What does that mean for resumes and LinkedIn profiles? We can use research on how readers skim, scroll, and swipe on a page to inform our writing and design.
In a recent Resume Writing Academy Open Mastery Call, we explained what writers can learn from web writing best practices to increase readability and six tips to "write tight." View the recording of the webinar and read the summary below.
If we are going to follow the best practices of writing and designing for the web in resumes and profiles, we must know how to "write tight."
Recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a resume. Our goal as writers is to use writing and design techniques that increase the amount of content they can consume in that time.
The challenge: we must also include differentiating accomplishments with enough context and detail to score well in an applicant tracking system (ATS) and rise to the top among those selected for a deeper review to secure an interview.
More than 95% of the Fortune 500 use applicant tracking systems. There are many misconceptions about ATS and resume formatting! See the resources below to stay up to date.
And, we need to write well. Jobvite's 2016 recruiter study found that 72% of recruiters care about correct spelling and grammar when reviewing a candidate's online profiles (inferring they most likely also care when reviewing a resume).
Web Reading Insights
Online content consumption data is dismal. A 1997 study found that 79% of readers scanned a page instead of reading. And that was more than 20 years ago today, before the recent research on our decline in reading!
More recent research has found:
The implications for resumes and profiles are the same: readers are skimming and gazing and we have to know how to capture their attention.
Reading Patterns Inform Resumes & Profiles
When people read a page, they tend to skim and read in specific patterns. Understanding these patterns can help us write and design in ways that increase content consumption.
We've presented before about the "F-shaped" pattern readers demonstrated in the eye-tracking study from 2006. There are several other reading patterns, and here are a few that apply to resumes and profiles.
Less Is More
In addition to writing and designing using the patterns above, if we want readers to read more of our content we must write less.
What we choose to write is important. Content needs to differentiate clients and use the key words or phrases hiring managers seek when reading, scanning the resume with an ATS, or using searches to find a LinkedIn profile.
Writing concise resumes and profiles starts with a strong overarching focus. What positions is your client targeting? What defines their professional identity? What is their unique promise of value to the target audience?
Then, "write tight" to make it easy to skim and read the content:
Lastly, use formatting strategically. Draw the eye to the differentiating information for your client that also adds value to their audience.
Writing & Formatting Traps to Avoid
In the effort to "write tight," do not make statements hard to read! Remove unnecessary words and prepositions while maintaining readability.
Avoid ampersands (&) in body text as they make your client look unprofessional. Reserve them for lists of core competencies and headings.
Balance your white space -- too much makes your client look inexperienced, too little makes the resume hard to read.
Don't believe the myth that modern resumes need to be one page. In fact, recent research suggests a one-page resume may hurt your experienced client. Determine length based on the job requirements and your client's experience.
As usual, in this session there were questions about ATS and formatting. There are many misconceptions about resume formatting to pass through ATS. Here are a few resources for you to keep up to date and share correct information with clients.
As professionals in the careers industry, it is important for us to stay on top of trends and know what is coming next for our clients. Keep challenging yourself to "write tight" while creating resumes and profiles filled with accomplishments, designed for the human reader, and ready to go through an applicant tracking system.
By Brenda BernsteinThe Essay Expert
Ever get a document back from an editor that has tons of red or blue lines (maybe even some green ones), and have no idea how to get rid of them all, or view the document the way it’s supposed to look? This article is for you!
Why I Love Track Changes
Microsoft Word has a very useful feature called “Track Changes” that keeps track of changes that an editor makes to a document, and allows subsequent readers to see what changes were made. When the “Track Changes” feature is turned on, anyone who opens the document can see every change made to the original document, whether to fonts, page formats, margins, and text.
Track Changes also has a “Comments” feature that allows explanations and suggestions to be entered in the margins of your document.
The value of Track Changes to me as an editor is that my clients can see what I’ve changed, and I can see the changes they make. I do not then have to go through their resume word by word to see what alterations have occurred. It’s also easy to accept or reject changes, without having to change individual fonts or colors. Gone are the days of manually inserting a strikethrough to indicate a deletion!
The Dangers of Track Changes
Track Changes can be troublesome too. You don’t want to send a document with lots of red lines and bubbles all over it to an employer or a school (many people have embarrassing stories of doing this)! The recipient then sees all the suggestions, changes, and possibly the original language and mistakes that needed changing.
