The #1 thing you can do to fix your resume…

July 1, 2024
picture of the word "resume" standing out in the center of a bold color

It’s HARD to get interviews when you’re applying with a cold resume. Zippia suggests that across markets, only the top 21% of candidates make it to the 1st interview. Depending on the market YOU are in, that number might even be a bit generous. 

(A quick poll of the recruiters here at High Country suggests the real numbers in 2024 might be closer to 5% or even less for some industries … )

Regardless of the odds, when you apply to a job with your resume, you’re likely going to be stacked up against hundreds of other applicants. Without another way “in,” your resume has got to stand out to even get a 1st round conversation. 

As a well respected Software Engineering Recruiter (and ex-professional resume writer), I often get asked to help software developers out on their resumes. Unfortunately, there are not enough hours in the day for me to both do my “recruiting” job and offer a full time free resume writing service as well… 

Fortunately, most resumes I see (across all industries!)  share the same general “problem” … and with a little help / guidance, it’s not too hard to fix this problem yourself 🙂 Hopefully this post will give you some insights on how to DIY your own resume fixes and level up into the top-tier of applicants. 

(FWIW, there’s some specific resume nuances in the Software Development world that I’ll later be diving into more on my own site, but I will try to focus on general principles here that are relevant across specialties and industries since, the core problem and core fix are essentially the same)

Okay, short version: Most resumes I see, across industries, lack relevance, specifics, quantities, accomplishments, and measurable results.

The best resumes, on the contrary … the ones that most often lead to interviews … HAVE relevance, specifics, quantities, accomplishments, and measurable results. 

In order to stand out to recruiters and hiring managers in a large pool of applicants, your resume needs to not merely show what you did, but more importantly HOW WELL you did it … 

You need a ROAR resume: I.E. A Results Oriented & Relevant” resume (I didn’t invent this concept by the way – a lot of people use it)! 

The experience sections on most resumes look something like this ↓↓↓

Tech Recruiter | High Country Search Group

  • Conduct candidate interviews on the phone and with Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet
  • Partner with hiring managers to identify fitting candidates
  • Work with team to lead sourcing, recruitment strategies, and data 
  • Facilitate in-person networking with developers and development leaders

So what’s missing?

This example (and likely your resume as well) lists what the candidate did, but it fails to list the RESULTS they accomplished (i.e. how well they did it). It doesn’t leverage their future potential.

Furthermore, it lacks RELEVANCE. It points backwards to what they have done, but it does nothing to show how their experience makes them a fit for the next forward looking role. 

How you can fix this:

  1. Think about what is RELEVANT to the Hiring Manager: Ask yourself what you would want to know if you were the hiring manager for your target role. As soon as the manager sees “recruiter” or “developer” or “accountant,” they probably fill in the blanks of your job duties themselves and gloss over generic bullets that simply describe the job. However, what they don’t know is “What makes you different? … What makes you stand out?” … a ROAR resume will answer those questions for the reader. 
  2. Show Your Results: If you are someone that made an impact in your past role … if you are someone who drove real results, show it! Prove it! List out your accomplishments, numbers, quantities, comparisons… list out anything and everything that demonstrates that you are unlike the rest of the applicants. 

What would that look like in the example above? Try this … 

Tech Recruiter | High Country Search Group

  • Built a brand new market from the ground up (and ready to do it again!)
  • Consistently ranked as the #1 or #2 recruiter on the team
  • Proven performer in both up and down markets: ready for even the toughest challenge.
  • Promoted to “practice lead” after just 2 years on the job
  • Doubled my average placement fee between 2020 and 2024
  • Internal advocate for prioritizing the best technology for the jobs, while also understanding a limited budget to maximize ROI
  • Currently ranked #1 of 23 in “new client generation”
  • Earned “Rookie of the year” “silver podium” and “big mover” awards
  • Boasting 65+ incredible references from some of the toughest clients in the market

See the difference? See why the second example will likely get a call back, while the first might not?

So, in recap, the key to making your resume stand out is to make it ROAR. Think and write with your potential employer in mind, and use that foundation to show RELEVANT RESULTS from your work history. If you do it right… the recruiter’s / hiring manager’s 7.4-second skim of your resume will demonstrate: 

  • That you understand what they are looking for.
  • That you can help them meet their needs. 
  • That you are going to be the kind of employee who not only does what is asked, but also the kind of person who thinks bigger and drives results. 

A ROAR resume will use your work history not only to show what you have done in the past, but also demonstrate your inherent skills and future potential. 

In closing, here are some brainstorming questions that might help you find your own relevant results to add to your resume. These brainstorming questions are inspired by and loosely based on questions provided in the book “Knock ‘em Dead Resumes,” a book you should definitely check out. 

  • How is your company better off now than before they hired you?
  • Did you do anything to increase the overall company satisfaction, client retention, team satisfactions, new customers, or increase engagement? Can you quantify that?  
  • Did you ever proactively implement any new system or processes? How did this affect your company or team? How did it make them better?
  • Did you improve productivity or reduce the time spent on any notable activity for yourself? Did you do anything that impacted others on your team?  If so, how much did it improve? How long was it a problem before you fixed it?
  • What did you do that no one else on your team did?
  • Did you do anything to reduce unnecessary costs? Did you decrease waste or  expenses? Did you eliminate a redundant process? If so, how and by how much? What was the “before and after” of your influence? 
  • Did you ever go above and beyond your job duties? Did you ever help solve a problem even though it wasn’t your job to do it? What was the impact that this made on your company?
  • Were you promoted faster than others? Were you given tasks that your peers were not given? Why did they choose you for these tasks or promotions?
  • Did you reach any of your assigned tasks in less time or with less money than expected? How much under budget were you? How much time did you save? How did you make this happen?
  • Did you help create, design or launch a new facet of the business? A new product or program? What was your role? How did it go? What were the results?
  • Did you take on any new responsibilities that weren’t part of your job description? Were they assigned or did you do so proactively? Why were you selected?
  • Did you complete any unique projects? What were they and what was the result?
  • Was there something that you were regularly complimented for? Or, perhaps there were some key lessons or principles that you learned … things that are vital to the next role. Where specifically did you grow and learn?
  • If you were to ask your boss what made you different from the rest of his/her employees, what would they say? What specifically makes you unique?
  • What are the most important areas where you brought value to your company? What changed, and what important things are in place because you have been there?

Obviously lots more you can add here, but this should be a good starting point. As you re-work your resume, remember, managers hire for your value to them. They use past performance and specific measurable metrics as an indication of what you will offer in the future. Specific results, accomplishments, and achievements are always at the foundation of a ROAR resume. 

To your success, 

Written By: Will Wegert, Software Development Recruiter

picture of the author, Will Wegert

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