There is an old adage about writing that goes something like “show, don’t tell.” The idea is that good writing shows what the author wants to communicate, and through showing lets the point communicate itself. Bad writing tells the reader things, too. Writing resumes is the same way.
You don’t want to say what you are. That is telling. You want to talk about the impact you had, which is showing. There’s a big difference.
Anyone Can Say Anything
I can tell you I’m a detail oriented person. I can tell you I’m a results oriented, high energy multi-tasker. But does that make it true? It doesn’t matter, because if you read resumes all day these kind of clichéd terms lose their meanings. Anyone can SAY they are anything. But demonstrating these qualities is what makes an effective resume.
Imagine you were reading an online dating profile (imagine, because of course you never would) and someone said they were intelligent and sweet. Do you believe them? Possibly. But what if they said they were reading their way through all the Russian novelists and they volunteered ten hours a week at a homeless shelter? For puppies? Suddenly you find yourself believing they are intelligent and sweet, even though they never actually said it.
Your Accomplishments Demonstrate Your Skills
You should focus on your accomplishments, because your accomplishments demonstrate the skills you want to show. You want to show that you are a multi-tasker? Don’t say it, demonstrate it by saying you managed five projects simultaneously while monitoring progress, creating deadlines, and coordinating delivery dates with three different shipping companies. You want to show you have effective communication skills?
Never just say you have effective communication skills, because saying “I communicate effectively” doesn’t communicate anything. So saying that actually proves you are, in fact, not good at communicating. Instead write something like “created and delivered five, thirty-minute MS PowerPoint sales presentations to potential clients that resulted in the acquisition of four new accounts.”
Specifics Are Your Friend when Writing Resumes
Just as showing is better than telling, being specific is better than being vague. Many people think vagueness on a resume makes it seem like they did more than they actually did. This would be true if the people who read resumes were gullible and born yesterday. They are not. In fact, they become cynical reading thousands of bad resumes. (Which is why a great RTI resume not only gets you an interview, it makes hiring people happy and gives them renewed hope in humanity. We are purveyors of hope).
Specifics make it clear exactly what you did. Some people think a bit of mystery is good. This is wrong. Hiring people don’t ask questions about resumes they don’t understand. They just throw them in the trash.
Good writing is good writing, and writing resumes is no different. Now go forth. Write your best resume with a “show, don’t tell” mindset. And get your next great job.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Resume to Interviews!