As part of proofreading and preparing the final draft of a resume, cover letter, or essay, take the following steps to ensure that you do not inadvertently send a marked up copy to an employer:
Directions for MS Word 2007/2010
Directions for MS Word 2008 for Mac
Directions for MS Word 2003
On the Reviewing toolbar, click Next to advance from one revision or comment to the next. Click Accept Change or Reject Change/Delete Comment for each revision or comment. Repeat until all the revisions in the document have been accepted or rejected and all the comments have been deleted.
To accept all the changes, click the arrow next to Accept Change, and then click Accept All Changes in Document. If you know that you want to reject all the changes, click the arrow next to Reject Change/Delete Comment, and then click Reject All Changes in Document.
THEN, to remove ALL comments, click the arrow next to Reject Change/Delete Comment, and then click Delete All Comments in Document.
If you want to accept SOME changes and delete others, you can accept or reject changes and comments one at a time by right clicking on them individually. You will get a drop-down menu with choices of what to do.
Important notes for all versions of Word:
By Gerry Corbett
What you say and how you say it matter significantly. Your words and the choice of the words you employ say much about you, your character, your integrity, your brand and the very essence of who you are and what you represent. So as you write your resume, your cover letters, your social-platform profiles, your blog, your twits and other prose, pay critical attention to your words and how you use them. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind to help you stay true to your character and resonate with your personal brand.
1. Write like you speak. Use words that are natural to your inner voice. Do not use vocabulary that does not fit your personality.
2. Use simple declarative sentences -- a subject, verb and object. Keep it simple and succinct.
3. Tell a story. From our infancy, we are read stories that entertain, engage and educate. It is a form of communications to which we all have become accustomed. Use words that tell a story and paint a picture of the point of view that you hold, the achievements you have made, the opinions you have and the knowledge you possess.
4. Say what you know and believe. Speak from your experience, your knowledge, your research, your understanding, your premise. Forget invention unless fiction is your intention.
5. Be honest. Tell what is true. Do not lie, obfuscate, hide or distort. Human nature is savvy. People can often sense insincerity. Even if, in some cases, the insincerity is not obvious, the truth will out.
6. Use active voice. People often respond better to language that is energetic. So in simple terms make the subject the actor and the object the recipient of the action. An example: “The company benefitted greatly from my focus on return on invested capital” is passive. Instead use: “My strong focus on return on invested capital significantly improved the company’s financial position.”
7. Edit yourself. It is human nature that we can be our own worst critic. Yet, we can also be great editors if we give enough time and space in between writing and editing. So after you have written your latest blog or cover letter, sleep on it, then edit.
8. Get other opinions. Sometimes the people who best know us can be authentic editors. They can tell us if our voice is stretched, out of tune or not in sync. Objective critics can sometimes be that final tuning fork that makes our words and word strings harmonize.
By Brenda Bernstein The Essay Expert
Do you want to impress the people who matter?
For better or worse, many people judge you on your ability to express yourself in words. Whether you are an entrepreneur, a blogger, a college applicant or a job seeker, it is crucial that you write clearly and coherently.
I read a lot of bad writing, and I have noticed certain errors that occur over and over again. If you AVOID this list of errors, you will stand a chance of getting in the door.
NOTE: There is a game in this article! If you see two word or phrase choices in brackets, see if you can choose the correct one. What’s your grammar score?
This one might be the most common error of them all. Its is the possessive of it. It means “belonging to it.” E.g., The computer is on its last legs. The tree lost its leaves.
The confusion comes from the fact that usually we use an apostrophe to form a possessive, e.g.,
I stole the dog’s bone. The President’s speech did not inspire me.
Exception alert! Possessive pronouns (yours, hers, ours, theirs) have NO apostrophe, e.g., Is that picnic blanket yours, ours or theirs?
There’s an exception to the exception: One’s, which is also a possessive pronoun. E.g., It’s good to take one’s time when writing a business letter.
It’s – with an apostrophe – means “it is.” It’s a contraction like do not (don’t). E.g., It’s a beautiful day! It’s hard to know when to use “then” and when to use “than.Then/Than
Then refers to time. Many people tend to use then when than is correct. Here’s a cool trick: Then rhymes with when! First I saw.Then I came. Then I conquered.
Than refers to comparison. The Empire State Building is taller than my house. I love you more than he does.
If you’re not answering the question “When?” (Answer: Then), [know/no] to use than.
Know is what you do with knowledge. If you know how to spell knowledge you know how to spell know.
No is used to express the negative and is the opposite of Yes. E.g. No way! No means no!
I know you can get this [write/right].
