By Alan Collins
If you’ve been sending out resumes and you’re getting no responses, chances are your resume is the problem.
As you know, most folks screening HR resumes are squeezed for time and typically only spend 15-20 seconds per applicant.
This means your resume must immediately grab them by the throat and sell you as a powerful and compelling candidate…and illustrate that you’re worth contacting for further interviews. Sadly, most HR resumes don’t.
Even if you aren’t currently in the job market, failing to know how to best highlight your achievements is a weakness that can absolutely destroy your HR career.
When it comes to performance appraisals, promotion consideration, even day-to-day work assignments, being a master at how to influence the perception of you as a performer is key to ensuring that your career in HR reaches the heights you desire. And that’s what a powerful and compelling resume can do.
With that in mind, here are 12 suggestions that will make your resume stand out from the rest of the bunch.
1. Forget the gimmicks.
Using quirky font sizes, strange layouts, or clever graphics are no-no’s. While a bizarre resume format may get you a few more seconds of eyeball time during the screening process, it may also prevent your resume from making it through electronic sorting and filtering tools used by the bigger corporations.
So focus on more of your “selling points” and less on “curb appeal.” Compelling “selling” points include your results, your impact on the organization, your skills and your ability to manage and lead…at the very minimum.
2. Juice up your accomplishments by quantifying or monetizing your results.
Hiring managers are NOT looking for job descriptions or activities on your resume. Job descriptions are simply boring descriptions of the responsibilities of the HR positions you have held in the past. Today, that simply won’t cut it.
The language of business is dollars and numbers. Everyone wants HR folks who deliver impact and produce results. So you need to find a way to energize and pack your resume with quantifiable results and the dollars that you MADE, SAVED, and ACHIEVED in every position you’ve held in HR. Then, include those totals in your resume and put them up front, where they can’t be missed.
- Saved company $50,000 in recruiting manufacturing supervisors by utilizing a “quick strike” Twitter and LinkedIn recruiting strategy.
- Reduced by 14% the number of complaints filed per employee which resulted in $30,000 savings.
- Did supervisory training utilizing in-house managers as trainers saving $125,000 in outside consulting fees.
- Collaborated on an action plan that reduced turnover rate by18% of the top performers.
- Won 2 union organizing campaigns saving the organization potentially $1.5MM in increased costs if the group had successfully unionized.
To differentiate yourself from 95% of your HR competitors, whenever possible include phrases like: “cut costs by xx%,” “completed the project under time and under budget,” “used technology to improve HR service to business clients,” “did more with less,” “reduced management time spent on HR issues by xx%” and the like.
3. Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.
HR folks who can lead are always in demand. If you haven’t led and you’re seeking a role that calls for leadership skills ask yourself how many times you were a leader of a project, a subproject, a team, or even a meeting/event.
It doesn’t matter if you were never formally appointed a leader or given a leadership title. If you’ve successfully led others, you should reference leadership as one of your attributes.
Feature leadership terms throughout your resume, including sections covering your experience, education, and extracurricular activities.
- Assembled and led a team responsible for developing a plan to expand scope of HR services provided by 25%, overcoming resource limitations, personality conflicts, and communication breakdowns and successfully presented the case to the Executive Committee.
4. Brag about your awards and honors
Crafting your resume is not the time for modesty. Stick your chest out and mention all recognitions received for outstanding work. Don’t forget shared and team awards, or informal awards created by local managers. Include awards received both in school and on the job.
- Received the Chairman’s Award for HR Excellence three times.
5. Name drop.
HR pros who have the opportunity to work with key people and executives are assumed to be among the best. So name names. If you worked for or with a famous individual, highlight them. Also include enough information so that the reader will know their importance.
- Was selected by PepsiCo’s CEO, Indra Nooyi (#2 on the Fortune’s List of the World’s Most Powerful Women) to serve on a committee that successfully streamlined our talent and succession planning process by two weeks.
In addition to mentioning the names of key individuals, you should also mention the names of well-known and innovative firms you have dealt with including notable customers, strategic partners, vendors, or consultants.
- Worked with McKinsey & Co. on a strategy for employee redeployment during the 2008 recession working with Google, Kraft, and Pfizer which saved $1.2 million in severance costs.
6. Show you can think like Steve Jobs.
In a volatile, changing global world, few things are more important than innovation and coming up with new ideas. List new ideas or innovations you developed, even if the innovation was not implemented. Show that you are an innovator, an outside-the-box thinker and often among the first to try new things.
- Suggested adoption of three new innovative HR approaches to improve employee engagement, two of which were immediately adopted, yielding a 23% improvement in our organization-wide survey results.
7. Drop in a few impressive buzzwords.
Business people love functional/general business buzzwords, and merely using them reveals that you are current and up-to-date. Buzzwords should be included in descriptions of both your experience and education. However, just don’t over-do this.
- Participated in a Six-Sigma evaluation of our new employee onboarding & orientation process.
8. Show you can be proactive.
If you can pinpoint problems before they become severe, you are quite valuable. List situations where you identified a problem that no one else saw and show them that you thrive in situations where there are lots of problems, issues or dilemmas.
- Led the HR team which uncovered $300K in employee theft, previously unknown to the Company, which potentially could have led to a $6.2 million total loss if not for early detection and attention to detail.
9. Manage money — not yours, theirs.
Demonstrating that you were given financial responsibility shows that management trusted you. List any time, even if it was brief, where you managed a budget, were responsible for cash or other major spending decisions
- Charged with evaluation and selection of $3.2M worth of new enterprise software for the company-wide HRIS upgrade. .
10. Sell. Sell. Sell.
No matter what your HR job, the ability to sell your ideas and influence others is extremely valuable. Demonstrate that you effectively sold executives, vendors, or owners on new ideas.
Influenced our top HR vendor to alter their long-standing service level agreement and reduce costs of their annual employee benefit administration fees by 17% saving the company $2.6M.
11. Showcase your global perspective.
You enhance your perception if you can demonstrate that you have a global perspective these days. Even if you don’t have formal international responsibilities, show that you have the capability of working with those from other countries…especially BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China).
- Partnered with colleagues in China and India to standardize our performance evaluation and career development processes developed there and slated for global rollout.
- Used my knowledge of Spanish and Russian to assist our global HR executives in translating HR policies for implementation in Europe and Asia.
12. Include impressive training courses, seminars and workshops.
In many companies, access to advanced training means that you are a top performer. Highlight training courses, seminars, workshops and any advanced training on emerging issues that you participated in. If you have taught training classes, even if they were informal, include that also.
- As a Diversity & Inclusion trainer, trained 300+ managers, with course evaluations averaging 9.2 on a 10 scale. Built training capability at 3 others locations, certifying 52 people as trainers with 1300 people trained by these trainers saving $500K in costs.
Some final thoughts
Your resume is a comprehensive marketing document that sells your your capabilities, skills, and accomplishments. It should be kept current and used not only when you’re job hunting, but also as a memory jogger when applying for an internal transfer, promotion, or completing a performance self-assessment.
If you find, as most HR folks do, that over half of these suggestions are not present in your resume, you have my permission to kick yourself in the butt for underselling yourself for all these years!
Got comments or additional HR resume suggestions, post them HERE.
About the author: Alan Collins was Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses. He is Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of the HR best sellers pictured on the right sidebar of this blog. His new book, WINNING BIG IN HR is now available on Amazon.
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