Obviously, your resume is important. And that means it is very important for YOU to spend a great deal of time getting it perfect. Depending on who you ask, you might have anywhere from 7 to 10 seconds to make an impression on employers, and if they’re using a computerized system to screen out candidates, you may not even get that amount of time. Bottom line? It is crucial to spend time thinking about various techniques for presenting yourself through your professional resume.
One important component is the general appearance of the resume, and it is very true that thoughtful organization and consistent formatting can have a significant impact on your overall success. However, demonstrating “fit” through customized content on the resume is equally (if not more) important. Employers need to be able to scan your resume quickly, but they also need access to a certain level of detail in order to fully understand your skills and experience. Let’s talk about the process of developing a detailed, customized resume that takes your application from “good” to “great.”
Specifically, I’d like to discuss the bulleted descriptions that appear under each job entry on a resume. Each one of these bullets should represent a story that you could discuss with the employer, whether you’re talking about a daily aspect of your job or a special project that you’ve completed. While basic descriptions are usually pretty easy to develop for each position, adding content that is unique and impressive may require some additional thought.
If you want to create a resume that is truly “customized” – meaning many of the experiences and bullet points align with items mentioned in the job posting – then you will need to spend even more time reflecting on exactly which points you want to emphasize.
In our career center at the University of Georgia, we have developed a useful acronym to help students navigate the difficult process of coming up with bullet points for their resumes. The word is SAIL, and it stands for Skills, Achievements, Impact, and Learned. Here are some ways that you can utilize the SAIL formula when working on your own resume:
The first (and most obvious) area that you should consider when describing your work experience is your skillset. What abilities did you utilize that are unique or significant? For example, if you were in a leadership role for a campus organization, you might have bullet points under that entry that mention your “recruitment” skills or your “leadership” skills in facilitating meetings. Whatever skills you list, be sure to provide some context so that the hiring manager can gauge exactly at what level your abilities fall. Here are some examples:
Good: “Led chapter meetings each week to conduct fraternity business.”
Great: “Organized and led weekly chapter meetings of 120+ members to plan social events, philanthropic initiatives, and other fraternity business.”
The next area to think about is achievements. Do you have any accomplishments that you should be sharing on your resume? Perhaps you were promoted at your part-time job after only a few weeks, or you were recognized in your campus organization as “Member of the Year.” Promotions, awards, and other accolades are important milestones that signal your dedication and work ethic – think about ways that you can include these items within your bullet points.
Good: “Provided customer service in a retail clothing environment.”
Great: “Provided a high-level of customer service in a retail environment; recognized as the Top Sales Associate for 3 months in a row.”
Finding a way to communicate your impact also helps to enhance the effectiveness of your resume. Think about impact in terms of numbers – can you quantify your achievements? Numbers (#, $, %) give greater context to your involvements and help hiring managers understand the true nature of your experience. How many people did you lead? How large was the budget you were managing? By what percentage did you impact business or sales? Try to think critically and come up with some quantifiable results that you can communicate for each position.
Here is an example based upon a common description I see in my office:
Good: “Facilitated fundraising for UGA Donor Dawgs by coordinating fundraising teams across campus.”
Great: “Coordinated fundraising teams for UGA Donor Dawgs and facilitated the successful collection of over $75,000 for cancer research.”
As you can see with this example, sharing the amount provides a greater sense of impact to the overall description. In addition, the other details provided further enhance the contextual understanding of your role. Keep in mind that any time you leave a description somewhat vague, recruiters will probably assume a lower number, not a higher one.
Finally, don’t forget to consider including things that you learned within your bulleted description. Many positions, such as college internships, offer indirect experience that is still valuable to your overall development as a professional.
Here is an example of how to communicate what you learned in a position:
Good: “Shadowed a sales representative to learn about daily tasks.”
Great: “Shadowed a field sales representative to learn about client site visits, product placement, and territory management.”
As the example shows, listing off a few specific examples of what you learned makes the bullet more impactful and tangible to the hiring manager. Wherever possible, you should strive to find a balance between providing specific and concise content that recruiters can use to fully appreciate your strengths as a candidate!