The One Resume Rule To Rule Them All
This post originally appeared in the Forbes Coaches Council and was written by Emily Kapit, MS, MRW, ACRW, CPRW, triple certified master resume writer and the founder, lead writer, and career strategist at Refresh Your Step.
I run an internationally known resume writing and career strategy firm called Refresh Your Step, and in my work, I’ve heard about and seen countless “resume rules” regarding what makes a resume most effective. From requests for crafting über-creative resumes to suggestions from well-meaning friends — “My mom’s best friend’s nephew said I should add keywords in white font at the bottom of a resume so no one sees it but will get past Applicant Tracking Systems” — I’ve heard it all.
Other than ensuring your resume is error-free and accurate in terms of your career details, are there any true “resume rules” that can be applied across all resumes?
Many say no, but I disagree. Having worked with countless clients from diverse levels, sectors, backgrounds and countries — all of whom have distinct needs and career aspirations — I can tell you about one resume rule to rule them all.
The “Consistency Of Excellence” Principle
Your resume (or CV) is a marketing tool, and the product it is marketing is you. The resume is not meant to be a laundry list of things you’ve done so much as clearly indicated ways you’ve been effective throughout your career.
The latter is what hiring managers and recruiters want to see, and whether you are a soon-to-be-graduating college student with very little experience looking for an entry-level role, or a C-Suite finance executive hoping to bridge years of experience to the nonprofit world, your whole goal is to show that — regardless of what you’ve done so far — you have consistently done excellent work (hence, “consistency of excellence”).
How It Works
Set aside a few minutes to ponder the following ideas — and be prepared to take some notes:
To date, what have I done that has made a difference? How have I been integral to different projects, initiatives and organizational goals?
Delve a little deeper:
Take a break, come back to it, add more, and perhaps engage a few others in the process. Speak with your former co-workers, current manager or family members who know about the work you do. Very often, they will remind you of points you might have otherwise missed. Additionally, review performance reviews and consider jotting down notes about relevant school projects, leadership roles in community organizations, and even about that time you helped raise money for a cause. All of this information boils down to one point: showcasing your consistency of excellence.
For Those With An Unconventional Career Path
My team and I help clients identify their own consistency of excellence and, for many of them, this is quite easy to do. They have been on a linear career path, have accomplishments and related measurables out the wazoo, and we have to pare down to the most important ones before drafting their professional documents.
But what about the others whose career trajectories are curvier than Lombard Street in San Francisco? How does a person account for moving several times, taking time off to be with family, and the other litany of challenges that throw off an individual’s career path? Similarly, what if you are trying to bridge from one sector to another and have little to no experience in the latter?
That’s where the consistency of excellence principle isn’t just helpful — it’s transformative. With the right format and selection of branding statements indicating that a person has always done good work, regardless of sector or situation, is more likely to resonate with a reader and lead to conversations. I’ve yet to meet a client who has zero accomplishments to date in some capacity.
How To Express Your Accomplishments In A Resume
Here is a “before” and “after” resume statement from a client trying to convey a specific accomplishment. The “before” shows a vague accomplishment while the “after” is much more specific. This statement should go right under the section tied to that specific role.
Obviously, each individual will have a unique background and goals that should be considered when crafting the resume. The end goal, though, is to focus on what you did that would not have happened otherwise, both the quantitative and qualitative effects of that work, and the transferability of it to the job you are seeking.
Example from Client A:
Accomplishment: “My goal was to increase revenue for the department and overall company. I researched sector competition, collected business plans/corporate objectives, collaborated with senior management on a new strategy, and spearheaded plan implementation. Within a year of the new revenue growth strategy, we increased revenue by 30 percent and efficiency of operations by 70%. This overall strategy has now been adopted by other departments within the company.”
Before: “Identified ways to generate more money for parent company.”
After: “Soared revenue 30% and slashed operation costs 70% following full overhaul of company growth strategy. Spearheaded plan creation and managed overall implementation; strategy now adopted by individual departments.”
Though resume writing is a huge part of what I do, I’m also a career strategist and have one other secret regarding the Consistency of Excellence principle:
It goes beyond just the resume and works with every component of your job search.
The consistency of excellence principle is really about strategy and branding: strategically thinking about what sets you apart and using that information to brand you as an excellent candidate. As such, ensure that knowledge of your own excellence extends to your LinkedIn profile, networking conversations, interview prep, and every other component of your job search.
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About The Author
Emily Kapit is TORI-nominated, Top-Ranked & 3X-Certified Master Resume Writer and was the the keynote speaker at our FREE Resume Writing Webinar. Kapit is the owner, lead resume writer and head career strategist at ReFresh Your Step. She is a leading triple-certified resume writer, one of only 25 MRWs globally, and the world’s only MRW, ACRW, CPRW with a Masters of Science in Educational Psychology, a field that forms the backbone of her career advisory work. For more information about resume writing, visit refreshyourstep.com and be sure to view the IAW’s FREE Resume Writing Webinar .