How to improve your resume (Part 1)

Disclaimer: I am not a recruiter, and by no means is this a comprehensive guide for writing the perfect resume. But I have seen enough good or bad ones to point out what more than 80% of the applicants out there is screwing up on.

Also, this article is geared towards entry level office / computer environment jobs in North America (US and Canada), mainly accounting, finance, administrative, and other business functions, etc. So some pointers may not apply to other professions.

Remember, a resume (and cover letter) is a sales document. You’re trying to convince the reader that you are likely to fit the job and should get an interview, so they can know you better. So you should talk about the impact and relate that to the job they’re applying. For example, here is a typical job summary in a resume:

Kids Clothing Store, Sale Associate

  • Sold clothing for children aged 5 to 10 for 20 hours a week
  • Responsible for store opening and closing on Saturday

Just by reading that, you would have no idea if the job applicant was the attentive salesperson who helped customer out, or the rude unhelpful one who is busy texting on the phone all day. This job summary does not convey to the reader the applicant’s job performance or impact to the organization. Instead, you want something that follows this template:

  • [Reached a goal] in [describe type of workplace or type of work] by [method or strategy]

So, this would be an immediate improvement:

Kids Clothing Store, Sale Associate

  • Generated $2,000 of sales per day of clothing for children aged five to ten with exceptional customer service
  • Ensured on time store opening on Saturdays with no managerial supervision

This is somewhat stronger, as the reader now knows that this person did what he/she was hired to do – sell clothes. Also, this person must be responsible enough for the store manager to entrust him / her the responsibility of opening the store with no help on Saturday mornings – not an easy feat. That’s the basic idea of highlighting personal accomplishment bottom line impact of the company.

But what if this retail superstar is trying to apply to an accounting related job? Focus on numbers and money-related tasks, put in a big dollar figure, and mention some variant of “accuracy

  • Managed balancing of the cash drawer, ensuring the accurate accounting and handling of cash balances in excess of $10,000

The reader, at this point, would have comfort that this person can accurately work numbers and understand cash handling procedures, not just a smooth talker who knows how to sell clothing.

Got questions? Feel free to comment.

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