Which Of These Has To Be On Your Resume?


  • Assertive
  • Loyal
  • Hard-working
  • Customer-focused
  • Client-centered
  • Empathetic
  • Cooperative
  • Self-starter
  • Experienced
  • Proven leadership

Looking over the 10 bullets above, you’ll see that each one of the traits described is likely to be perceived as a positive quality to have by many employers. This being the case, does it really matter which ones you include in your résumé and which you choose to omit? Or, as their all good, why not just include them all and remove the guess-work out of your decision altogether?

The simple answer to what to include and what not to lies in finding out what exactly the employer is looking for in the first place. So in the end, you might include some, all or actually none of the above. This is a basic principle that some who look for work don’t understand. Then there are job seekers who get the idea but don’t really see the value in taking the time to find out because it just seems like too much effort. After all, it would mean making alterations to their resumes each and every time they applied for a job and who has the energy to be fiddling with it given all the jobs they apply to?

Can I be direct with you here? It’s my goal after all to help you find your next job, and both you and I know you’d like that to be as soon as possible. I’ll pass on some advice and if you don’t like it, you’re in full control here. You can skim, read in-depth, re-read or click delete at any time.

Start by looking at a job posting. Please don’t overlook this most critical step and make some generic resume that you assume will appeal to many employer’s. Making a general resume and handing it to several employers makes about as much sense as a restaurant owner serving guests food without first asking his/her customers what they’d like to order. It may all be good food, but it depends on what the customer feels like eating on any given occasion.  You might figure everybody likes pasta, but some might want seafood or a wrap. Staff have to find out what the customer wants and then prepare it to their individual tastes.

With a job posting in front of you, use a highlighter or pen and identify all the words that describe the qualities, skills and experience this particular employer has identified as what they want. Okay, now that you’ve done this, your job is to make sure that these important words appear throughout your résumé. The more you do a good job of matching what they want with what you have to offer, the greater the odds of you getting an interview.

As I’ve said many times before however, it’s not as easy as just plunking down these key words in your résumé. A good and vital first step yes, but you’re far from done. A strong resume will add proof and not just make a claim. So anyone can say they are cooperative, but you’ll need to add proof in your document so it becomes more than just an idle claim. Take these two below as examples:

  • Team player
  • Excel at working cooperatively and productively with co-workers when working towards common goals and deadlines
  • Recognized as an enthusiastic and vital contributing member of the sales team for personally achieving 12% above designated performance targets

The first bullet simply makes an idle claim. Anyone can write this down; even someone who dislikes working with others intensely. There’s no proof, and it shows no real understanding of what working in a team means.

The second bullet is an improvement because it shows you understand that working in a team requires cooperation and productivity comes about as a result. It also is an upgrade because it adds the concept of working with other people to meet common goals; what everyone should be working towards.

The third bullet works best in showing how you go about working with others, in this case with enthusiasm; the number one thing an employer wants in those they hire. It also adds some descriptive words such as, ‘vital’ and ‘contributing’ and then goes on to add the proof – 12% above the targets a previous employer set. So you have the bare minimum but unimpressive, better and best in order.

Look again at those 10 qualities and traits that started this piece. See leadership up there? That’s got to be a keeper right? Well, not necessarily. If you’ve had positions of leadership before where you supervised others, it might not be as desirable on your résumé if the position you’re now going for is an entry-level job. In this job you’re applying for, you are the one being supervised, so your supervisory experience might actually work against you. Sure maybe once you land the job and are looking for a promotion it would be good to bring that supervisory experience of the past up for discussion, but not now.

What to add in? What to leave out? What to stress and how to prove it? These are the right questions to be asking yourself each and every time you sit down to apply for a job. Perhaps it seems like a lot of work. It’s actually not as much as you’d imagine it to be. In fact, because your résumé matches up well, you end up doing many fewer. Why? Because you land more interviews!

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