Write is most often used to refer to what you do with words. Conveniently, “write” and “words” both start with a w. Write words.
Right is the opposite of left, or of wrong. E.g., You write with your right hand, am I right? Right can also mean to set something straight. E.g., [Everyday/Every day], my cat knocks over my ficus plant, and every day I right it.
5. Every Day/Everyday
If you do something every single day, use every day. Try putting “single” in the phrase and if it belongs there, make sure you put a space between “every” and “day.”
If something is commonplace or done every day, use everyday.
e.g., I don’t wear my everyday shoes every day. Sometimes I like my shoes to [stand out/standout].
6. Stand Out/Standout
Stand out is a verb. Try putting the word “right” into the phrase. E.g., She stands [right] out in a crowd. If the sentence works, make sure you put a space between “stand” and “out.”
Standout is an adjective meaning impressive or noticeable. E.g.,We attracted a standout crowd on opening night, despite the foul [weather/whether].
Weather comprises things like sun, rain, snow, sleet and hail.
Whether is a conjunction used to introduce an alternative. E.g.,Whether or not, here I come! Whether raises a question, much like other questions words like “who,” “what,” and “which,” which also start with “wh.”
As questionable as the weather may be, it does not start with awh. E.g., In early Spring, I often [here/hear] weather reports that contradict each other as to whether it’s going to rain or snow.
Hear is generally what your ears do. Notice that “ear” is part of “hear.” This one should be easy. Can you hear me now?
Here relates to a place or a time. E.g., Please come over here.
The expression “Hear hear!” comes from “Hear ye Hear ye!” We love what these folks have to say and we want to hear [they’re/their/there] words!
There is a place. Look over there. Note it has “here” in it, which is also a place: There.
They’re is the contraction for They Are. You make it the same way you make don’t (do not), it’s (it is), and you’re (you are).
Their is a possessive pronoun. It has “heir” in it. If Bob and Jim are heirs according to [statute/statue] then the money is theirs.
Too means “also” or “as well.” Think extra. An extra thing and an extra o.
Two is a number, also known as 2. Unfortunately it does not have 2 os in it, which would make things easier to remember. Just remember w for wacky. ‘Cuz this is a pretty wacky spelling of a word if I ever saw one. Or you can think of other words that have “tw” in them like “between” and “twins” that also have a “tw.”
To is a preposition. It gets you from one place to another. It is the beginning of the word toward, which is another word that [affects/effects] your location.
There is a place. Look over there. Note it has “here” in it, which is also a place: Where? There.
Affect is almost always a verb meaning “to have an impact on.” E.g., How did the news affect you? It starts with the letter a – remember a is for action, and verbs, including affect, are action words. Affect can also be used as a noun meaning an attitude or countenance. E.g., Whenever she went to a dinner party, she put on a snooty affect. A is for attitude! Effect is almost always a noun meaning “impact.” E.g., What was the effect of the recession on your finances? Effect can also be used as a verb meaning to implement. E.g., Jane is the only person I know [that/who] takes action to effect change in environmental policy.
I often see people referred to as “that.”
IMPROPER USE: I’m looking for a lawyer that can help me with my divorce.
PROPER: I’m looking for a lawyer who can help me with my divorce.
When you’re choosing a word to refer to a person or people, always use who. Use that when referring to things, e.g., There are many grammatical errors that drive me crazy, and I really wish people would make [less/fewer] of them!
Less is used to refer to something that can’t be counted, or that you would describe an amount. E.g., I wish there were less violence in the world. Or, Tastes great, less filling!
Fewer is used to refer to something that can be counted, or that you would describe as a number. E.g., I wish there were fewer incidents of violence in the world.
Dollars are somewhat of an exception. Whenever we refer to a dollar amount, we’re really referring to an amount of money and not a number, [irregardless/regardless] of the fact that we can count dollars.
Irregardless is NOT a word. Trust your spell check on this one. Don’t ever use this non-word! It means “without regard.” Why did anyone ever add an “ir” to it?
E.g., I know you love your father and [I/me] regardless of how many times we take away your TV time.
The most common mistake I see with these pronouns is usage ofI where me would be proper.
IMPROPER USE: I know you love your father and I.
PROPER USE: I know you love your father and me.
To figure out which word to use, strip away all parties other than yourself. You wouldn’t say “I know you love I” so why would you change it to “me” when adding the father into the picture? If you would say “I know you love me,” then say “I know you love your father and me.”
Second most common error: Inappropriate use of the word myself.
IMPROPER USE: Your father and myself love you even though we give you timeouts.
