Vocamotive’s Résumé Development Strategy
A powerful and up-to date résumé is something that every professional should have ready to go. In the best of times it allows you to remain agile and seize opportunities that come your way. In harder times, such as those being experienced by so much of the world as of late, having a prepared and potent résumé on hand gives you a significant edge over other job seekers who may be scrambling to throw something together at the last minute.
Résumés have evolved quite a bit over the last several years and a bulleted list of where you worked and what you did on the job does not cut it anymore. There is a great deal to consider when designing and developing content for a high-performance résumé, so the career branding experts at Vocamotive have put together some advice for developing a powerful new résumé today.
In this article we will discuss critical sections of a modern professional résumé, along with tips on how to approach and present content. Though there is nothing wrong with seeking an expert’s assistance with résumé development (in many cases it is a game-changer!) those of you with the time, writing skill and branding know-how required can utilize these suggestions to up your résumé writing game.
Resume Development – Professional/Executive Summary:
You only get one chance to make a good first impression. As the professional or executive summary section of a résumé is the first content that a reader will see, it is imperative that this section makes an immediate and positive impact.
- Step 1: Begin with an eye-catching headline. Though there are several ways to construct a headline, at Vocamotive we often like to lead with the title you are going after, which is often different from the one you currently have. This allows the reader to quickly understand your targeted role and it helps frame the rest of the résumé’s content appropriately.
In addition, it is a good idea to include a sub headline as well. This can include an impactful value statement, targeted areas of expertise, or other useful information that adds context for your audience.
- Step 2: Craft a robust, yet concise, summary paragraph. Again, there are a few different ways to approach this paragraph but for our clients we often strive to sum up the individual’s career expertise and core areas of value. The word choices you use, and the style of this paragraph should also provide insight into the kind of employee you will be and your professional demeanor.
- Step 3: Outline three to five critical assets that you possess and that align with your job targets then list them in a bulleted style below your intro paragraph. Following each one of these asset descriptors (for example: “Executive Leadership” or “Sales Excellence”), include a brief description of how you drive success in this area. We often recommend following that one-line statement up with a specific career achievement that backs up the statement you just made. For instance, if you were to speak about your prowess around selling SaaS solutions, you could follow it up with a quantifiable win you had in this area during your career.
Key Summary Highlights Example:
Once you have written an executive or professional summary section you are proud of, have a few friends or colleagues read it. Ask them what their key takeaways were. If they struggle to articulate the message you wanted to get across it might be worth spending additional time shoring up this vital résumé section.
When tackling the employment history section of your résumé there are a number of details to consider in order to ensure this content is appropriately targeted and relevant.
- Step 1: The first thing we at do Vocamotive when getting started on the employment history section is to view all your employment history from a zoomed out perspective in order to determine how and which pieces of your experience will make the cut.
A few details to consider in this early step include:
- Dates of Employment – As a rule of thumb, you typically only want to feature about 15-20 years of experience or 5-7 jobs on a résumé. Any more than this and you will be left with a résumé that is too long, unnecessarily ages you, or is untargeted. Early on, we typically decide which roles will make the cut and which roles aren’t necessary to include.
- Roles/Promotions Within One Company – Most people have experienced growth within a company at some point throughout their career and the question is often whether or not to display each and every role you’ve been promoted or moved into. There is no hard and fast rule for this particular situation, instead we let your overall career timeline guide our decision.
For example, if you had 5 roles within a company I may display all those roles if they spanned 25 years or the majority of your career. On the other hand, if those 5 years were over a span of only 5 years, I am much more likely to combine roles in order to streamline your history. We also take into consideration if the promotion was a true step upward (and involved significant change in responsibilities) or was more of a title promotion.
- Short-Term, Contract, or “Gig” Experience – This is an interesting point to consider as brief experience becomes more commonplace in today’s society due to an increase in workers moving around often to achieve financial/career growth as well as due to what we know of the “gig economy” becoming more popular.
Despite it becoming more conventional to have short-term experience on a résumé, it is still not likely to be readily accepted and as such, we need to be strategic when considering how to feature brief tenures.
Some of the ways we at Vocamative approach short-term experience is by grouping multiple short-term roles together if appropriate, eliminating mention of the role altogether, or somehow tagging on a short-term role with a longer tenure.
- Roles That Don’t Align With Your Current Job Targets – Not all of us have had linear career paths. We work with many clients who tried their hand at multiple careers, industries, etc. and the question for them is always how much non-applicable experience to display.
While the answer is different for every person, we typically advise non-applicable roles that are 10+ years back in your experience be eliminated or placed in an alternate section.
- Step 2: Once you’ve determined what roles you plan to include within your employment history and how they will be strategically displayed, now it’s time to get to work on deciding what content to feature for each role.
At Vocamotive, we ensure 3 different types of content are featured within the vast majority of roles featured on the résumé.
1. Big Picture Overview AKA “The 30,000-Foot View” – When reviewing DIY résumés one of the biggest issues we see is that people include a random smattering of their responsibilities, which always leaves us asking “but what did you ACTUALLY do”?
