Shocking Ways Your Resume Will Instantly Make you Hotter

Recently I took on a quasi-protégée of sorts. She took my course Roadmap to Become Self-Employed in IT on Udemy and subsequently reached out to me for more help, one on one. She wants to branch out into the consulting world as an independent IT contractor. So we’ve been meeting regularly. We’re actively working the roadmap that I illustrated in my course. In the interest of maintaining her anonymity, we’ll call her Eva.




Lesson 4 of my course is Amp up your Resume to be Contractor Ready. The big exercise is to revamp your resume to show that you are an expert in your field of expertise. As a consultant and especially as a contractor, the winning strategy is to market yourself as the expert. You want to show that your skills are differentiated than the rest of the market… so that you won’t be lumped in with the drones. The worse possible thing that can happen is that your skills are valued as a commodity. Sad to say, but I feel with all the outsourcing going on in the last few years, certain IT skills and areas of expertise have been cheapened to that of a commodity. Projects are being bid by large foreign companies where they tout the massive backup team they have off-shore. Hence they sell the theory of their huge pool of skill that they can offer to the client.




However, if you have ever worked with offshore teams on projects, you may have found that the picture is often not as rosy as initially painted. Despite the attractive price, the cost of lost in translation, literal interpretation of requirements and direction, and the attitude to ‘just deliver and be done with it’ catches up on the back end, and even during the project.

But I digress. Today I’m talking about the magic of the resume that I re-discovered again, as we transformed her traditional IT resume to that of a subject matter expert.


1. Put Yourself in the Shoes of the Reader

It sounds really obvious. You would think. The reality is that people can’t be bothered to do this. Often they complete their resume for the sake of completing it. If you want to expedite past the crowd, start thinking like the reader. Who is the person reading your resume? Well, it’ll be one of three kinds of people:

  • A recruiter who has been tasked to fill a role for commission
  • A manager or team lead who’s trying to find the right person to  fill the role on the team
  • An HR person who has been tasked to screen a bunch of resumes to fill the role on behalf of the manager.

If you do but this step, you’ve probably surpassed 75% of the population. But if you do this next step, you’ll kill the remaining 25%: Think of what motivates your reader.



What Motivates the Recruiter?

What moves the recruiter is to place you so that he can earn his commission, of course. Ok great. Let’s think about how that translates to your resume. If you are equipped with the role for which you are trying, help him match you to the role. Use exact wording of the job posting if you have. If not, definitely, definitely use industry lingo. Why? It proves that you know what you’re doing.

First, I had Eva update her resume for the work that she had done in the past few years. For the following phrases, I suggested replacing these with ones that were more common to the ERP industry.


Instead of ThisUse This
Systems Analyst IIIImplementation Specialist
Support Analyst
Business Analyst
Technical Analyst
Solutions Architect

The role that you list on your resume should be independent of what your position is in the organizational hierarchy and pay grade. It means very little to anyone else outside the organization. Instead, use a role title that best describes your role on the experience described.

Update (Oct 16, 2016): My friend, Deborah, who is a partner in one of Canada’s top professional placement firms, cautioned me about this point, after reading this post. She indicated the following: 

“When performing a reference call, the previous employer was clear that the title provided was not correct, and my client saw this as a huge red flag. I would caution against making an actual change, and perhaps still say Systems Analyst III. Throw in a “/” and then the title that is a better fit. Just a little feedback from that one experience.”

For example: System Analyst III / Project Functional Analyst

Great advice, Deborah! Thank you for this!

Instead of ThisUse This
Demo'd system functionality to managementFacilitated Conference Room Pilots

The first is technically what she is doing. The second is what the industry terminology is. Using industry terminology makes you look like you know what you’re doing.


Instead of ThisUse This
Interacted with business sponsor to understand existing business practices and prepared business requirements definition documentsFacilitated requirements gathering, gap analyses, and needs analyses with relevant stakeholders.

Again the first is mechanically what needs to occur. The second uses industry lingo to illustrate the very phase of the project. Also, few people would put together what a business sponsor is, but everyone knows what stakeholders are.

