The Visionary Resume Writer

by: Craig E Purcell

The job market is more competitive today than ever! As a result, the hard and fast rules of resume writing are going out the window. The one-page rule no longer applies to many mid to high level jobs or for applicants with substantial experience. Furthermore, applicants are taking liberties with their resumes – adding personal touches to show their individuality and value - even at the risk of being over-the-top. How do you make your resume show your unique skills and talents while NOT going too far?

Getting Started
It begins before you ever begin writing your resume...

In addition to highlighting your experience and accomplishments, employers are looking for indications of active participation in the success of an organization, its people and your personal performance. Knowing what you bring to the table and having the ability to communicate it professionally is a key element in all resumes (and, is more important than ever). Finally, you must understand that YOU are a valuable resource as a whole person… not just as a job description. Knowing your passions and how they relate to your career is critical to effectively communicate your value to a prospective employer.
“YOU can be forgotten in all the minutia of cramming information into a resume.”
~ John Welty, Attorney (Phoenix, AZ)
The Harsh Reality...
After all the work and worry, there’s one harsh reality to consider: It is possible a company has received hundred(s) of carefully crafted and painstakingly edited resumes. The hiring manager might see a solid resume as a pre-requisite and a simple pass/fail exercise. A hiring manager may only briefly scan your resume to verify basic pre-determined criteria: “Good resume format… Check! Meets all pre-determined criteria… Check! Related work experience… Check!”

Congratulations! Your resume is now in a stack with dozens of other similarly qualified applicants who have also spent countless hours creating the “perfect resume.” With such limited time to make an impression, you must put YOU back into your resume… but, HOW?

Part 2: Power-Words: Easy as 1-2-3!Power Words are often simply ‘action verbs’ which clearly and succinctly describe your ACTIVE PARTICIPATION in your job descriptions or accomplishments. Employers want to see HOW you were successful in addition to WHAT you did. Powerful and active words - specifically related to the task described – can make a huge difference.

It’s tempting to throw all kinds of action words at your descriptions to “dress up the resume.” Power words are, well… powerful - If they are used mindfully and honestly. Hiring managers are well-versed in interpreting such things. The wrong words will look like the wrong words. There are countless resources online and in book stores about resume writing and power words. So… I won’t overload you with information - except to suggest spending some time searching the web for “resume power words.” The resources and examples are endless.
Of all the suggestions out there... this is my favorite. Consider using a '1-2-3' approach when crafting a description of each role or accomplishment:
1) The challenge/task, 2) The specific action taken, 3) The result or outcome.
By including a very brief word or two to describe each action and result, you give your statements a new degree of power. Once these three elements are in place, it's easier to insert “action verbs” or other descriptive words to tie the elements together.
Why does this method work?
There is nothing more frustrating than walking out of an interview not having shared your greatest successes. Most interviewers come to the table with a prepared list of questions and may only use your resume as a guide during the interview to prompt a more personalized discussion. Power words and the 1-2-3 approach allow for a more substantial description which may prompt the interviewer to ask you more about it. If not, then you’ve at least gotten your point across and shared what YOU can bring to the table.

Before you begin
Start by asking yourself some questions to help identify the best examples of your active involvement in the job you are describing: What steps you have taken to be successful? Which situations produced the most successful results? What skills were needed or improved to become successful? Make some notes. Now, you’re ready to craft your descriptions!

Here is an example of a very basic job description taken to more powerful level with the 1-2-3 approach and the use of power words:
  • Basic: “Successfully managed a team of 20 employees to achieve goals.”
    This tells the hiring manager that you were successful and met the goals expected of you. This is a basic formula that works for many entry-level positions. Yet, it does not address your enthusiasm and interest toward the task or position.
  • Better: “Motivated and developed a team of 20 employees who consistently exceeded goals and maintained high-level performance.”
    This statement may tell the hiring manager that you intentionally worked with your team to achieve results. It also calls-out a specific outcome! It is a little light on the context or specific task/goal.est: "Engaged team members to create a self-directed peer-mentoring program for members to share successes to achieve and maintain a high-level performance rating for over one year.”
• This is an effective statement because it uses very specific words relating to the action, displays engagement in success, and briefly describes a positive outcome. The statement is not excessively long, yet gets all the information in. You don’t have to describe every single step you took… leave something for discussion in the interview.

