The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “What are the top three things you look for on a resume?” is written by Matthew Katz, founder and CEO of Verifi.
A resume is a potential employer’s first impression of you, so it’s important that you maximize this opportunity to showcase your strengths and accomplishments. The challenge, however, is understanding the fine line between your resume being a well-written, respectable, and self-promotional document, and a collection of exaggerations and half-truths.
When I started Verifi, it was important that I surround myself with a team that could earn my confidence and help me turn the company into what it is today. When I started the hiring process, I looked beyond proper grammar for a few key traits that indicated true proficiency:
Success in numerous industries
Many industries today are combinations of formerly separate industries, so much so that we have new terminology: FinTech, AdTech, HealthTech, etc. I want to know when I’m hiring someone that they have skills in more than one industry. Verifi works with companies in a wide range of fields, and while our focus is on payments fraud prevention, I need to know that my staff can get on the phone with someone and understand what’s driving a client’s need or their specific business problem, and how to address or fix it.
Resumes are professional documents and, as such, should be written in a professional tone. But I don’t want to look at someone’s resume and feel like I’m reading a sample document pulled from a textbook. It should have some sort of conversational flow to it that gives me a sense that you’re a personable individual and that you’re someone I want to have a face-to-face conversation with. So write how you speak, and then edit for grammar.
You wouldn’t have a conversation with someone and use the word “amongst,” for instance. You’re more likely to use “among,” so write the same way.
Substance (tangible and material achievements)
I don’t want to just hear what you’ve done—I want to see what you’ve done. You should never feel like you’re showing off by mentioning an accomplishment on your resume. On the contrary, it adds to your credibility when you show what you’ve done. If you took on a project and saw it through from start to finish, bring a sample if you’re allowed. Or if you’ve been published in an article, or work was used somewhere, point to it online (and don’t forget to bring an additional sample to leave with your interviewer if you’re called in to meet).
Brought a client into your firm? Tell me about it. That shows me what you’re capable of, and shows me you’re worth more than just the job you’re being hired for. If you feel that your resume needs more substance, perhaps consider signing up for an online course in your field. This shows that you’ve recently taken initiative and are eager to learn. I don’t just want to know that you’re proficient in Microsoft (MSFT) Office—I would love to see that you’re certified in Microsoft Office.
Resumes can be tricky, and they are just a first step to standing out amongst other candidates and getting your foot in the door. Definitely keep these tips in mind when you’re working on yours. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your parents, peers, mentors, and friends are great sources to consult with, in addition to career centers that specialize in resumes. Be sure to pay attention to details, and to keep updating your resume as you gain experiences and accomplishments.