See what I mean? Just by replacing a couple phrases with something that the recruiter can easily pick out can bring yours to the top of the pile. It makes the recruiter think… “wow.. this guy is tailor made for this role!”

In addition to that, the recruiter wants to be sure that he can put you in front of the client and look confident, professional. Having the right technical skills to do the job is the minimum standard.


What Motivates the Manager?

The manager ultimately wants someone with preferably the following:

  • The right technical skill set for the role
  • Get along with the team
  • Can get the job done with little fanfare

In other words, get the work done; be likable. 

Most of the latter, both for the recruiter and manager, you can’t really convey until you score the interview. The manager looks to see if you’re good technically. He also wants to ensure that you’re amiable enough to put up with every day. Most importantly, though, he wants to be sure that he can put you in front of other teams in the organization, and make him look good.



How can you convey this on your resume?

The contract length or employment length with the same organization could somewhat convey this message. Especially for contractors, the length of your contract could be indicative as to how valuable you are to the client. Part of that story is that only if they loved working with you, would they keep you around. If they hated working with you, likely you’d be gone at the first sign of project completion.

Other better ways that this message can be conveyed is on Linkedin. In Lesson 5, of my course, I illustrate a secret power to Linkedin that few people know. The result of this secret is the social proof that shows how amiable you are among your peers.




Oh, but Cat, this isn’t part of my resume, it’s Linkedin. Look, if you still think that scoring a job, or a consulting gig is solely dependant on your resume, you’ve missed the boat. Good morning, sometime during the mid-2000’s, we turned over a new leaf. Recruiters and screening managers started using social media platforms to further screen their candidates. You’ve all heard the stories where a guy is hired for a job, and his new manager starts poking around this Facebook profile and sees some really disturbing stuff. Next thing you know, the guy is let go. That’s our world now. Social media has a lot of clout. If your Linkedin profile is still currently either half-assed or completely neglected, you’re leaving a lot of opportunity on the table. Your resume is only one of many factors influencing your application to any professional role  nowadays.


What Motivates the HR person?

While the HR person may not get a commission on a per job placed basis, pre-screening potential employees is his jam. Think about it. He would look really bad if a person that he let into interview was completely incomprehensible. Or, worse yet, a complete nut-job.

While the nut-job factor may be hard to pick out, the mastery of English is easy to capture on a resume. It is conveyed via the grammar and level of English used to describe the experience. Even though it’s often point form, you can still tell easily how good the guy’s English is. Take note then. Your resume should be free of spelling and grammatical errors. It should be all in one tense.




Here’s what I found on Eva’s resume. She had one part that was in past tense:

  • Interacted with the business sponsor to understand existing business practices.”
  • Handled functional and technical related issues…”

Then the next section was suddenly in present tense.

  • Support end-users…”
  • “Recommend best solutions and methods…”
  • “Understand business processes…”

Oh, Cat, you say, these are such little nit picky things. Yea? You’re going to feel like a putz if you lose out to the other guy because of these “little nit-picky things” you couldn’t be bothered to fix. My point is that it’s easier than you think to pick out a native English speaker just by paying attention to the grammar used on his resume.


Be Strong in your Voice

Along the same lines as grammar, there are actually a lot of opportunities to exude confidence on your resume.




It’s funny because you wouldn’t think that a document as two-dimensional as a resume could be such a place where you can convey strength and confidence. Here’s what I mean.


Instead ofUse This
Responsible for requirements gathering,
Responsible for functional setup, customizations, and testing
Gathered business requirements
Analyzed requirements
Configured and tested functional setup, customization

Starting with the action (the verb) illustrates confidence in your abilities, and proves your experience.


Instead ofUse This
Performed end to end implementation of Oracle Internet Time and Expenses in a team of twoPerformed end to end implementation of Oracle Internet Time and Expenses

Removing the ‘team of two’ almost skyrockets the magnitude of this project. Who cares if it’s a team of two? The fact of the matter is that she implemented two whole Oracle modules.