The first sentence or first couple sentences of any new employment section should always provide a high-level overview of what your objectives were or the “end goal” of your role. The thought behind this is to give people a broad enough overview that when you mention specific responsibilities or accomplishment, they have the context to understand why this was important.
2. Important Responsibilities – You likely have a significant list of responsibilities that you engage in on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis, but there is NO reason to itemize those on your résumé. Instead, the goal is to include the most important categories of responsibilities you have and provide an overview of those instead of a detailed list of individual tasks.
3. Accomplishments & Impacts – The final and perhaps most critical piece of content are actual examples of projects led, awards won, improvements made, cost reductions incurred, and more. By sharing these examples, you are communicating to hiring managers that you don’t just go through the motions of your daily responsibilities – rather, you go above and beyond to impact the company.
As résumé writers, we often prompt our clients to give us enough details about an accomplishment so that we can write “CAR Stories”.
- C – Challenge/Context
- A – Actions
- R – Results
Essentially, in a brief bullet point we want to be able to summarize the context of why you did what you did, what actions you took to make the achievement happen, and the quantifiable results of your actions.
Employment Section Example:
At the tail end of your résumé, we often present all the additional information that makes you the professional and person you are. The content we present in these final sections often fall under the following categories:
Education – This is a pretty standard section that most will have already featured on their résumé so rather than harp on needing to include this section, I’ll review a few tips for displaying your education and choosing what to display.
- If you attended college it is standard to only include your higher education (undergraduate degree, master’s degree, PhD, etc.). You should NOT include high school information. Even if you are a recent college grad, there is still no need to include high school information.
- If you transferred universities, it is not necessary to include that information. You ONLY need to include information on the university you graduated from (i.e. let’s say I attended a community college for 2-years then transferred to a larger university where I ultimately got my degree, I would only list the information for the college I actually graduated from).
- If you completed coursework towards a degree, but didn’t end up obtaining that degree – still include this information. I typically include this information as follows: “Bachelor of Science (BS) Coursework”
Professional Development (Certifications, Licenses & Training) – Be sure to include any industry certifications, licenses or training that you have completed. I typically advise ensuring you include the name of what you completed/obtained and the associated organization.
- We typically only advise listing current certifications/licenses. In select circumstances you can list expired certifications/licenses, but only if they are important to your job targets.
- Another piece of advice is to only list training completed in the past 10-years. That sales training program you completed 20-years ago is likely to not be helpful anymore.
Technical or Business Competencies – If you are skilled in a number of industry-specific platforms, applications, or software, the end of the résumé is a great place to include a well-organized list of those competencies. It is important to note that it is ONLY important to include a technical competencies list if you are competent in platforms, applications, or software that go beyond the basics. Please don’t include a technical competencies list that only includes Microsoft Word and Excel ?.
- In certain cases, it may also be worthwhile to include a list of specialized business competencies such as Agile Project Management, Six Sigma, etc. Be careful not to include these competencies in an attempt to list out as many keywords as possible (this is called “keyword stuffing”). Rather, make sure all your keywords are represented throughout the résumé and use this section as a quick snapshot or recap of your business competencies.
Professional Involvement – Industry involvement shows that you are invested in your own professional development and in staying knowledgeable of current industry trends. If you are a member or involved in a leadership capacity with reputable industry organizations, be sure to include information on the nature of your involvement, the organization’s name, and the dates of your involvement.
Community Involvement – Outside of professional involvement, you may volunteer, be part of boards, or be otherwise invested in your community. If your personal involvement is consistent and recent, be sure to include this as it shows you are a well-rounded candidate and there’s the potential that your involvement will strike a chord with the reader.
Industry Subject Matter Expertise – If you or your work has been featured publicly, that is certainly something that you want to brag about! Some of the types of information that you many wish to display includes:
- Articles or Publications
- Speaking Engagements or Notable Presentations
- Notable Industry Conferences Attended
- Awards or Honors (note that these should also be worked into the associated work experience content as well)
In addition to being strategic about what to include in the 3 sections of your résumé (professional summary, career experience, and ancillary information) there are a number of other details to be cognizant of.
- Formatting – Font choice, color selections, appropriate spacing, etc.
- ATS Compliance – Ensuring formatting choices are in line with Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) systems.
- ATS Optimization – Inserting applicable industry and job related keywords into the appropriate sections of your résumé to boost keyword density and diversity levels.
- Job Targeting – Ensuring featured content (and how it is featured) will match the job targets you have in mind.
- Eliminating Bias – Certain information (such as dates, full home address, involvement, etc.) can unknowingly invite bias into the recruiting process.
- And Much More!
There is a lot to consider when writing a résumé (trust us, we spend HOURS on each résumé we write for clients) so be sure to do your research every step of the way.
If it becomes overwhelming or you’re unsure if you are best representing yourself, it may be time to consult a résumé professional. After all, you’ve got one shot at making an impression!
Obtain professional Résumé and LinkedIn profile writing assistance by Vocamotive’s website or by calling (630) 789-2519 to schedule a free consultation.