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How to Write a Good Resume: 3 Pillar Practices
Great resumes persuade. They persuade the reader to take a concrete step — shortlist your candidacy, run your resume in front of the decision-makers, and invite you to the interview.
But if you ever sat down to write a resume, you know that your content can appear passive. The writing lacks structure, your skills are all over the place, and you struggle to fit the bulk of your experience into one page.
So how do you get from a ho-hum resume to an action-inspiring one? Here are the best tips, based on industry expertise.
1. Put The Most Important Information Up Front
It’s no secret that recruiters spend just a few minutes on each resume. They skim first to decide if the copy is worth their time. Your second goal is to stop them in their tracks and persuade them to pay attention.
To do that, Louise Kursmark, author of “Modernize Your Resume: Get Noticed Get Hired”, suggests starting your resume with a “wow”:
“What is the wow? It’s what the most impressive, important, and valuable about you as a candidate — the top few things that you want readers to instantly know about you, so they’ll be impressed, interested, and eager to learn more”.
In other words: put some of your biggest “bragging rights” atop your resume in a featured resume summary. (Many of SmashingDoc’s resume templates include this section!).
You can choose to spotlight:
- Biggest accomplishment(s) — monetary value delivered for the employer, major project completed, change initiated, etc.
- Most marketable skills and certifications — a shortlist of 3-4 main skills, the employer is seeking.
- Accolades or industry recognition — official titles you hold and acknowledgment received from others.
Kursmark recommends adding 3-4 shorter wow statements or one big one in your resume summary. Adding more claims can diminish their cumulative impact.
2. Tell a Story Through Data
A resume is the first “introduction” of your persona to the employer. Similar to a compelling sales deck, you need to make a mark with that introduction. How do you do that?
Brendan Castle, Global Head of Recruiting at Google, recommends this:
“The number one thing you want to be thinking about is to tell your story — not just your work experience, but also what you’ve learned and the accomplishments you’re most proud of”.
Castle further elaborates that you should convey your skill set and past work experiences through the prism of accomplishments and concrete actions. Show, rather than tell, about the progress you’ve made over the years by highlighting different skills — from the most advanced ones to basic. Then contextualize them with examples.
Compare these two resume work experience entries:
|Developed paid advertising campaigns for a local restaurant; performed SEO optimization.||Ran a seasonal Facebook ad campaign which brought a 25% increase in foot traffic over 4 weeks. Achieved top-5 positions in Google for competitive keywords like “best pizza in Denver”, “buy fresh burrata”.|
The first one recaps duties. It could have been written by any other applicant. The second one suggests specific results and describes the exact value, delivered by the job seeker for a past employer. Go with the second option.
3. Context is Key
When reading your resume, a potential employer must picture you in action. That’s hard to do if you are only offering generic details and don’t go into the specifics of your career.
Kristina Schulte, a recruiter at Addidas, gives this recipe for a winning resume:
The “perfect” résumé should tell recruiters what your specific tasks were, which technologies you worked with, what projects you worked on, and how those projects went.
Here’s how the above can look in practice for a UX designer:
Provided full-cycle UX support for a digital banking app, used by 3 million clients worldwide.
- Optimized digital account opening process. Went from 38 to 8 forms without compliance compromises.
- Designed new UI elements for crypto trading functionality which lead to a 40% increase in MAU.
Technologies: Figma, UXpin, Adobe Creative Cloud, JIRA, Asana.
Hook, Engage, Persuade
A good resume grabs the recruiter’s attention with a wow statement in the summary. Then engages their mind with data-backed descriptions of your duties — and persuades them to call you in for an interview with extra contextual details.
All that’s left for you is select a resume template you fancy and start filling up the gaps!