Below are suggestions of power words you might consider for your next resume:

Exceeded – Motivated – Actively – Proactively – Designed – Engaged – Achieved – Maintained –
Encouraged – Developed – Created – Researched – Involved – Sustained -
…and many, many more!

Part 3: Know what you bring to the table:
By: Craig E. Purcell
Describing your strengths on your resume can be challenging. Not everyone is comfortable “blowing their own horn.” In my years as a Supervisor, Interviewer and Project Leader, I observed many employees who were not as aware of their own strengths! Helping them uncover and describe their skills and inherent strengths was an empowering step to help them advance in their careers.
During an interview, you have to be confident, professional and honest - while also showing individuality. Your inherent strengths – those things that make you, YOU – extend beyond the workplace.
Gardening for example, might indicate patience and nurturing. The ability to quote every sport statistics in history might indicate you are analytical and numbers-oriented. These are positive attributes and may be valuable assets to your employer. You might NOT include “gardening” on your resume, but you can certainly draw upon the characteristics which make you good at it.

Here is an exercise to help draw out and organize the positive characteristics you bring to everything you do… give it a try!

1. Make a list of things you love to do AND things you do well. Include both personal and professional things like: Organizing Fundraisers, Gardening, Parenting, Accounting or Reading.
2. Write down skills you possess which make you good at these things. Accounting = Analytical, Detailed, Mathematical, Results-oriented - OR -Organizing Fundraisers = Organized, Results-Oriented, Detailed.
3. Identify common/repeated themes such as “Detailed & Results-Oriented” (from above)
4. Identify a common description for repeated themes: “Analytical & Mathematical = Analysis
5. Narrow it down to the top 5 common themes/words you have discovered. These are your key strengths and may also double as power words!
6. Integrate these words into your resume to make it very personal, professional and concise.

Uncovering your strengths and repeated traits means your resume will reflect who you truly are. There is power in understanding what you bring to the table! Your interviews will be more effective and you will help the interviewer hear how you will benefit the organization!

Part 4 of 4: Create a Visionary Resume!
By: Craig E. Purcell

Does your resume truly represent who you are? Or – does it make you feel like a used car dealer trying to sell a Hyundai to a Sumo wrestler? You know it’s not a good fit, but once they sign the paperwork, that’s their problem!

Adding power words to your resume and discovering what you really bring to the table can indeed help you impress the interviewer … but… YAWN! So, then why would I have you go to all that work? Well, first because it’s the standard for resumes. But it just might also allow you to think about what you really want for your career.

Dreaming outside of the lines…
I can’t tell you how to envision your future… but I can tell you how allowing myself to dream outside the lines helped me to discover my future.

In 2002, I was working as Call Center Supervisor. It was a great job, but very stifling. I decided to plan my escape by working toward a promotion.

One evening, I sat down at my desk and started writing my resume. The more I wrote, the more I realized I was I was selling myself for a job I didn’t want. It made me chuckle.
I started getting fantastical… including quotes from inspirational poems and passionately describing a job that didn’t exist in nature. I said I wanted to inspire and motivate people. I wanted to help them find their niche and understand how they can get the most from their job. I wanted to help employees hate their jobs less.

I formatted the resume with a very brave font, printed it on electric blue paper and filed it away – eventually losing track of it.

Full circle…
In 2006, after powering through several years of being a supervisor, I was called into my boss’ office. He explained there was a new position being created and I had been recommended for the job.

In my new role I would be responsible for enhancing the morale, developing recognition programs and ensuring effective communications for over 1000 employees in Missouri AND Michigan.

I said, “YES.”

Thrive where you are planted!
Looking back, I’ve realized that this “dreamy” resume was about having a vision for my career. Though I’d filed it away, both physically and mentally, the spirit of what I’d written stayed with me. I’ve realized that writing it down caused me to OWN it! This ownership – or, vision – helped me thrive where I was planted.

Revealing our true passions in their highest form - even if only to oneself – can help become more bold and confident with every action. As the great Dr. Maya Angelou says, “When you know better – You do better!”

Try it…
Free your mind of conventional resume rules. Describe your vision of your ideal job – one that uses your skills and passions – even if you’ve never heard of such a job. Be sincere and passionate. Be creative. Then, file it away and mark your calendar to call me in about 5 years… I’m curious to see what happens.


copyright 2011 - Craig E Purcell

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