Are you sitting down to write your resume for a 2022 job search and you’re not quite sure where to start? No worries—I can help. Every year I put together a list of my top resume writing tips. It includes the tips, strategies, techniques, and trends that will be most effective in helping you in your job search in the coming year. This year’s list includes eight different practical strategies with examples and lots of actionable advice that you can implement right away. I’ve included strategies for writing better accomplishment bullets and giving your resume more “wow” and impact, and I’ve also pointed out lots of things you definitely want to avoid. My favorite is the list of 10 cringeworthy words that repel recruiters. Check out this year’s list of eight resume writing tips for 2022.
2022 Resume Writing Tip #1: Answer These 5 Questions Before You Start
Before sitting down to update your resume, ask yourself the following five questions. They’ll help you to zero in on what matters as you write about your accomplishments and focus on the future role you’re targeting.
What role am I targeting?
Your resume needs to be geared towards one specific position. Employers want to hire specialists, not generalists.
What companies am I targeting?
Knowing the type of company you are targeting helps to narrow down your research and be more specific in your writing. You can speak to the company’s pain points when you’ve researched them and know what they need.
What challenges are they facing?
Write resume bullets that show you’ve faced and overcome similar challenges. Include the results.
What skills are critical to success?
The answer to this question tells you exactly what keywords and hard skills you need to include on your resume. If you don’t know where to look, start by searching for the position on LinkedIn. LinkedIn will give you the top 15 skills/keywords needed for the role.
How do I add value?
Your resume must show how you can add value in a way that means something to the employer. Focus on accomplishments that will resonate with the company you’re targeting and meet their needs.
2022 Resume Writing Tip #2: Write to the Future
Before updating your resume, make sure you’re positioning yourself correctly for the job you’re targeting. That’s why the above questions are so critical to your success.
Your experience, achievements, and qualifications are all a part of your resume but equally important is what information you include, how, where, and why—all of which are based on your goals for your next career move.
When you write your resume, you’re not just writing about your past. You’re writing to the future. You’re positioning yourself for your next career move.
A resume is not a historical career narrative. It’s a marketing tool. The content on your resume needs to point to where you want to be, not simply where you are right now.
To do this:
- Review job postings to gather data and insights. Where do you have related skills, experiences, or educational qualifications?
- Identify your top skills that match the opportunities that you’re interested in.
- Reweight your skills and accomplishments. Put the emphasis on the professional, technical, and academic skills that align with your goal for your next career move.
- When you write about your accomplishments, give a prominent position to those that are relevant to the role you’re targeting now.
- Integrate critical keywords, specifically the professional, technical, and academic hard skills that are essential to the role you’re targeting.
- Do not be vague in your objective. I don’t even recommend including an objective on your resume. Instead put the target position title at the top of your resume in bold. It’s specific and leaves no question about the role you want.
2022 Resume Writing Tip #3: Avoid Cringeworthy Words
One of the quickest ways you can improve your resume is to replace passive language with active language. This top-ten list of cringeworthy words and phrases includes mostly passive phrases or terms that don’t show the employer the value and contribution you can make, thereby lessening the impact of your resume on hiring managers. If you want your resume to make a good first impression, swap out these useless words with more meaningful alternatives.
- Demonstrated success in . . .
- Proven results . . .
- Excellent communication skills
- Responsible for . . .
- Duties included
- Worked with / served as
And lastly, I strongly advise that you use this term with caution: team player. Studies have shown that including the phrase—or its synonyms—once in your resume is okay, but to use it or similar phrases more than once can actually give employers a negative impression.
What Words and Phrases to Use Instead
Instead of “demonstrated success in” or “proven results,” show the employer the results using data, numbers, and metrics. You can do this by writing bulleted statements about your accomplishments using the CAR formula.
CAR stands for Challenge, Action, Result.
