You’ve scoured the job boards. You’ve applied to a dozen positions. You know you’re qualified and your resume even matches up pretty well to what the job announcement says the position needs…but you aren’t getting the calls you expected. What’s going on? It might be that you just aren’t selling yourself on your resume. Remember—a resume is a marketing tool for your career.
Job seekers who are writing a resume often ask me to explain how to pitch themselves on a resume. One of my key resume writing tips for a successful job search is to sell your qualifications, don’t just tell a hiring manager about them.
In the course of my career in human resources and as a professional resume writer, I have frequently run into job seekers who want to tell me what they did versus selling it to me. Telling me makes you sound like everyone else and frankly is quite boring. Selling me on what you did makes you unique, it makes you stand out in the crowd—and as a bonus, it shows that you have solid communication skills. When you write a resume, answer this one simple question and you can’t go wrong: “What makes me different than everyone else around me?”
Think about it for a second—what makes you better than all the other people who do your same job? What sets your work history apart? Are you known for your extreme client care? Did you sell the pants off the latest product or service and as a result won multiple awards? Perhaps you thought of a new idea, brought it to your boss and they liked it and it led to a promotion. All of these skills and achievements are what make you different than that other applicant who is trying to get the same job you want. And effectively incorporating these kinds of details is the answer to how you pitch yourself to companies on a professional resume. To have an effective resume and land an interview, you have to SELL these achievements to employers in your resume.
How do you pitch yourself on your current resume? Are you a seller or a teller? If you are reading this article and thinking “Whoops, I’m definitely a teller,” then the examples and advice below should prove helpful in making your resume and your cover letter more compelling and your job search more successful.
Selling Versus Telling Examples
As you read through the phrases below, think about how each one might impact a hiring manager or recruiter and address (or not) their needs in filling the position. Remember, during the hiring process they will be looking for resumes that stand out from the crowd and speak to their company’s needs.
Participated in the development of a new personal training program.
Spearheaded the development of a new personal training program leading to a 30% increase in member participation and a 10% increase in new membership each quarter of 2009.
Managed membership accounts.
Directed the processing of over 100 new membership account setups, ensuring 100% accuracy.
Pioneered a new application process increasing ease-of-use and reducing the amount of time needed to process by 25%.
Delivered a solutions-focused method for reducing the amount of membership cancellations by 15% each quarter of 2009.
See the big difference? In each “Selling Me” example, you’re showing me there was a challenge, action, and result. Here is the key: Think about what makes you different, then phrase that information with the following in mind: challenge, action, result.
Here are the most important points to remember as you write your resume:
What makes me unique?
Sell it, don’t tell it.
Challenge, action, result.
Use the Job Description as a Guide
In some cases, especially if you are applying for an executive position and/or essentially cold calling with your resume, you may not have a job description to work from. However, if you do have a job description to work from when writing your resume (or as you tailor your resume to the particular job), info you gathered from company websites, or a bit of inside information about what a company or recruiter is looking for, use it to your advantage. Great resumes speak directly to a prospective employer’s needs.
As you read the job description, consider what challenge the employer is facing. Then think about what relevant actions you have taken in the past to overcome a similar challenge—or an action that you have taken that may have been for a completely different challenge but would still provide a solution for this employer’s challenge. Then, ask yourself what results you have achieved that might be impressive to employers with this particular challenge. In doing so, you’ll be the candidate they pay attention to because you are providing direct, compelling information about how you can address their needs.
Use numbers and metrics when addressing results. Be specific about the actions you took. Just listing out skills doesn’t cut it if a prospective employer can’t see how those skills will benefit them and the challenges they face.
In many cases, it is very tempting to look at the job description and just match up the duties and responsibilities you’ve had in your past work experience and make a list of those. But this is telling me—this isn’t selling me. Make yourself stand out by telling the story of your work experience through measurable results and impressive accomplishments.
Use Strong Action Verbs
If you’ve read other articles of mine with resume writing tips, you’ve probably seen me give this advice before. However, it bears repeating because it strengthens your resume.
Getting into the habit of using action verbs to start sentences and phrases in descriptions of your experience and your achievements will automatically help turn your resume from a mundane list of duties to an effective sales pitch for your career. As you write and you choose action verbs to use, think about where the action you are describing led you. Note in the example above that uses the verb “participated,” it would be hard to have that verb then lead you to a descriptive result of a professional accomplishment. However, in the selling example for that same achievement, the word “spearheaded” is used—it’s easier to get a result from “spearheading” something than from just “participating,” isn’t it?
For a list of action verbs that you can use to strengthen your resume, head over to this article: https://greatresumesfast.com/50-strong-action-verbs-you-need-to-use-on-your-resume-now/.
Your cover letter and your resume are often your opportunity to make a first impression on a potential employer. Don’t you want to make a great first impression? Stay in their mind, and stand out from other applicants by selling, not telling. Apply this advice to all aspects of your resume, too—not just the work history section. From the branding statement / summary statement / objective statement to the blurbs you choose from references, an effective resume should be selling you as a candidate.
If you’re a job seeker who is writing your resume and aren’t sure how to improve it so you can stand out as an applicant and achieve your career goals, it might be time to consider a professional resume writing service.
At Great Resumes Fast, our professional resume writers are committed to providing one-on-one, personalized service to craft exceptional career documents that help job seekers achieve their career goals. To learn more about us, click here. To explore more resume writing tips and general career advice on our blog, click here. You can also peruse resume samples here.
Are you tired of your resume being rejected by applicant tracking systems? I know how frustrating it is to submit your resume and receive no response. I hate seeing qualified people never breakthrough the screening process. It shouldn’t be that way. That’s why I created this guide and I encourage you to download the FREE PDF so you can start seeing better resume response rates!
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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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