3 Laws of Resume Writing

Your resume has one objective: to make you stand out. And although you might not realize it, it always sits in a pile of very similar resumes.

So your resume is never read by itself; it's always compared! Which means that the question quickly becomes: what makes you a distinctive candidate? If you're trying to get a position as an ER nurse, you'll be set up against many other nurses with relevant experience!

Your resume is always compared

If you don't finish close to the top, why would you be called for an interview? Yes, it's a tough question, but if you don't have a clear answer, you're not getting an interview!

Remember that a lot of resumes look alike, and only subtle differences set them apart. To help you write your own distinctive resume, I came up with the following 3 laws.

The 3 laws of resume writing

1. Accomplishments.

2. Accomplishments.

3. Accomplishments.

Accomplishments are also referred to as results or achievements. And, in resume speak, we talk about accomplishments as opposed to roles, tasks or responsibilities.

Why such an emphasis on accomplishments?

Accomplishments aren't the ONLY thing that matter on a resume. But they are the most critical aspect of a resume and, more importantly, often its biggest weakness. So professionals should put extra efforts on their accomplishments, when writing their resume... But they don't!

How to spend your time writing your resume

Accomplishments and results are often overlooked, because job seekers get overwhelmed by many lesser elements: phrasing, and format, and structure, and employment gaps, and whether they should put an objective statement, etc. In other words, when most people stop working on their resume, their accomplishments are still very much lacking. Which means that their resume is certainly not going to stand out! For all these reasons, I thought of (and often insist on!) the 3 laws of resume writing (inspired by the "Location, location, location!" of real estate).

While accomplishments are a critical part of your resume, they’re also the best stories you can tell during job interviews!

So what's an accomplishment exactly?

An accomplishments is something you did which brought value to your employer. In a nutshell, it's something you should get a bonus for.

Solving a problem, saving money, showing leadership or initiative, etc. A "regular" (boring) resume bullet is a task or responsibility. When you add the value (from the employer's perspective), it becomes an accomplishment. In the examples below, the value is in bold. (Notice how these bullets would be fairly ordinary without the value.)

EXAMPLE 1

Executively sponsored a Lean Sigma project moving all customer support in-house (formerly managed by a third party), saving $500K annually.

EXAMPLE 2

Personally assigned to several high visibility projects, based on unique expertise with network forensics and malware.

EXAMPLE 3

Contributed toward network installation encompassing 150 workstations, 50 printers, and 4 communication rooms with supporting infrastructure. Move was accomplished within 3 weeks.

* * *

My strong conviction in accomplishments has pushed me to create the Resume Hacking series. My (short) books are, in my view, the best tool out there to help you write accomplishments. Because instead of teaching you how to write accomplishments (it's not easy to bridge the gap between theory and practice), they provide you with a well-rounded list of accomplishments to pick from, tailored to your own profession!

Does your resume break one of the 3 laws?