Share the challenge that you faced, the action you took to address the challenge, and the data/numbers that go with the result. This provides proof to the employer of the value you can add and is much more specific than saying you have proven results.
The same goes for using the term successful, success, results-oriented, or results-driven. Instead of using these vague terms, simply tell the story of the results you’ve achieved using the CAR formula.
Replace the phrases “excellent communication skills” and “team player” with examples of how you’ve used your communication skills and how you’ve been a team player. Words that can help you lead into these examples might be “influenced,” “empowered,” “negotiated,” “advocated,” “advised,” or “enabled.” You always want to show—not tell. Paint a picture for the employer of what you’ve achieved in the past by giving them examples just like you would in an interview.
Instead of the phrases “responsible for” and “duties included,” focus on sharing accomplishments. Look at the job description you’re applying to. What are the main requirements of the role? Contract negotiation? Budget management?
Replace “responsible for budget management” with “managed $3M annual budget.” That way you’re showing the employer not just what you can do, but you’re giving them concrete examples of what you have done.
“Seasoned” and “accomplished” are two very overused resume phrases that are often interpreted negatively. These terms can be construed as over-experienced, out-of-date, or worse, implicit age bias takes over and the candidate is assumed to be too old. I’m not condoning this, and I rather abhor that it even exists, but I bring it up because it’s out there, it happens, and I see it way too often. So, until things change and companies come up with progressive ways to guard against bias in the hiring process, safeguard your resume by avoiding these terms.
It’s more effective to discuss the areas you’re experienced in, listing industries, hard skills, functions of the role, professional or technical skills, academic credentials, etc. These terms are specific and communicate with more clarity than a general statement like seasoned sales executive or accomplished professional. Both of which I see on a great deal of resumes but which tell me little about who you are or what you’re capable of doing.
I’m also not a fan of “worked with” or “served as.” Both are passive terms. If you collaborated on a project or headed the budget committee, be specific about who you worked with and what you accomplished as part of your work with them.
Improve Your Resume with Action Verbs
Action verbs are one of the quickest and easiest ways you can improve your resume. Starting each bullet with an action verb not only communicates achievement, action, etc., but it also opens the sentence to lead right into the challenge you faced and the result you achieved. It’s hard to start a sentence with “transformed,” “increased,” or “achieved” without following it up with something specific, measurable, and relevant.
You can download a complete list of 170+ action verbs and high-impact phrases for your resume here. It’s a free PDF that I created to help you sharpen your resume, remove overused phrases, and convey your performance and achievements to potential employers.
2022 Resume Writing Tip #4: Write Better Accomplishment Bullets
The number one challenge I hear from job seekers when it comes to writing their resumes is how much they struggle to write about their accomplishments.
Being able to tell your story to potential employers in a way that conveys what you’re capable of achieving is not easy.
Most people struggle to write about themselves. To help you make the process of writing about accomplishments easier, there’s a formula that I encourage you to use (and that I mentioned in the above tip as well). It’s called the CAR formula and it stands for Challenge, Action, Result.
- Start with an action verb that describes the steps you took to resolve a specific problem or challenge. (For a downloadable list of 170+ action verbs and high-impact phrases you can use visit this page.)
- Describe the challenge you faced using industry-specific keywords. Think professional, technical, and academic hard skills.
- Share the quantifiable or measurable results of the action you took to resolve the problem that you faced.
If you’re struggling to find quantifiable data that you can use, try comparing and contrasting past and present performance—either your own, a competitor’s, or the company’s previous numbers.
Ask yourself questions like how much, how many, when, before/after, to what end . . . these questions will help you discover data you can use.
2022 Resume Writing Tip #5: Give the Reader Context
Providing the reader with background information will help them to understand and appreciate your accomplishments. It simply makes your achievements even more impressive.
You could say that you increased annual revenue 32% but when you give the situation context:
Increased annual revenue 32%, in spite of the 2020 economic downturn.
