interview. Own those past accomplishments so you can effectively demonstrate what unique contributions you’ll bring to the company. Be proud!
So, how do you trumpet your triumphs from the metaphorical rooftops?
Assert your accomplishments without over-embellishing
Lucky enough to be chosen for…
Became a manager…
Chosen/ nominated/ recognized for…
Promoted from X to Y…
Incorporate action verbs that will infuse your descriptions with vitality
Passive voice sounds clunky, requires more words to say the same thing, and loses power and force. Active voice suggests confidence and assertion.
Avoid: Responsible for strategic planning to restructure the engineering department which resulted in quarterly growth of 52%.
Change it: Increased engineering department’s quarterly growth by 52% through strategic restructuring.
See Resume Action Words for other active verbs that showcase confidence in your accomplishments.
Provide concrete examples of your successes
Can you quantify your achievements? Whenever possible, introduce quantifiable data to show exactly how your work benefited your previous (and current) employers. Don’t forget to incorporate good action verbs.
Slashed overhead by 10% within three months.
Increased sales by $2 million in two quarters.
Create a list of your skills
Read job descriptions carefully for clues about what the employer seeks in an employee. Even short job descriptions contain key words that will help your resume pass screening systems and provide guidance about what to highlight in your document.
Identify a potential employer’s needs, sometimes a tricky proposition that requires a bit of reading between the lines. If a job description requires employees to “handle growth in the business,” “meet challenges in completing orders,” or “handle customers,” consider your personal successes with meeting those challenges.
Then, incorporate those power words to demonstrate that you’ve successfully met those requirements at other positions and that the employer would be passing up an irreplaceable opportunity to add a crackerjack new employee to the staff by not inviting you for an interview.
If the advertisement says:
We need someone who can handle increasing growth in our business, meet challenges in completing orders, and handling customers…
Your resume should trumpet:
Analyzed data to create and implement a change management plan that efficiently merged two departments one month ahead of schedule and $5K under budget.
Streamlined and increased order processing 40% by designing and implementing a more efficient Process of Operations.
Review a performance checklist and refer to past job evaluations
Sometimes, we’re so busy working that we forget about our accomplishments and don’t realize how good we are. Ask current and former colleagues if they remember achievements that you’ve forgotten. Consider asking clients and vendors for their input, too, or any others with whom you’ve established a good working relationship.
Read your older performance reviews to see what supervisors and managers have noted as your strengths, and incorporate them into your resume. Do you have letters of recommendation, company newsletters with shout-outs and employee recognition? They’re fair game, too.
Include awards and recognition
If you’ve received performance awards or recognition for your work and service, include it on your resume. Don’t forget to include the reward’s criteria to show potential employers why you were selected and what you accomplished.
One last reminder and a final caveat
Failure to include the impact you’ve had on companies for whom you’ve worked only does you a disservice and reduces your chances of an invitation to interview. Qualified candidates who most effectively explain their accomplishments have the highest chance of landing an interview. Don’t fear providing a factual account of your value to the organization – use dynamic verbs and active voice, and provide quantifiable data (dollars saved, time saved, percentage increases or decreases, etc.) to support your claims.
Do remember to stay honest. Making unsubstantiated, unsupported claims will damage your credibility and while you might get the interview, you won’t get the job.
By TopResume contributor, Joanna Ireland, a professional resume writer, content strategist, editor, and adjunct writing professor.