Résumé Hacks: Ensure Your Résumé Speaks Directly to the Reader

Making your résumé stand out to an employer is not an easy task. We got advice from certified professional résumé writer Howard Davies, director of Resume Writer Direct, on how to tailor your résumé for each employer's eyes.


Writing a powerful résumé is never easy. With so many factors influencing this little sheet of paper's ability to generate interviews and ultimately earn you a place on the job ladder, it can be hard to know where to start. Although professional résumé writing services are available, many people choose to write their résumé themselves, and why not! It's a tedious task, but it's quite possible to write an inspiring résumé with little practice. However, to help ensure your labors aren't poorly invested, it's definitely best to research some résumé tips before you start the writing process.

A quick Google search will no doubt reveal more writing advice than you can shake a stick at. So what exactly can you distill from this mountain of online advice, that can then be easily implemented when writing your new résumé?

One of the fundamental principles behind résumé writing is to tailor each résumé so that it targets the specific position you are applying to. This is by no means groundbreaking advice, however it is integral to producing an effective résumé that speaks directly to the reader, and should be adhered to.

So how can you accomplish this, exactly? There are a number of techniques that can be applied. Below I have chosen to outline the most impactful and easiest to implement: here are the golden rules to writing a targeted résumé.

Strategic work-history selection

First of all, a résumé is a marketing tool that you use to earn interviews. It is not meant to get you a job straight off the bat. It is also not meant to be a complete catalog of your working history. You are not obligated to provide every single job you've ever had — far from it, in fact. You only want to include work history that is actually relevant.

Remember, you want your résumé to speak directly to the reader. If you're applying for a chef position, then the secretarial job you held just after college is in no way relevant and has no place on your résumé.

To strategically select content you must first consider what aspects of your work history, ideally from the last 10-15 years, are relevant to the job you are applying.

If the new job is a continuation within the same industry, performing a similar role to your current job, or if you are stepping up the career ladder, populate your résumé with work history that demonstrates your progress within your given field. Choose two or three key jobs to include on your résumé, and present your experience in a reverse-chronological order that resembles a funnel. The most recently held position should contain the most bullet points, while the older job positions should contain only a few key summary bullet points.

If you are entering a new field of work, or have a mixed work history, don't panic. Consider which of your previous jobs required you to work in a similar capacity to the requirements of the new job. Try to highlight transferrable skills. For example, if applying for a management job you should try to isolate and present your past experience in leadership roles where you demonstrated leadership skills (decision making, public speaking, keeping calm under pressure, etc.).

Avoid day-to-day duties

Once you've strategically selected which previous jobs you want to include in your résumé, the next step is to develop unique, targeted content expounding your role within each position. This can most efficiently be presented in bullet point form.

When writing your bullet points, again try to think about what the recruiter wants to see. Don't waste valuable résumé space expounding on basic day-to-day responsibilities that anyone holding your job title should be able to perform.

Using the example of secretarial work again, the following bullet points are not acceptable:

  • Maintaining clean and tidy reception area
  • Keep office equipment operational by following manufacturer instructions and establishing procedures

Bear in mind that a hiring manager wants to read exactly what made you good at your job. To do this, prioritize bullet points that demonstrate the more challenging duties and responsibilities you held. In addition, equal importance should be put on incorporating quantified achievements to support the idea that you excelled within your job.

Quantify your achievements

If working in a sales job, try to show how often you met/beat sales targets. If working in a managerial role be sure to mention the size of the team you lead, how you accomplished department goals, set challenges for yourself, and any other methods used to increase productivity. Remember, a hiring manager isn't looking for someone who will just turn up and get the job done; they want someone who will excel.

Always provide context

Tailoring your résumé to speak to the reader also means providing a context to your experience. Most résumés fail to provide the reader with an accurate understanding of the size and scale of work the applicant was involved in. To overcome this issue, it's imperative you include a company description for each job you include within your Professional Experience section.

Include a bullet point summarizing key details that paint a picture of the place you worked, such as the product/service rendered and a company headcount.

  • As a nurse you could describe the medical center in terms of number of patients on each ward, how many doctors/nurses worked there.
  • Non-profit organizations could be described by headcount, constituents, mission, annual revenue/funding, etc.

By putting your work into context, the reader will gain a greater understanding of the story you're telling on your résumé. Successfully engaging the reader is your goal, since this will significantly increase the chances of getting called in for interview.

There's a lot more that goes into writing an effective résumé, but following my advice and targeting your content will certainly have a positive impact. Take time to assess your work history and decide what will strategically benefit your application, and leave out anything that's not directly relevant. Avoid the urge to populate your résumé with pointless bullet points about day-to-day responsibilities; this plays no role in marketing your individual skill set, and is quite frankly a waste of résumé space. Finally, be sure to provide context to your experience and achievements; tell a story, engage the reader, set the scene, show how you excelled.

This advice is just a drop in the ocean of résumé writing methodology; just bare in mind your goal is to garner enough interest to earn an interview. Since very few people successfully target their résumé, you can easily separate yourself from the crowd by following the simple steps above.

Happy job-hunting everyone!