Now, the reader can understand the depth of the accomplishment and how truly impactful it was.
It’s also a good idea to let them know if you were recruited into a role for a specific reason. Perhaps you were recruited into the role to reverse declining sales, improve company culture, or revamp the operational processes. Add meaning and impact to your resume by sharing the context of the situation that existed when you were brought on board.
2022 Resume Writing Tip #6: Give Your Resume More Wow
We’ve all been there . . . the place where you want employers to read your resume and say “Wow.” But what exactly is a wow factor and how do you give your resume a striking wow factor? Your wow factor is the most important, impressive, and valuable information about you as a candidate. It’s the top two or three things you want the employer to immediately know about you so they’ll be impressed and keen to learn more.
Your wow factor is part of your personal brand. It’s what distinguishes you from other similarly qualified candidates. It must be prominent throughout your resume, especially at the top so that it won’t be missed and will instantly put your best foot forward.
Your wow factor or personal brand statement must include a few specific elements to ensure it’s memorable and impressive.
It must be specific. Your wow factor must tell about what you’ve achieved, not what you were responsible for or might have done. Include quantifiable or measurable data, if possible.
Here’s an example of a vague statement:
- Responsible for contract closings and revenue growth.
Here’s an example of a specific statement:
- Grew contract closings 68% and increased gross revenue 40% for 2019.
It needs to show action. The easiest way to do this is to replace passive language like “responsible for” and “duties included” with action verbs like “grew,” “developed,” “pioneered,” or “transformed.”
You can download a list of 170+ resume action verbs to help you craft better resume bullets here.
Where to Include Your Wow Factor
You can include wow content throughout your resume. It can go anywhere, but here are a few specific places to include it:
I’ve never been a big fan of a bland, generic resume summary. I’m a huge proponent of what I call a career snapshot. It’s basically a snapshot of two to three of your wow statements. The most impressive and noteworthy information about you as a candidate. It gives readers a quick glance at what you’ve accomplished.
I recommend limiting it to two to three wow statements for your summary. You don’t want to overdo it, but you also want to grab the reader’s attention and impress them. Alternatively, you can include one wow statement at the top of your resume as part of your personal branding statement and then add one or two into your summary. That way you’re giving them three memorable pieces of data about the value you can create.
When writing your wow statements, be concise. It’s easy to be verbose, it’s harder to say what you mean in the fewest words possible. However, fewer words make a bigger impact. You’re giving them a quick snapshot of content—you’re not giving them the full story quite yet. You can go into the details further down in the work experience section of your resume.
Don’t forget to incorporate hard skills. These are the industry-specific keywords that hiring managers will be scanning your resume for, and including them in your wow statements is a great way to capture attention.
Here are three examples of wow statements we used on a client’s resume who was a CEO, board member, and chairman.
✓ Transformed the MRC Companies’ operating model into a technology-enabled global contact services company with 30 locations in 7 countries.
✓ Defined the strategies to grow revenue from $20M to $400M+ and EBITDA from $500K to $42M+.
✓ Co-founded and built a dedicated customer service business model that reached 3K employees in 3 years.
Instead of listing out the responsibilities for the role, jump straight into your top accomplishment in the position. You’re immediately conveying success in the role when you start with your top achievement.
I recommend including at least two to three major wins under each role. If you’re struggling to come up with impressive content for a certain role, ask yourself when you have been first or best in relation to the role. You can also think about the number one thing you achieved in the position. Make these answers to these two questions your first two to three bullets.
Here are examples of bullets from the same CEO client’s resume under the experience section:
- Established a value-added board of directions that were fully aligned with the mission and vision of the organization and primed to take the business into the future.
- Produced consistent gains across NPS and customer service, sales conversion, and quality with a largely Fortune 500 client base.
- Navigated the sale of the organization to a private equity group—creating a successful exit for investors with a return of 3.5x investment.
