To kick off the 2019 TORI Award competition (resume competition open to professional resume writers worldwide), we’ll spotlight the 1st place Executive winner from Eve Ruth of Compelling Resumes.
Eve writes about the candidate and his resume:
“With such an impressive executive career, this client would look great whether he wanted a bold or more traditional presentation. In this document, I infused some added confidence into his brand by using clean lines, a pop of color, and a focus on quantifiable achievements.
I aimed for a balanced layout with centered content and side-by-side text boxes, and grounded the presentation using gray shading in certain places, so all of the text doesn’t jump out at the reader on first glance.”
Obviously the judges agreed by selecting this resume for first place in the category. So, let’s take a look at this two page resume spread to see why (click on the image to expand):
First off, this resume is visually dynamic!
We feel that one of the best signs of a resume that will be successful is an easy-to-scan format, and this resume delivers through the use of bolding, color, boxes, shading and knock out text, font size changes for headers, use of graphs/charts, and white space.
It’s important to note that this resume can breathe. Specifically, you will never see a TORI winner with thick content such as heavy paragraphs or crowded bullets, or one with tiny margins in order to jam more on the page. A winning resume such as this needs to make it easy to scan or read deeply.
Also, learn to embrace color as it is one of the more simple elements you can add to a resume to punch it up. The client’s name done in knockout color is very effective to ground the resume and it is balanced by the orange and black edges. Other colors in the resume are complementary but remain professional. Eve has kept it simple using just one shade of blue, orange, and gray as accents throughout the resume. Keeping it simple is the best way to go, especially when you first start out using color in your resumes. You’ll want to be careful not to make the mistake of using too bright of colors, and focus on making it professional and relevant. In terms of relevant, look for a color connection to the client and his/her industry. For instance, I will forever link deep shades of green with US currency, so it’s perfect for banking, finance, and accounting.
When in doubt about color, consider doing an online search for the client’s former employers or target companies. Are they reserved and staid? Bright and bouncy? Lacking color? This can give you a sense of appropriate colors and even give your client a psychological advantage at “fitting in”.
Next let’s look at top of page value or TOPV in Laura-speak.
The top to first half of the first page of this resume is (as it should be) prime marketing real estate. With the header alone, Eve sets the stage for establishing this candidate’s return on investment (ROI):
CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER—RAPID, SUSTAINED GROWTH
400% Revenue Boost 3x EBITDA Start-up to #1 Market Share in 4 Years 98% Staff Retention
The rest of the section supports this with key expertise, strengths, and a very visual value snapshot.
This is critical because many resume scans don’t progress beyond the first half page when it reaches a human review. Your goal in this section is to make it clear how your client can do the job better, faster, and with greater ROI then the other candidates. While it’s an uneven playing field since you can’t see the qualifications of the other candidates, a strategic client interview approach will help you connect the dots to where this client has excelled.
If you find yourself unsure what matters, simply look up job descriptions for your client’s most recent role(s). You’ll rapidly begin to see what matters most in that target position besides just having the qualifications for the job. In the end, just be sure to focus on what makes the candidate stand out positively.
Showing, Not Just Saying
I’ve talked about how Eve used visual elements to make the content in this resume stand out. But, let’s focus on the use of charts and graphs in this resume.
While charts and graphs should never replace text, due to ATS requirements, when included they give big bang for your resume real estate buck! They give the eye a place to rest and can convey accomplishment and value in seconds through their visual impact. In this resume, Eve used them to show revenue growth year-to-year as well as to demonstrate the high growth of her client’s start-ups.
Beginning with charts and graphs can feel very challenging but there are so many out-of-the-box ways to showcase data in a visual way. Spend some time clicking though the shapes, charts, and smart art in MS Word to help job start some ideas on what you might create even when your client doesn’t have traditionally quantifiable data like Eve’s does. and honestly, one could argue that the data in her start-up graph required a creative approach!
Word Power & Story Telling
It’s kind of funny I listed this last since it truly is the #1 make or break of a TORI entry!
In every case when a TORI entrant who didn’t win has emailed me as to why, when I take a look at the resume I almost always find a gorgeous visual work of art that might even have rivaled the winners. But when I look closer it almost always comes down to language/word usage. Weak words, repetitive word use (especially in the same sentence/bullet), and language that just doesn’t sparkle will lose more points than visual presentation ever day. In fact, some of the past winners did better story telling than design. Words matter!
With Eve’s winning executive resume, we see truly powerful use of words. Just look at the first lines of her summary:
RUN-TOWARD-THE-FIRE EXECUTIVE with 20-year career restructuring organizations for mega growth. Expert in scaling small and mid-sized companies to overtake Fortune 500 competitors through unconventional strategies grounded in real-world analytics. Consistent record of doubling and tripling revenue and EBITDA performance.
This carries on throughout the resume with dynamic language use that truly conveys an individual who gets results. We see bullets starting with verbs such as transformed, launched, and catapulted.
Further than just the words used, it comes down to the stories that are told. When writing your client resumes you should always focus on conveying the challenges, actions, and results (CAR) of the candidate. Look at this segment from the top of the second page of the resume:
Trailblazed four start-up businesses, expanding the footprint from recycling
to international manufacturing and construction.
- Kept a finger on the industry pulse—and eye on the bottom line—stabilizing the company during the global steel market crash in 2008. Maintained high inventory positions, liquidated key stocks, and renegotiated contracts prior to the lowest price dip.
- Negotiated $40M in commercial lines of credit for growth and acquisition funding.
- Created a foreign exchange hedge program to minimize risk in international transactions.
- Increased productivity 18% by defining performance metrics and working alongside managers to zero in on key metrics.
It sets the stage and then shows what has been accomplished in each bullet.
Many resume writers struggle with the story telling in their resumes. It truly comes down to capturing the correct data from your client up front to be able to do this. I champion interviewing clients to gather this data, as asked to write it down, many of them won’t know what to say. But when you can dig during the conversation by asking, “Tell me more and tell me with who, with what, how, why, and with what outcome?”, you can get to the meat. (I call this going down the rabbit hole).
Some times I even have to say to a client, “It doesn’t matter if no one else ever noticed your contribution, I want to know what you did to make it better, faster, smarter, cheaper, or easier”. That can be the jump start some need to get going in sharing their stories. Too often our clients take their contributions for granted, assuming it was all in a day’s work. It can be our job to help them truly see how they shine and are frame-able on paper.
What Do You Think?
There are many other great specifics in this resume I could pull out, but I’ll save them for discussion. Two ways you can do this:
- Post about it / start a discussion on the CDI resume forum.
- Comment on our CDI Facebook page post about it.
Now, don’t miss your chance at the 2019 TORI Awards. Learn more now >>