Though there are some experts who say resumes will one day be a thing of the past, they’re still a big part of the career hunt today. Keeping track of your social media footprint, updating your LinkedIn regularly and ensuring your resume is up to date is all part of your responsibilities as a job seeker. But, considering the hardest gigs to get will receive hundreds (if not thousands!) of applications, having a one-pager that stands out from the rest is an effective way to set yourself apart. If you’ve ever wondered what really ‘wows’ today’s executives, you’re in luck. We asked them and they dished on what instantly caught their attention.
Clear and direct writing — and a personal touch
Even if you’ve always been told you have a way with words, your resume isn’t the place to illustrate your expansive vocabulary. In fact, Gigi Goldman, the co-founder of Kopari Beauty says throughout her career, there has only been one resume that truly stood out to her. And it wasn’t because it was scented (lookin’ at you, Elle Woods) or on fancy paper. Rather, she said it was clear and to the point, and included a personal note.
“It highlighted personal strengths and communicated experience with real results,” she shares. “Beyond experience, what really matters is a personal connection and qualities like hard work ethic, adaptability, resilience, solution-oriented, passion, vision, positive attitude, open-minded and a good cultural fit.”
Movement and personality
When the founder of Tone Networks, Gemma Toner looks at a resume, she’s keeping one personal truth in mind: skills can be learned on the job — but traits cannot. She tries to look past the surface information and read between the lines to see the whole person, rather than just an individual’s job experience. Though she does breeze through traditional elements, she finds herself impressed by people who are risk-takers, team players and are keen to provide specific examples.
Lateral movement on someone’s resume never fails to catch her eye either, since she sees it as a sign of curiosity and skill-building. “Everyone wants to move up the ladder, but how many are willing to move across? This is an indicator of commitment to their own growth and learning new skills,” she adds.
Some experts say a resume isn’t where you should share what moves you, but Toner disagrees. She always looks for someone’s interests and passions outside of work. ”When I’m looking at resumes, I’m looking for someone to contribute to my team and company culture. To create a strong and effective company, it’s important that each employee is a culture fit as much as a professional fit,” she adds.
Sure, you have been in the workforce for a decade — or more. You also have had plenty of promotions and you’ve earned accolades. All of this is impressive but if you want to grab the attention of some executives, consider adding back some of the information you once took off your resume. As the CEO and founder of B6 Real Estate Advisors, Paul J. Massey Jr., explains, he always notices a high-level achievement, even if it was a long time ago.
“I notice if a person has been a Division I athlete or the president of a club or even the lead in a school play. This speaks to their potential as a professional and leader. I also look for high-level references: such as coaches, noteworthy professionals and people in the community. This indicates that the candidate is an A-level player,” he shares.
Information on outcomes
As a professional speaker and certified executive coach Keith L. Brown hires tech personnel, salespeople and others to assist in programs, products, and services his company offers. What impresses him the most when a resume comes across his desk are those who illustrate outcomes, rather than just descriptions.
“I had a candidate who placed the following on her resume: ‘I not only developed promotional videos but I created a script to accompany the video,’” he shares. “I was blown away by this, as typically I had to create the content for those specialists who developed videos for our network. This let me know this candidate had the initiative and was willing to go the extra mile.”
Generally speaking, Brown wants to not only know what a person did but more importantly, how they did it and what motivated them. “This gives me a greater sense of who the person is and that lets me know a great deal about whether I am getting an employee who will simply complete the task or a person who will complete the task, have the initiative, passion and the drive to go above and beyond,” he adds.
A critical — and honest — sense of self
Recently, the head of Fingerpaint’s Cedar Knolls, NJ office, Mark Willmann was sent a resume that surpassed all expectations. The candidate (who they ultimately hired) was applying for a mid-level art position.
Rather than rattling off an email message, he designed and mailed a detailed package to their office, including a note introducing himself, a portfolio that was arranged like a highlight reel and his resume, designed like an infographic. On its own, this is a step above, but the words he used were really what knocked their socks off.
“What really impressed me was that he graded himself and was honest about it. He didn’t give himself all A’s, oversell himself, or claim to be good at everything,” Willmann explained. “By doing this, the candidate basically said, ‘If you meet me, this is what you’re going to get. This is what I’m really good at, and this is where I could use some improvement.’”
Willmann calls this next-level self-awareness, and his package told a striking story that gave them a solid understanding of who he was as a person and a professional.