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 Stav Vaisman, co-founder and CEO of OurPlan.
Most of the people who read your resume will focus on hard skills and education, but a great resume also comes from great content. And, great content is more than a listing of your work experience and academic credentials. So even if your work experience is scant and you lack an Ivy League degree to present as resume bait, you can stand out by showing how you used your experience to showcase and develop their strengths.
Here are my three tips for producing great resume content:
Write in your own words
Avoid the bland language used by your human resources department to describe your past and current positions. Instead, write about your work experience in your own words. Describe your past and current positions in a compelling way.
This is particularly important if your position is in a field unfamiliar to your prospective boss. Write in a conversational, lively, yet professional tone. Use short, declarative sentences. Your writing should sound a lot like how you would talk during an interview if you were trying to charm your future boss with your intelligence and wit.
One of the best resumes I ever received came from an applicant whose professional experience was meager, at best. But she avoided bland HR language, and instead told me stories about her academic and work experience that showed me who she was as a person. Even though she was under-qualified, I knew immediately that she would be a great teammate. I hired her, and she quickly advanced into a management position. She later told me she wrote 10 drafts of her resume—just as many as she spent on her cover letter.
Each position should be described with at least several sentences, preferably more. Don’t just provide a one- or two-sentence description of your past and current positions. I want to know what you did on a daily basis. I want to know how your work experience presented the challenges that reveal your strengths. I want to know about your failures, successes, and capacity to solve problems. Don’t be shy to share the details of challenges you encountered at a menial position. Your ability to tell me specifically how you grew personally, socially, and professionally from your work experience demands a frank and honest sharing of details.
Remember the lesson for creative writers: Show, don’t tell. A position that is described with a story about what you learned from the position tells me a lot more than a routine description. Your details should recount the greatest difficulties you faced on the job and how you overcame them.
Show your research
If content is king for a resume, you must do a bit of research about the opening, the organization, and even your future boss. Your resume should show your future boss that you have taken the time to learn as much as you can about the opening and the organization. Don’t describe your past experience without showing how that experience can be applied to the position. You should know the language, terminology, and requirements of the position for which you are applying.
All of these tips relate specifically to how you describe the experiences that make you an ideal applicant for the position. These descriptions should be placed underneath each listing under the academic, work, extracurricular, or volunteer sections of your resume. Don’t just provide a list of items. Your experience must be shown through words, details, anecdotes, and even a brief story, not a list. Show me, in your own words, how these experiences reveal your knowledge, skills, and traits. Show me, with details, how your experience relates to the position. Even if your resume is short on work experience and academic bragging points, if it’s rich with content that reveals your potential, you’ll be sure to catch the hiring manager’s eye.