One of the persistent and challenging demands of the professional world is that you have to crunch all your professional experience and expertise into a single page — your resume. 

A resume is a coveted piece of paper that should be exhaustive but to the point. And it should be impressive but modest, and distinctive but standardized. 

Whether you are in the workforce or preparing to be, these contradictions will demand your attention and effort at some point or the other. Therefore, it is critical to unpack and understand this creature better. After all, you must tame and lead it to your future employers’ ‘selected’ pile. 

‘Fit’ comes first 

Firstly, it is crucial to understand that resumes are not a showcase of your best professional version but your best professional version for a given organization’s hiring objectives and needs. 

This distinction is important since the first filter any hiring manager applies is your ‘fit’ for a particular role and company. For you, this means narrowing down and focusing on answering their needs. This is not the time to impress them with your breadth of experience, but rather getting an interview by meeting their most critical requirements.

Speaking a company’s language 

To further improve your fit with a company, it is advisable to be consistent with the vocabulary and terms used by them.  

Bear in mind that due to the large volume of applicants most companies rely on talent management software which runs algorithms to screen and select resumes. This means all the eloquent vocabulary you thought would impress an HR manager is probably just being scanned by AI. 

Even if that’s not the case, hiring managers also use a common way to filter resumes which is by looking for keywords or terms they mentioned in the job description. 

Therefore, it is always better to describe yourself using the same vocabulary as the company. This makes your resume more ‘discoverable’ and likely to get selected.

Highlighting skills beyond the technical

Skills such as effective collaboration, leadership, problem-solving and time management are often under-highlighted in resumes. These are crucial skills that every employer is looking for. The challenge is that these skills aren’t easy to quantify. A smart way is to club them with achievements that can be quantified but couldn’t have been possible without these skills. For instance:

Led a key cross-functional project with limited time and resources. 

This can also be written as:

Demonstrated collaboration and decision-making abilities by leading a cross-functional project for marketing, which resulted in a 20% revenue boost and 30% cost reduction.

A word on aesthetics

There are many eye-catching templates on the internet that claim to help your resume stand out. This includes a template based on Elon Musk’s resume that compresses all his illustrious achievements into a page. 

It is easy to get carried away with such trending formats for your resume. But make sure you are keeping the nature and personality of the brand or organization you are applying to in mind. For instance, a new technology startup may appreciate an out-of-the-box visual layout for your resume, but a Big Four firm would expect a standard and simple layout. 

But when in doubt, it is always best to keep it simple and stick to the basics.

Final tip: Even in an increasingly tech-enabled world, it would be advisable to carry a clean printout of your resume. Email attachments get lost or the interviewer’s assistant may forget to print it. So instead of fumbling, demonstrate your preparedness by reaching into your bag for a copy. 

Hope your resumes are as brilliant as you are and in the ways your future employer would like you to be!


Explore topics such as Writing SkillsProcess of Writing, and How to Improve Writing Skills from our Harappa Diaries blog section to build your skills for workplace success.

Saumya Seth is a Specialist in the Curriculum team at Harappa Education. She is a Young India Fellow and an Economics graduate from Lady Shri Ram College. She is also a serial snacker who loves finding better and simpler ways to communicate ideas.

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