Put the “I” Back into Your Resume

Resumes are professional documents. True, but too many job seekers view “professional” to mean “index”—a no-nonsense, A-to-Z listing of skills and qualifications. The result is a resume that reads like a facsimile of any other. It does not grab the hiring manager’s attention and pronounce, “I’m the person for this job!”

I back in resume

Your resume is a marketing tool, and what it markets is you. Because of this, you need to reveal the person behind the document to the hiring manager. You need to return focus to the “I” that encompasses those skills, qualifications, and experiences. And you need to do it in about one page.

If that sounds like a hard ask, well, it is. Writing a stand-out resume isn’t easy. To help you out, here are some strategies to put the “I” back into your resume.

Write a personal objective

An objective gives the hiring manager a sense of why you would be a good fit for the job. If worded properly, it also clues them into the type of person you are, informing them about the motivations and inspirations that prompted you to apply.

First, review the job posting, and research the company culture. Then determine where your narrative, needs, and career mission line up. If you are applying for a teaching position, for example, you may mention your years of experience, expertise, and desire to serve your local community in the objective.

What “I” achieved

Too many resumes read like repurposed to-do lists. Managed team of customer service reps. Helped clients troubleshoot the SaaS platform. Trained new employees. Yada-yada.

Instead, shift your focus from duties to achievements. Achievements are more impressive than tasks because they help quantify and qualify your value to a team. For example, do not write that you edited call scripts. Write that your annual script revisions improved end-of-call review scores by 20 percent.

Achievements also engender a more personal vibe. While another candidate may have had similar positions or responsibilities, they likely will not have your one-of-a-kind combination of performance excellence.

Be action-oriented

To quote your English teacher: employ strong, active verbs. Strong verbs elevate your skills and accomplishments and allow you to match your diction to your voice.

In the example above, the achievement “improved” scores by 20 percent. Other strong verbs include oversaw, commissioned, endorsed, planned, and so on.

Note the difference: “Implemented a new time management system” or “I headed efforts to overhaul the time management system. My solution reduced mispunch forms by 100 per month.” The latter shines while crowning the achievement with a quantifiable metric.

Avoid clichés and platitudes

Clichés and platitudes lack originality. Everyone evokes these overused sayings, so by their nature, they cannot accurately reflect what is unique about you. Best to discover your own words and phrases.

Two caveats! First, the personal and professional should complement each other. Finding your voice is no excuse to be unprofessional.

Second, you’ll need to tailor your resume to the specific job to get past applicant tracking systems. To manage that, you’ll want to borrow keywords and phrases directly from the job posting even if it’s not exactly, well, you.

How personal is too personal?

Should you include non-job-related skills and achievements? Maybe. Such information may help companies with an informal culture get a feel for your fit. But more formal companies will see it as distracting and disqualifying.

When deciding, always ask yourself, “Does this contribute to convincing the hiring manager?” If the answer is no, take it out. If the answer is maybe, still best to take it out. Sure, your Warcraft guild ranking may demonstrate leadership and teamwork abilities, but is that the first impression a hiring manager will have? Probably not.

The “I” behind the resume

A resume does not allow much room for the personal. If that worries you, you can always use your cover letter to better exhibit your voice and personality. But little room does not mean it cannot be there. Hiring managers look through hundreds of resumes per opening. Giving them even a glimpse of the “I” behind the resume can be the difference between ending up in the rejection pile or the follow-up folder.

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