PROPER USE: Your father and I love you even though we give you timeouts.
Once again, just take father out of the picture and you have your grammatically correct answer. You wouldn’t say “Myself loves you” so why change it when you add the father? If you would say “I love you” then say “Your father and I love you.”
Very simply, your best bet with pronouns is always to strip the sentence down and see what’s left. Then you’ll have [your/you’re] answer.
This example is our third lesson in contractions.
You’re is a contraction for you are. If you’re using the word to mean you are (2 words), write it as a contraction. E.g., Do you know that you’re about to miss the 5:00 train?
Your is a possessive pronoun. E.g., I mistakenly [lead/led] you to believe that your train is leaving in 2 minutes.
Lead is a type of metal and also the present tense of the verb “to lead.” For some reason, it is very common, especially on resumes, to use “lead” as a past tense verb. This usage is incorrect.
Led is the past tense of the verb to lead. E.g., I led my team to a 200% gain in profits last year by decreasing the [incidence/incident] of production error by 25%.
An incident is an event of some kind. It is something that happens. E.g., It was not uncommon for there to be thousands of incidents of AIDS in one small African village.
Incidence is the frequency at which something occurs. E.g., The incidence of AIDS [between/among] the people of Africa is astounding.
Between is used when there are only two things. E.g., Between you and me, I can’t really tell the difference between the twins.
You might remember this one by thinking b stands for “both” (another word that requires 2 things) or by remembering the tw(tween/twins) connection. As we saw with the number two, “tw” refers to things that come in 2s.
Among is used when there are lots of things. [I.e./E.g.], Among the many errors made by writers, the 20 listed here are the most common I have seen.
I.e. is Latin for id est, meaning “that is,” or “in other words.”
E.g. is Latin for exempli gratia, meaning “for example.”
They do not mean the same thing and should not be used interchangeably! Use i.e. when you are stating something in another way. Use e.g. when you are giving examples. For example:
There are 7 colors in the rainbow, i.e., red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. (complete list)
There are 7 colors in the rainbow, e.g., red, orange and yellow(examples/incomplete list)
I hope the examples above lessen your everyday incidence of grammatical error. I also hope this article has led you to feel more confident in your writing. It’s not rocket science, and regardless of whether you are a job seeker or a business person, it’s important to get these words right. It will have a positive effect for you with anyone who cares about the quality of your professional writing, making you stand out in a positive way.
One of the best things about reviewing resumes from ACRWs for publications and E-Summit training handout packets is reading all of the great resumes they contribute! As the resume samples come in, I am excited for each one, looking, reading, and saying out loud, “Wow! Look at this resume!”
HOWEVER … you knew that was coming (!) … I also find consistent types of errors many writers are making. What follows are some basic English language and grammar rules that you should pay special attention to.
Rule: When you are using two words to describe a noun, those two words act as an adjective and must be hyphenated.
high-performance career … low-cost manufacturing … market-driven sales programs … problem-solving skills
Exception: DO NOT hyphenate when the first of those two words ends in the letters “ly.”
highly successful executive … consistently superior performance … remotely controlled device
Rule: When you are writing serial items, they must all be written in a parallel voice.
Directed all manufacturing operations including training and supervising staff, scheduling production, purchasing materials, managing inventory, troubleshooting operations, installing new technology, and coordinating all budgeting. (Note that all of the phrases start with an “ing” verb.)
Directed all manufacturing operations including training and supervising staff, scheduling production, materials management, inventory control, troubleshooting operations, installing new technology, and budget management. (Note the inconsistency in the list of serial items - some starting with the “ing” verb and others using noun phrases.)
Rule: Pick a method and stick with it where you either consistently use or not use a comma before the word “and” in a list of serial items.
Trained all newly hired personnel in the sales, customer-service and customer-support departments of Macy’s Stores, Macy’s Outlet Malls and Macy’s Online Shops.
Trained all newly hired personnel in the sales, customer-service, and customer-support departments of Macy’s Stores, Macy’s Outlet Malls, and Macy’s Online Shops.
(Note that either of the two examples above is correct and consistent. In the first example, a comma is not used before the word “and” in each of the two serial item lists in the sentence. In the second example, the comma is used.)
Trained all newly hired personnel in the sales, customer-service and customer support-departments of Macy’s Stores, Macy’s Outlet Malls, and Macy’s Online Shops.
(Note the inconsistency of the sentence above where the first list of serial items does not use a comma before the word “and” while the second list of items does. This is incorrect because it is inconsistent.)
