The Difference Between a Good & Great Resume

By Jenny Treanor

How does a brilliant resume differ from ordinary professional resume—one that simply passes the test and looks the way a resume is supposed to look?  How can you tell if your resume is outstanding, or just adequate, respectable, and functional? What can you do to turn a hiring manager’s nod of approval into a quick grab for the phone in order to schedule an interview? 

When you sit down to write and edit your resume, your goal is not to launch yourself into the “maybe” pile. Your goal is to land the job. You don’t just want a fighting chance—your want the full, unqualified and immediate support of your potential employer. With that in mind, here are the critical differences between an adequate resume and a great one.  

The Summary

In a good resume, the summary exists. There are four lines at the top of the page that hint at the content below, and these lines are bursting with positivity and promises. They suggest that the candidate will work hard, do whatever he’s asked to do, look sharp, and care about this company and its destiny. The summary describes the applicant as a nice guy/gal with energy, commitment and enthusiasm to spare.

In a great resume, the summary uses four lines to describe exactly why this candidate is a perfect match for this specific job. Instead of referring to her as a “hard worker”, the summary states exactly how her proven skills and accomplishments set her up to support this company’s specific mission/upcoming initiatives/ new product rollout/proposed market expansion, etc.

Work History

A good resume lists each of the relevant jobs this candidate has held during the course of his or her professional life. Each job is clearly described and followed by two or three bullet points listing the primary responsibilities this candidate held for each employer. For example: “Managed a staff of warehouse employees/ Organized accounts as necessary/ Maintained company records.”

In a great resume, each listed position is clearly relevant to the job at hand. And the bullet points following each job title contain impressive accomplishments, not just basic responsibilities. For example: “Managed 10 warehouse employees who exceeded shipping quotas during seven of the last eight quarters.”

Skills

A good resume offers a long list of skill sets in no specific order, with no attached proficiency level, and with no regard to the link between each skill set and the demands of the specific position. All the listed skills are work-related, and none of them are personal or very interesting.

A great skill section starts with the specific skill sets requested by the employer in the specific terms used by the job post, for example: “High proficiency with Advanced Photoshop and XTML, basic proficiency with iOS.” The list ends with skill sets that have not been requested, but may be of interest, for example: “Experienced public speaker, CPR certified, regionally competitive Tai Kwon Do black belt.”

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