Education, Honors, Awards
I recommend including honors and awards at the top of your resume if they’re relevant to the role you’re targeting. We’ve worked with many sales executives who were recognized in President’s Club but had never included this at the forefront of their resume. Prominently position your honors and awards. If you have a collection of accolades, create a section to show them off. It can be a powerful wow factor to impress hiring managers. Employers love hiring winners.
If you’re seeking a role that requires an MBA or certain type of degree or certification, don’t bury the information at the bottom of your resume. Reference it at the top of your resume, then give the details in the education section at the end of your resume or in a separate technical skills section if you’re in a tech-related field.
Additional Wow Information to Consider
Other content that might be relevant to include on your resume that would be impressive for hiring managers to see:
- Media mentions
- High-profile clients
- Board positions
- Public speaking engagements
- Special affiliations
If you’re struggling to uncover content for your wow statements here are some questions to help you get started:
- When have I contributed to a business’s success? What were the results?
- How have I been publicly recognized? What do people come to me for?
- Which of my accomplishments have quantifiable data?
- Have I turned around a difficult situation or made a failure into a success?
- What am I most proud of in this role?
- What am I most proud of in my career?
For examples of resumes written with personal branding and wow factor statements, head over to our resume samples page on our website. There you’ll find examples of client resumes that we’ve created that include wow statements.
2022 Resume Writing Tip #7: Be Specific
It’s really easy to use the words “accomplished” and “proven track record.” The problem is that these overused words are generalities that do not provide credible or distinctive information to a prospective employer.
Here’s an example of bullets that are specific:
- Boosted employee satisfaction 15% despite headcount reductions—transformed the team culture with renewed focus on training and professional development while breaking down barriers and silos.
- Produced $4M in annual cost savings—deep dived into cost and risk assessment to balance the area’s cost and risk profile and devise forward-action strategies.
This resume is for an accomplished vice president of operations, but now we have a clearer picture of what she’s accomplished and how. Two things that will distinguish her from other candidates.
When you’re tempted to use phrases like “accomplished,” “results-driven,” or “proven track record,” instead, stop and gather the data about your accomplishments, results, and track record and share that information instead. It will have more meaning and impact on hiring managers—which means you’ll get more interviews.
2022 Resume Writing Tip #8: Avoid Common Pitfalls
Before I wrap up this post, I want to touch on a few common resume mistakes that I see repeated on far too many resumes.
Write in first person without the use of “I” statements. Resume writing is a form of concise writing. It’s written in implied first person. You get the personal tone without the “I” statements. So instead of writing “I directed the hiring practices for three major Fortune 500 companies,” you would say “Directed hiring practices for three Fortune 500 companies.” It’s an abbreviated form of writing.
Proofread your resume. Use Grammarly and get a wordsmith friend to review your resume or—even better—hire a professional copyeditor to proof your documents. You do not want to send off a resume that includes grammar or spelling errors.
I’ve talked a lot about overused phrases in this post. That’s because it’s serious and a resume killer. Avoid overused terms and opt for high-impact phrases instead.
Leave out objective statements. They’re outdated and useless. A generic objective will not tell the hiring manager why they should interview you over another candidate. Instead, show them what you’re able to accomplish.
Don’t use the phrase “team player” more than once. It’s overkill and recent studies have shown it can have a detrimental effect on your chances for an interview. Most employers want to hire team players. Instead use an accomplishment statement to show them you’re a team player vs. using the phrase “team player.”
Soft skills are important so don’t forget to include them. I’m not advising you to list excellent communication skills front and center on your resume. However, employers are finally catching on to how critical EI is in the workplace. Share the soft skill within the context of an accomplishment. Then you’re knocking out two birds with one stone.
If you incorporate each of these strategies into your resume, you’ll have a strong and effective marketing tool for your job search.
Thanks for reading! Want more job search and resume tips? Check out these 6 free resources on my website that have helped more than 25,000 job seekers land their next job.
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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