Exception: It is recommended that you use a comma before the word “and” when the final item in a serial list has the word “and” in the clause.
Coordinating materials movement, inventory planning, and shipping and receiving operations.
Rule: Bullet-point items must be consistent and use the same verb or noun tense.
* Budget Management
* Staff Training & Leadership
* Customer Service
* New Product Introduction
* Sales Territory Management
* New Market Development
* Budget Management
* Trainer & Leader
* Customer Service Representative
* New Product Introduction
* Managing Sales Territories
* New Market Development
(Note the tremendous inconsistency in the use of nouns and verbs in the incorrect example.)
CONSISTENCY WITH TITLES & DEGREES
Rule: Pick a format and be consistent in how you present job titles and college degrees.
Retail Sales Associate (1999 to Present)
Sales Associate (1996 to 1999)
Inventory Clerk (1995 to 1996)
Retail Sales (1999 to Present) - This is NOT a title!
Sales Associate (1996 to 1999)
Inventory Clerk (1995 to 1996)
Master of Arts Degree in Education, 2003
Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology, 2001
Master’s, Education, 2003
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, 2001
I hope you’ve picked up some good English language and grammar rules and solid writing tips from this article that you’ll immediately start integrating into all of your writing projects!
These issues haunt even the most experienced writers! Writers in our certification programs get an entire 90-minute session on writing tighter and consistent feedback to transform their writing.
Verbs give us power – power to write documents that are well-positioned and that communicate a vast amount of information with just the use of a simple verb or two. Our colleague, Louise Kursmark, recently coined the phrase, “key verb,” an excellent description of how these verbs can be used to your advantage when writing resumes, cover letters, branding statements, leadership profiles and other job-search communications. Now, let’s explore the use and meaning of some of my favorite verbs.
Accelerated the rate at which Kodak brought new products to market by redesigning the entire product development and engineering process, eliminating roadblocks, and streamlining documentation requirements. (Meaning: Communicates the message that you sped up the rate at which a certain activity or process happened and, in turn, you delivered positive results.)
Architected the business plan, strategy, mission, vision, and organizational design for a new offshore financial services firm targeting private equity investors worldwide. (Meaning: Communicates the message that you created, designed, developed, and built all of the “pieces” for a new company, division, market, or other entity.)
Catapulted the AT-101 Therapeutic Massage Device to #1 market share in the nation following a coast-to-coast media and advertising campaign. (Meaning: Communicates the message that you launched a product, service, technology, or company to the very forefront of the market/industry.)
Championed development of a new cosmetics line targeted to the affluent Hispanic market and delivered $2.8 million in first year sales. (Meaning: Communicates the message that you were the driving force behind an idea, a product, a technology, a service, or any one of a number of other “inventions.”)
Dominated the East Coast market and eliminated the competition following introduction of a fully integrated home security system for less than $1000. (Meaning: Communicates the message that you obliterated the competition and ruled the “universe.”)
Honored with the 2006 “Sales Manager of the Year” award from Dow Chemical among a group of 300+ eligible sales management professionals companywide. (Meaning: Communicates the message that YOU were chosen for special recognition because you excelled at your job, a special project, revenue growth, or any one of a number of other achievements.)
Imagined the possibilities for Dow to expand into emerging African markets, authored business plan, staffed new organization, and transitioned from concept into full-scale operation. (Meaning: Communicates the message that you conceived something new and revolutionary that brought about positive change and results.)
Leveraged relationships with key accounts to facilitate RDL’s successful launch of dedicated logistics services, increasing annual sales by better than 22% within one year. (Meaning: Communicates the message that you favorably “exploited” existing relationships, partnerships, and activities to support, strengthen, or expand other business operations.)
Orchestrated the start-up, funding, development, and market launch of a new technology venture to capture emerging opportunities in e-commerce and other e-based revenue streams. (Meaning: Communicates the message that you put together numerous different components to create a complete whole.)
Pioneered initial concept that led to development of new technology to distribute electrical services nationwide. (Meaning: Communicates the message that you conceived, conceptualized, or created some new and revolutionary.)
Revitalized dormant market, introduced new sales call program targeting key accounts, and increased regional sales revenues 31% within 12 months. (Meaning: Communicates the message that you re-energized and brought something back to life.)
The next time you’re writing and you use a great new verb, word, or phrase, please be sure to pass it along to me. Let’s share our words and see if we can’t help each other all become better, more skilled and more powerful writers.
See the list of 400+ verbs on the Free Resources page.