Leverage the Power of Words to Craft Compelling Resume Content

whats your storyHalf the battle of creating strong resumes is in developing content that truly illuminates your strengths and showcases your accomplishments; telling the story of your past experiences in a compelling manner is where most folks struggle. Whether your experience was paid or unpaid, the resume ought to communicate where you created impact, how you added value and contributed to results within the organization. Wherever possible, try to quantify your results.

We all bring a unique approach to showing up in our roles; the resume provides an opportunity to use language to paint a picture of who you and what you can do through the knowledge, skills and personal traits you possess. Considering employers take less-than-60 seconds to review resumes, it’s critical we take the time to reflect on who we are, where we’ve been and what we’ve done; and then, to describe those elements in a manner that aligns with the positions we’re vying for.

The questions below are intended to get you brainstorming on your various roles and responsibilities, to really get you thinking about what it took to deliver on particular tasks and responsibilities. Use these questions as a guide to writing narrative descriptions about each of your roles; then, begin to use that content to craft bullet points that articulate the task, how and why you delivered on it, and either the intended purpose, or actual outcome. As you evaluate your past experiences, the process will help you become better prepared for interviews.

  1. Who’s your employer? What’s their story in terms of why they exist? What need are they serving the public?
  2. What is your role? Why does your role exist at this company? Considering all jobs are filling some need, think about what need your role is filling, or what problem it is solving for the company.
  3. What skills, personal traits and knowledge does it take to successfully deliver on your tasks or duties? Do you have to negotiate, collaborate, or analyze? Do you bring a strong understanding for human development or conflict resolution to your role? Are you tenacious about details, skilled at cultivating relationships or gifted at radiating peace and calm in the midst of difficulty? Describe those traits.
  4. What context or conditions did you work under and what does it take to be successful in that environment? Are you a paramedic? If so, the conditions you likely work under include a bit of chaos, high-pressure, high-stakes and life and death situations. As a result, you likely have to be composed, level-headed, calm and focused under such conditions. Paint a picture for the audience reading your resume so they understand the scope of difficulty you’re working under.
  5. What challenges and obstacles do you encounter? What skills, personal traits and knowledge did you use to overcome them?
  6. How are you enhancing your company, work environment, department, etc? In what ways have you improved upon systems, operations, services or products? And/or, how have you enhanced people performance or dynamics that impact the company?
  7. What are the measures of success within your role, or for the company or department itself?
By Carolyn Sommers
Carolyn Sommers Associate Director, Serves CAHSS & Exploring Students