How to Create an Irresistible Resume

The purpose of a resume is to land you a job interview. Amazon.com has a million books about the best way to write a resume so you can achieve that goal. In my opinion, though, writing an impressive resume is simple if you keep a few things in mind. First, employers never read a resume in its entirety, and I’m willing to bet that the average resume gets read in about five seconds.

My father once told me that employers like numbers and statistics—hard facts that show how a candidate is directly responsible for making a company more profitable. Now let’s be real here. If you’re still in your early 20s, the chances are not very good that you are at a high enough level to have had sole ownership of a project. However, the chances are excellent that you have had some measurable impact along the way. Did you help with a project that drove company revenue? Was there any piece of that project that you alone were responsible for? Let’s examine how this strategy might work for a candidate who is pursuing her first corporate job, and also for someone who has worked in the business world before.

First Corporate Job

Let’s say you didn’t have corporate internships while you were in college, but you did sell ice cream at Baskin-Robbins for four summers. Maybe, while you were there, you helped the manager execute a campaign to draw in customers from a nearby shopping mall.

Original Statement: Passed out free ice-cream-cone coupons at nearby shopping mall.

Power Statement: Designed and distributed “Snack on Us” coupon targeted to mall shoppers, increasing store traffic by 25 percent.

See why the power statement is better? The original statement makes it look as though you were just a passive body handing out coupons, and the reader is probably thinking that anyone could have done that job. The power statement, however, reads as though you made a significant contribution to the Baskin-Robbins corporation by creating an innovative marketing campaign. Note that the wording of the power statement is still good even if you didn’t make the flyer all by yourself. If you had any creative input whatsoever, saying that you designed it bolsters the perception of ownership. The “Snack on Us” labeling also suggests that you were responsible for branding the campaign. With one statement, you have completely changed the reader’s perception of your role from ice-cream-shop cashier to small business entrepreneur.

Early or Mid-Career Move

Suppose you worked as an account coordinator in a large consulting firm. You were a member of a team that serviced a healthcare account worth $250,000 in monthly fees. Perhaps most of the real account work was left to the senior individuals on the team, but you were responsible for creating and managing the budget spreadsheets.

Original Statement: Created budget spreadsheets for healthcare account.

Power Statement: Managed finances for healthcare account worth $250,000 in monthly fees.

Maybe your contribution to this account was solely administrative. The first statement reads this way. The power statement, however, makes a reader think that you were responsible for managing an enormous amount of company revenue. It says to me that you are extremely trustworthy, and that you have a head for complicated finances.

As you can see, the words you choose to communicate your experience make all the difference in whether your resume is considered average or fantastic. With a little creativity and positive positioning, the most mundane tidbits of experience can become resume jewels.

What’s your best tip for creating an irresistible resume? Respond in the comments. The best suggestion will win an autographed copy of the brand new, 10th anniversary edition of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something’s Guide to the Business World.