It’s been approximately 2.5 years since I actively started my journey as a young professional. Thus far, I have been lucky enough to do internships with a variety of companies; from tech giants like Google and cutthroat consulting firms like Bain to cryptocurrency startups and NGOs. I’ve worked in companies across Africa, Europe and Asia in both part-time and full-time roles.
While my experience exploring the working world has certainly been fulfilling, it hasn’t all been rainbows and butterflies. If I were to estimate, I would say I have been rejected by about 65% of the opportunities that I have applied to. More so, I have witnessed candidates who I could have sworn I would surpass grab opportunities from right under my feet! I have felt hopeless and inadequate but I have persevered.
A key skill I have developed along the way, which I want to share with you today, is that of positioning experiences in your resume to help you sell yourself to your dream company. I honed this skill throughout my time as a Career Development intern, editing over 50 resumes, and during my journey as a young professional completing 8 internships (2 more since my last article!).
Here’s what I believe are the 3 keys to an outstanding resume:
While most may think of resumes as a collection of professional experiences, I like to think of them as a tool which we can use to tell recruiters the story of what makes us most ideal for a role.
In order to do this effectively, you need to understand your audience (the company) and what appeals to them (the description of the type of candidate they’re looking for). Once you’ve ensured you have a comprehensive understanding, you can now carefully select which experiences you share, which skills you highlight and even what interests and accomplishments you include. The goal is to make a recruiter feel like you were designed for the job!
So now you’ve identified which of your experiences you’ll share, how do you now express them? How do you flesh out the key components of your story (your past experiences)? That’s where the second key to a killer resume comes in…
2. Brevity with a focus on impact
Recruiters do not have a lot of time and they usually skim read resumes so as beautiful as your story may be, you have to keep it short. If you’re still in university then I recommend you focus on 3 key past experiences, each with 3 bullet points. Each bullet should answer two questions:
- What did you do? Use action verbs, detail tools used and where relevant include the number of people you worked with (teamwork is a valuable skill)
- What impact did it have? Include a brief description of how the work you did made a difference and if possible, include numbers!
The key is to move beyond explaining what you were responsible for or what your job description said to illustrate the impact you had and how that’s made you a more qualified professional.
For example, one of my internships included a lot of data analysis. One may be tempted to explain that in a bullet on a resume like this:
Responsible for analysing data used to inform strategy
But applying the concept above, I instead phrased it like this:
Utilized Alteryx, Excel and Tableau to manipulate and draw insights from big data which guided strategy recommendations that influenced 5000+ workers
The second version gives the recruiter a clearer idea of the scope of the work I did, the tools I used to do it, the skills I acquired through the experience and the impact that my work had. While the first two points combined with relevant experience will ensure your resume is good, if you want to make it outstanding (read: killer!) then point 3 is crucial…
3. Attention to detail
This is probably the most straightforward yet underestimated aspect of crafting a winning resume. You need to pay attention to detail. From ensuring no typos to ensuring a consistent font (and font size), alignment and accurate contact details. I won’t elaborate on this further because it simply comes down to going the extra mile to double check all the elements of your resume.
- The first step to crafting a killer resume is understanding the company and role you’re applying for then selecting relevant experiences, skills and interests to share.
- The second step is to detail each experience briefly with a stark focus on illustrating the impact you had and the skills you acquired.
- The final step is to ensure your resume is well formatted and error-free by paying attention to the tiniest details.
Originally posted on the 14th of August 2018 on my LinkedIn.