Instead ofUse This
Handled functional and technical issues by investigating and applying solution for specific problems.Investigated, tested and applied solution for functional and technical issues.

The first one reads like someone spoon-fed her the solution. Then she just slapped it into the system mechanically. The second plays up her experience in investigating and troubleshooting bugs.


Instead ofUse This
Set up look-up table to map expenditure types to accounting flexfield.Configured functional setup to fit the organization's requirements for Oracle Projects

The first reads purely as a technical task. Unless you’ve worked with Oracle Projects before, it’s likely gibberish to you. The second illustrates the experience in a manner that likely anyone in the working world could understand.


Play up Your Experience

Let’s be honest. Few of us enjoy updating our resume. It’s tedious. It’s a pain in the ass. It’s necessary for your next job. When we finally have the discipline to sit down and put fingers to keys, we rarely think of all the value that we have added in our role.




Often, it’s a regurgitation of all the tasks that come to mind, in no particular order. There is so much more we can do here, though.

1.Take a few moments to list out all that we’ve done.
2.Think of how we can play it up to show that we are indeed an expert in the field.

Here’s what I mean. On Eva’s resume she had:

“Assigned different authorities and defined signing limits for supervisors.”

First of all this phrase reads too technically. Unless the reader was well versed with the actual configuration of the system, she’d probably skip over the line. The point of it, though, was to implement the expense approval hierarchy for the entire organization. Using this phrase transforms her experience from a menial technical task that no one comprehends, to an impactful project that most everyone would understand. It’s common knowledge in an organization that employee’s expenses ought to be approved by someone higher on the food chain before they get paid out.

Here’s another line she used:

“Configured tax module to calculate the appropriate tax based on geographic locations.”

However, in order to do this, she had to research all the different tax requirements across every single municipality, county, state, province, across North America.




Then set up the tax rules in the system. That’s a big deal! But unless you already know all the work that goes into this task, you wouldn’t even stop to consider its magnitude.

There are so many instances where you can play up your experience to illustrate the magnitude and impact of what you have done on each and every line of your resume. It just takes a little bit of thought to amplify, if you will, the details.


Order the Details Logically

This further reinforces what I said at the beginning. If you pretend to be the reader, what would go through your mind? In this case (and in mine), we are bid for implementation projects. Hence all of the tasks as a project team contributor falls under the project lifecycle. So organize your details to flow that way.


Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:


You really want to make it easy on the reader and make your resume flow in the same manner. The implicit benefit is that in addition to making it easier to read, you also convey the message that you are tidy and organized. On the flip side, if each of the points jumps from beginning to end, back to the middle, back to end and then beginning again, it shows that you don’t much care to be organized. It looks sloppy. It looks like your resume was slapped together without much thought. Do yourself a favor and take a little extra time to organize the details in a logical manner. It’ll put you in much better light.


Have Someone (in the Industry) Review it

This is a no brainer. Yet so many people fail to do so. The recruiter won’t cut it. Sure she has skin in the game. But she’s got so many other folks to place, it’s not her job to nitpick your resume. Even if she does, it might come across as insulting. So likely the feedback won’t be as candid as you need it to be. You need a person who is objective, who knows the industry and doesn’t much care to offend you.




Really if you get offended by someone critiquing your resume, you have a mental barrier that will emerge in other areas of your life. How can you get better by shutting out outside perspective? Suck it up. Stop taking it personally. Gather the feedback and use it to better your resume. Don’t let your ego cost you the next opportunity.


Final Words

I’m going to assume that you want to advance in your career. Whether you are an employee or self- employed contractor, you’re going to need to have a solid resume to get you in the door. Your resume is only one piece of the puzzle. As I mentioned it’s just one factor of getting the job. LinkedIn is another. Networking is yet another. You still have to knock the socks off your client in the interview. Hell, you still have to get an interview.  But if you get this one piece right – the resume, it will assist in all the other factors coming together.

Also published on Medium.

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