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How to Write a Resume for Humans

Topics: Career Advice

If you’re like most professionals, you’ve had your fair share of applying to jobs and hearing zilch back. When it happens, you chalk it up to another candidate being more qualified, your own bad timing, or the whims of the robots that read your resume before a human gets to see it. But, even if none of these things are true, and you’re the most qualified candidate applying at the best possible time, with a CV chock-full of the right resume keywords, your application can wind up in the trash. Why? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but your resume might be boring.


(Photo Credit: Arthur Caranta/Flickr)

If you think about it, a vast majority of the advice we get on how to write a resume reflects the working world of our grandparents. Back then, the business world was formal and bureaucratic, almost rigid. Today, the workplace is much more relaxed, open-minded, and employee-centric. Today’s employee isn’t required to be cookie-cutter, so why are you still writing your resume that way?

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Here’s what to do instead:

  1. Know who will be reading your resume.

Just as you are unique and different from every other candidate, so are the hiring managers and recruiters reading your resume. Take the time to read the job description in its entirety and do a bit of research on the company and the person to whom you’ll be sending your resume. This one important step can make the difference between being considered for the job, and passed over.

  1. Use a more natural tone, rather than sounding like a robot.

It’s time to nix the overused business jargon that is all too common on resumes. While you may think that using long, fancy, hyphenated words helps your candidacy, I’m sorry to tell you that it might be doing the exact opposite. Write your resume in a more natural tone that uses proper sentences, rather than fragments – or as Forbes contributor Liz Ryan calls it, “your Human-Voiced Resume.”

What exactly is a Human-Voiced Resume? Ryan explains, “It’s a resume on one or two pages that sounds like a regular resume, only with a human voice” – what a concept, right? Therefore, instead of writing in the typical “throw-uppy zombie language” (yes, those are her exact words, and I couldn’t agree with her more), she encourages candidates to use the first-person when conveying who they are, what they’ve accomplished, and what they bring to the table. In other words, Ryan is encouraging candidates to talk like normal human beings, and she gives the following example:

I worked as a school librarian for twenty years before moving into corporate libraries to help CEOs and their teams get intelligence they need. As a Research Director I ferret out business data, trends and analysis from all sources and compile them into easily-digestible reports that enable fast decision-making.

  1. Convey a bit of your personality in your writing.

Remember, these hiring managers probably don’t know a thing about you, so their first and only impression of you is limited to your application. It’s important for the hiring manager to see what you’ve accomplished as a professional, but it’s also important for them to get a sense of who you are as a person. Put a bit of yourself into your writing so that you can give the reader a glimpse of your personality (and possibly your wit), while still conveying your professional accomplishments effectively.

  1. Use quantifiable examples.

There’s a big difference between listing your accomplishments on your resume, and providing concrete examples with tangible figures or stats to back them up. It’s not enough to list that you “increased efficiencies” in your department, because that tells the reader very little about the actual results. Instead, you should be touching on specifically what those efficiencies were, and exactly how your changes impacted the company/your department. Be sure to provide any dollar amounts or percentages to back up your statements.

Tell Us What You Think

What other resume-writing tips do you have to add to the list? Share your suggestions with our community on Twitter, or leave your suggestion below in the comments section.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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