People overthink their resumes — constantly. It’s true that the competitiveness of the job market makes it even more imperative than ever for applicants to draw the attention of the reviewer before s/he moves on to the next resume in their pile. However, it’s equally important that an applicant’s resume convey its message concisely, thoroughly, and in an easily comprehendible format.
The tools to master this exist—the trick, then, is knowing how to and when to use them. Translating your CV to a resume can seem like a daunting challenge. It may seem impractical that any lab skills would translate to the office – but this in fact, is untrue. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, start with the fundamental skills that make any employee valuable – team player, multitasker, multilingual, etc. Think of how your lab work utilized fundamental skills and specialized skills (digital, knowledge of 508 compliance, etc.). Map this out, and then begin.
The written and spoken version of the English language pattern follows a system–lead with what you’re going to tell someone, then tell more, in greater detail. You do this first part when meeting someone, by answering simple introductory questions that spur answers such as “My favorite hobbies include playing Monopoly, painting, and taking long walks on the beach.” Later, you may expand to tell someone how you once won the regional Monopoly championship (if such things even exist.) A resume’s no different than this simple concept.
Start small and simple, extend to larger pieces of information that are important, relevant, and impressive. Provide a thesis statement at the top of the page. It helps to put it in prose form so it stands out visually from a page full of bullets and draws my eye directly to it. This prose/thesis statement section can be called many things “Profile”, “Objective” “Mission Statement”, etc. Your job here, in two sentences or less, is to tell the reader who you are and what you bring. Follow the same rules that exist per Thesis Writing 101: Make it relevant; make it succinct; make it strong. Every skill you list should be 100% relevant to the position and you shouldn’t list more than 3 skills, in addition to your years of relevant experience and education. Finish it with what you want to do. And then prove it.
Your experience sections, then, are your supporting paragraphs. Ideally, you will have gotten the reviewer interested from your profile section and made them more curious about you. Now, fill in the details. Just like a simple conversation, you led with the basics and inspired intrigue. Now, give the reader more. Again, think of similar situations like a report or a conversation: You wouldn’t only give a laundry-list of details in other forms of communication. So don’t do the same here. Tell me a story. Start with what your overall purpose was at that position. For a research assistant position, for example, instead of listing duties, you could lead with “Provided logistical, research, and administrative support to a federally-funded research lab of 10 focused on biosurveillance research.”
For your next few bullets, tell me how you did that. What specific activities did you do that are also relevant to your reader? This is as simple as looking at the job description and responding to the qualifications requirements. For the final bullet (and six should be your max per job), tell me what long-term effect you had. Could you say that you “Performed lab-based and academic research in support of an academic paper, which identified a new trend in biosurveillance efficacy”? Your reader wants to know the effect that you had and wants to be able to imagine that same effect at their organization.
To put it simply and alleviate some of the potential anxiety about transitioning a CV to a resume, the only difference between a resume and an opinion paper, memo, or report is that the paragraphs are bulleted. That’s it. The bullets, while easier to report information, don’t change the way a reviewer has learned to absorb information by decades of reading and conversing. Your challenge, then, is to do your best to make sure that your resume plays into that natural method of information absorption. It’s definitely an art, not a science. Utilizing the simple tools mentioned above will greatly improve the chances of the reviewer understanding your potential impact on their organization.
If this method interests you, feel free to check out this article from the Harvard Business Review that encourages the same approach. Happy writing and happy job hunting!
Post written by guest blogger, Kendell Snyder, Talent Acquisition Specialist at Obsidian Analysis, Inc.
Kendell Snyder is the head for Talent Acquisition activities at Obsidian Analysis, Inc., one of Washington’s fastest-growing private consulting firms. For more information on Obsidian’s work, growth, or our recent accolades, please visit www.obsidiandc.com .