Updated: Sep 12
90% of resumes are ineffective.
I've reviewed hundreds of resumes over the past four years, and here's what I've discovered:
One of the main reasons resumes do not lead to interviews, is down to how they list out work experiences. There is nothing to grab the attention of a hiring manager or recruiter who typically passes judgement in less than seven seconds on whether to toss your resume into the rejected pile or not.
Below I'll share five easy ways you can improve your resume's work experience section, to make it more vibrant and engaging.
Remove irrelevant work experience from your resume
Many job-seekers, especially those with more than 15 years of experience, are liable to fall into the habit of including every job they have ever worked since high school, thinking that if they don't showcase their entire work history they will be questioned. This does nothing more than hurt your resume and the hiring manager's view of you.
The only experiences that need to be included in your resume are the ones which are relevant to the post. So for example, if you're applying for a sales director job, but your first two roles were spent working at McDonald's and then as a bank cashier, those roles should be left out. The only ones that matter now are your sales management roles.
Not only that, but if all the roles you've been in are relevant, you should, as a rule of thumb, only include the last 10-15 years of work experience. Of course, if you're aiming for a senior level management or director job, then they will require more years and you can include all or most of your senior leadership experience there.
Provide tangible, quantifiable examples
The next mistake I see so many candidates make when writing their work experience on their resume, is that they fail to use quantifiable examples to back their claims, and instead, rely on outdated, over-used, or cliched phrases and buzzwords. Don't just say you are skilled in improving customer satisfaction. Prove what you mean by pointing to a specific example and including numbers, for instance, "Improved customer satisfaction for XYZ service by 80% through _________(what you did)."
"Don't tell me what you're going to do, show me what you've done." – Smith
Focus on achievements, not responsibilities
Following on from my last point, it's not just essential to quantify what you've already done in your resume, but you must ensure that your work experience is not a copy-paste of your job description. The last thing a prospective employer needs to see is another job ad! They've seen enough already! Besides, listing out your responsibilities does nothing to wow your employer or show exactly what makes you stand out as a candidate. What makes you different to the next candidate who may have the exact same work experience as you?
The difference lies in your ability to articulate what you've accomplished. Again, use numbers to drive the impact further, to establish trust and credibility in your ability to bring value to the next job.
For example: "Realized sales uptake of 25% by Q4 2022 with the Quoting Module Project."
Use bullet points for your work experience
Many job-seekers put all their work experiences together in chunky paragraphs. I've sometimes seen paragraphs that were seven or eight lines long!
Bearing in mind that recruiters take an average of seven seconds to scan through your resume, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to jump to the important details and pull out the needed information. If your resume has long paragraphs, it's not user-friendly and even worse, can't be scanned by ATS (applicant tracking systems).
Break up your experience into bullet points that are no more than 1-2 lines long on average, focusing on literally one key point per bullet.
Tailor it to a specific job description
Lastly, but most importantly, your work experience must not only be relevant, include specific examples, be achievements-focused, and be laid out in bullet points, but it must be tailored to specific job descriptions. A one-size-fits-all resume is never effective. I always recommend my clients to start with a master copy, then adapt and tailor to specific roles they're applying for, ensuring the keywords from the job description are inserted throughout their resume.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you’d also love my weekly newsletter I release every Wednesday for new and aspiring managers.
For best practices in formatting your resume, check out my latest Forbes article.
Whenever you’re ready, there are two ways I can help you:
1. The Resume Review Screencast. I’ll provide you with a personalized Resume Review video and navigate the screen, sharing with you specific examples of what needs to be done to improve your career's personal branding on your resume. Turnaround time 2 business days. Order your personalized review.
2. The Executive Resume Overhaul. Revamp your executive career with our Executive Resume Overhaul. Whether we meet in person or via email consultation, I tailor your resume to your target roles. My show-stopping resumes are designed to grab the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, even at the C-suite level. And with my 30-day unlimited tweaks guarantee, you can be confident in your career journey. Get started today.