How to Write your Resume, Part 1 – It’s an Advertisement

A lot of pain and suffering would be alleviated if people understood one simple thing about your resume. The resume isn’t designed to get you a job. Your resume is essentially an advertisement designed to entice the hiring manager to spend 30 minutes on the phone interviewing you.

Advertisements are simple, they are evocative, and they are tailored to their audience. Your resume also needs to be simple, be evocative, and be tailored to the company and job description.

When I say your resume needs to be simple, I meant that as a general rule you shouldn’t need more than one page to get everything across. For those of you that are disagreeing with me, I can say that as someone who has read resumes before interviewing candidates for a role, I will spend as little time as possible on a resume. Hiring managers skim for themes, they skim for results, they skim for specific tasks and projects, and they skim for your familiarity with certain tools.

The simpler you make your resume, and the easier you make it to skim, the happier the hiring manager will be when they look at it. Remember, if your resume is simpler and easier to read than another candidate, then the hiring manager already likes you better than that candidate because you know how to communicate better than they do.

Here are the questions you want to ask yourself in order to simplify your resume.

What is the story of my career?

Every career has to tell a story. My story is of a marketer who specializes in working for high-growth Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) startups, with a focus on lead generation and open source communities for highly technical developers.

Your story will be different. Your story comes from how one role builds on another. If you started your career as a business development rep calling to book appointments to sell analytic software, and then you were promoted to quota-carrying sales executive, that starts to tell a story. That should be evident from a cursory glance at your resume. And you should also be able to tell that story quickly and in a compelling manner at each interview you go to.

If your career has hopped around a bit, sometimes you need to be a bit more creative about how to tell your story.

For example, I worked with a woman who had spent a number of years in her career working in the service industry, waiting tables and managing restaurants. She moved to San Francisco and got a job as an account manager at an early stage startup that provided marketing services to restaurants. The story of her career is of a kickass waitress and restaurant manager who made a transition into software sales, account management, and support. She leveraged her experience in the service industry to get a higher-paying job at a tech company, and because she had such deep restaurant experience, she could deliver incredible value to customers because she was intimately familiar with their needs.

That’s a great story.

How did one job lead into the next?

The way one job leads to the next is the most important part of your resume, and it will also come into play in your interviews. Think about each job as the perfect setup for the next job. You learn and accomplish certain things with each role that you then get to to apply in your next role.

It’s a bit like in a video game when you learn a new skill that turns out to be crucial for you to beat a boss at the end of a level. At each job you should take away some crucial experience that empowers you to be able to kick ass at your next job.

For example, if at one job you learn a ton about marketing automation software, like Marketo and Hubspot, that’s something you take with you to the next job that enables you to set up email automation, marketing campaigns, and various types of analytics. All of that is a massive value add to your future employer.

That’s a tactical way to think about it. You learned a particular marketing skillset that you can apply at your next role.

You should also think about this in terms of your overall maturity and perspective as a worker and as a human being.

For example, my first job out of college was at a startup incubator. I learned all about entrepreneurship and tech startups for the first time there. At my next job, which lasted about 90 days, I was a consultant writing software requirements. It was a highly corporate environment, and not very startupy at all. I got laid off from that job, and I learned that I liked the excitement, the independence, and the fast (sometimes chaotic) pace of startups much more than I liked corporate environments. I learned I was a startup person.

At my next role, I was the 12th employee at the fastest-growing startup in Austin, Texas. I learned what a company in “hypergrowth” feels like, including how company culture evolves dramatically from 12 employees to 120. I learned about how marketing and sales feed each other. I learned about open source software communities.

At my next company, I learned about in-depth marketing analytics and operations. I learned how to set up lead generation programs, and how to use technology to feed the leads I generated directly into Salesforce for my sales team. I learned how to do a business development deal and go-to-market with companies like Intuit and Apple.

As you read the above, you can see how I’ve grown in business at each of those roles, and how at each company I set the bar for what I can do a bit higher.

That’s exactly what you want your resume to say, and it’s how you want to interview at each job you go to. You may have really great career experience, but it’s your job to communicate that in your resume. If your resume doesn’t clearly show the hiring manager how amazing your experience is, then your resume isn’t doing it’s one job: advertise you as a perfect fit for the job and get you an interview.

Meaningless phrases to remove from your resume

At some point along the way, people started filling their resumes up with meaningless phrases like “creative problem solver” and “thrives in a fast-paced, dynamic environment.”

If you have these phrases in your resume, you need to stop reading this immediately and go remove them from your resume. I’ll wait.

Seriously. Go do it.

Are they gone? Ok, good.

The problem with these words is first of all, that they don’t actually mean anything. I don’t know what “creative problem solver” means, other than your college guidance counselor (who probably hasn’t had a job in the real world, and therefore has no clue about getting a job) told you that you should put it in there.

A hiring manager doesn’t another resume that says “creative problem solver.” They want a resume with a single bullet that describes how you solved a key business problem, and then you quantify the results. How much money did you save the business? Did you increase leads? Did you increase sales?

There are a lot of really hard problems to solve in a business every day. If you’re a creative problem solver, then you’ll have some examples of problems that you solved, and be able to talk about what positive thing happened as a result.

Also, the word creativity is overrated. Some problems are solved simply by hard work and hustle.

“Thrives in a fast-paced environment,” and “Dynamic” are also meaningless words you should remove from your resume. If I am a hiring manager at an in-demand company, I am assuming that my recruiter won’t send me a resume from anyone who couldn’t thrive in the fast-paced environment of our cutting-edge company. That quality should be table stakes, and therefore doesn’t require a mention on your resume. It’s as useful as saying you “thrive at sending and receiving emails.”

Use action verbs and quantify your accomplishments

When you talk about your accomplishments on your resume, you need to use action verbs like “deliver,” “develop,” “reduce,” and “create.”

For example, if you put together an email marketing campaign that increased the number of visitors to the website, you want to say the following.

“Developed and delivered email marketing campaign that increased site visits 10%, and revenue by 3%.”

The best resumes have a number of statements that look exactly like the above. If your bullets meander, or don’t have specific deliverables and quantified results, then you need to go back and re-work them.

If you’ve never done this before, it will be difficult because you may not have thought about your career in terms of deliverable results. However, this is exactly how a business will think about you. When you are hired, you are an asset to the business that can deliver a very specific sort of value, and you should be aware of this and be ready to explain how you have delivered similar value in the past, and how you can deliver even greater value to your future company.

The simple exercise of re-writing your resume with this idea in mind will help you understand what it feels like to be in the hiring manager’s shoes, and you’ll interview better as a result.

Hope this Helps.

Austin W. Gunter


I’m Austin. I live in San Francisco, practice Tai Chi, have rheumatoid arthritis, listen to a lot of loud music, and host a lot of dinner parties. Want more? Start here.

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