Why is writing a resume so different from any other type of writing?
For the most part, a resume will use very strict, quantitative, professional language throughout the entire document. You’ll never see any kind of figurative language anywhere when writing a resume, and in most bullet points people will want to quantify their accomplishments using numbers and hard evidence. It’s very rare, even in scientific research papers, to find a document where pretty much every single sentence involves a number or percentage. When writing your resume, on the other hand, you want almost 100% of your bullet points to use some kind of number or quantitative information.
In addition to that, you’ll also always want to use strong verbs and wording when writing a resume. It’s not likely in most other forms or writing that you’ll see every verb being a so-called “strong” verb. For example - sometimes it’s actually better to use the words “talked to” instead of “collaborated with” and so on, but in your resume you’d never want to just say you “talked to” other team members to achieve a goal. You’ll always want to word that statement as you “collaborating with” the team - it’s more professional and applies more directly when writing a resume.
The sentence structure.
If all pieces of literature had sentences that sounded like resume bullet points, nobody would read books. Why? Well, the classic resume bullet point looks like this:
“Constructed portfolio optimization templates in excel that increased returns by 63%.”
That’s [strong verb] + [what you achieved] + [quantitative measure of success]
Almost all good resume bullet points will follow the simple structure of strong verb + whatever you did. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds very unnatural - and that’s because it is. Nobody actually talks like that in real life, and if you were to say the achievement described above when talking to a coworker, you’d probably say something like “Yeah I made an excel template for the clients’ portfolios and played with the numbers, and the numbers are crazy! We bumped returns up by 62 percent!” If a coworker walked up to you and said she “optimized 12 marketing strategies using the three C’s method that increased readership by 41%” you’d start to suspect she’s a robot and not actually your coworker and the AI uprising is imminent. Just kidding, but you get what I mean.
In resume writing, the strict sentence structure serves an important purpose. When recruiters or employers are reading your resume, it actually helps them overall when everyone is formulaic in their sentence structure. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not telling you to blend in, and I’m not saying you can’t stand out against a crowd. What I am saying is this: if you’re a recruiter looking at hundreds, if not thousands of resumes, it’s actually easier for you to pick between candidates if you can analyze their accomplishments in similar formats. As a metaphor, picture this: the recruiter is a basketball analyst and reporter, and you can be one of two things: a basketball player or a snooker player.
The recruiter is exceedingly knowledgeable about basketball, as she watches basketball all day every day. If the analyst watches you play basketball (AKA if the recruiter reads a well-written resume), the recruiter/analyst knows how you measure up against the competition. If you make her watch you play snooker (AKA if the recruiter reads a poorly-written resume), a game she knows absolutely nothing about, she won’t know how good or bad you are, or will have a tough time figuring it out. And what happens when recruiters are forced to spend more time than they want to analyzing your resume? They throw it into the rejections pile.
Even when compared to job descriptions, your resume will be written quite differently. A job description might describe an overarching idea of what the position will be like, and maybe talk about the skills necessary to be good at the job. A resume typically will do the opposite - it will write about the nitty-gritty details of the job, and won’t usually explicitly state the skills you employed. Rather, your resume will imply the skills necessary to be successful at this job through the description of what you achieved.
For example, your resume won’t include a bullet point that says you “used good time-management skills,” it’ll say something more direct and actionable. It could say something describing your role as a receptionist and how you “Managed incoming phone calls, messages for the office manager, face-to-face client interactions, and databases for over 3,200 customers.” That sounds like a lot of things to handle on a day-to-day basis, and a recruiter will read that and think about the type of employee you are to be capable of doing that successfully - AKA you need great time-management skills.
That brings me to a bit of an aside - don’t ever just regurgitate your job description on your resume. So many applicants will do that and guess what? If you do it too you’ll be making yourself look like everyone else who applied - AKA unimpressive. Be unique, and talk about the things at your job and projects that you worked on that you had an important role in accomplishing! Don’t sell yourself short by just saying what your last job was, say what you specifically did to complete goals and succeed in general.
That being said, no two people will achieve the exact same goals regardless of their assignments. It’ll take a lot of time to write a great resume - in a survey of students at a top 15 university, 79.7% students stated that it took them up to four weeks to finish a work-ready resume. I don’t know about you, but to me that seems like a very long time. You need to think very critically about your past experiences and analyze what you did differently - and sometimes that’s really hard to do.
If you don’t want to spend that long stressing yourself out, let us take care of it for you! Here at Backlight use artificial intelligence to optimize your resume to make it as strong as possible and then have people well-versed in resume optimization and human resources review it to fine tune the details. We know it’s a real pain to build a resume from scratch, and now you don’t have to - feel free to browse the rest of our site and see what we have to offer! We have templates for all kinds of industries, all levels of experience, and all types of people! We promise we’ll be able to truly illuminate your accomplishments.