The resume. It's become a debated topic over whether it's still a valuable tool in modern hiring but regardless of which side of the argument you favour, resumes are here to stay for the moment. So when you start your job search, or when you need to hire for an open position, what is the best way to convey information through a standard resume template? After all, we're in an era where job searching can be a frustrating endeavor on both sides. Candidates often report communication black holes where they are seemingly ignored by potential employers. Employers, on the other hand, are having an increasingly difficult time finding the right talent to fill their ranks. It begs the question, what's going on? Is there a mismatch between job descriptions and qualifications? A lack of great talent? Poor talent acquisition processes? Or maybe there's something going on in those ubiquitous resumes that fail to get their point across to the right audience. While resume formats are often discussed in how to properly layout a job application, it's worth taking a look at the language and phrases used in winning resumes as well. What sort of words should a job seeker include in their applications and what phrases should hiring managers be on the lookout for?
The technological side of building a great resume
In decades past, resumes were scanned by people looking for a great new hire. These days, however, you have to build a resume not just for a recruiter, but also to make it through the rounds of ATSs. Vicki Salemi, a career expert for Monster, shared with The Cheat Sheet, “Applicant tracking systems will scan your resume for words the employer has decided are important.” This can be the phrases you use to describe your skills, your titles, your job roles and other information. One way to get these phrases right is to review the job advertisement carefully and compare it to your resume. Salemi advises, "To make sure the system doesn’t overlook you, use those words to describe your experience.” So keep the technology side of hiring in mind when writing your winning resume. And on the hiring manager side of things, keep in mind that some great candidates might be getting caught in your ATS system. If you're struggling to find quality candidates, check the slush pile of ATS rejections and see if a stellar resume has been missed because it didn't make the technology cut.
What phrases do winning resumes include?
Moving beyond the tech hurdle of writing a good resume, let's consider the language and phrases commonly used in the more successful applications. This information can increase the odds that your resume will get noticed. According to Marc Cenedella, expert author with The Ladders, every resume needs to include “success verbs”, which means “something got better, because you were there, something changed, something improved, something progressed.” Examples of some phrases using these success verbs could be:
- Maximized profits in the customer support department over an 18-month period
- Exceeded customer service positive ratings from 2016-2019
- Streamlined the RFP process for the engineering department to save time
- Awarded the highest recognition as a trainer for the production team
As you can see from the way they are written, these winning phrases include the element of you taking command of your role with each job. They are based on actionable goals that were achieved. It is implied that you care about the quality of work you do and go above and beyond what is expected of you. You are a problem solver and a go-getter. This is exactly why recruiters like to see these keyword phrases included on a resume. A hiring manager who sees a candidate with a proven track record will likely be more inclined to interview them over one who just lists what their duties and responsibilities in their last job were.
Why is it important to think about resume language?
If you are wondering how important it is to include success verbs and phrases on a resume, try to look at it from the employer angle. Anytime a company is looking to hire talent, they are hoping for a few things:
- The candidate will have the right skills and drive to get the job done well
- The candidate will understand the responsibilities of the job and takes initiative
- The candidate has read the job requirements and can demonstrate this
- The candidate has the potential for greater things in the organization's future
Actionable phrases are far better than trying to convey all of this information in a cover letter. Be honest and be prepared to discuss them with the hiring manager once you have passed the initial screening.
What do power phrases convey to recruiters or hiring managers?
If recruiters are used to seeing these phrases on resumes, then what does this convey to them when they appear on yours? First, they show the recruiter that you actually took the time to review the job qualifications and have sent in a custom resume. Secondly, they highlight your skills instead of just past duties. Lastly, these resume phrases show that you understand what the demands of the job will be and indicate your potential.
Hiring managers should always look for honesty and transparency on resumes. If a phrase seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t go bragging about improving sales by 150% without offering proof that this really happened because of your efforts. Link every phrase to specific skills in the job post and that you actually possess for the best results.
Resumes are here to stay
Whether your a job seeker or a hiring manager, resumes are still the go-to tools of the recruitment trade. A polished, professional resume is still your ticket to an interview offer. So next time you're up for your dream job, give your work history a boost by focusing on actionable phrases and offering quantified proof of your accomplishments. The extra effort will turn your resume from a rote rundown of your past work experience to a guide to your future potential and capabilities. And for hiring managers, look for candidates who use success verbs or power phrases in their resumes as it shows they are putting in the extra effort and trying to show what they have to offer in a more direct way. There's no recipe for a perfect resume but taking the time to think about your experience, audience, and technological hurdles can go a long way to making your application stand out in a crowd.