By Marie Zimenoff
Career Thought Leaders & Resume Writing Academy
As professional resume writers, we often fall into ruts describing clients in certain ways and using common phrases. These phrases can be important in addressing hiring manager needs, and they might diminish the power of the client’s brand. In some cases, clients are unhappy with their resume because it contains descriptors that do not fit their brand.
The good news is, we can adjust our habits to be more effective. We can use more powerful language and have our client say, “Hey, this is really me,” while connecting with the hiring manager’s needs. Too many adjectives make the client seem to be trying too hard, and the client often notices this and is uncomfortable with their new resume.
What can we do to make the client and their target audience engage quickly and want to read more? Incorporate personal branding into the resume process and product.
Unique Promise of Value
What is branding? This is a hard topic for some people who may feel like branding is all about being pushy or selling themselves. No one likes to be pushy. The good news? Personal branding isn’t a push, it is focused on creating a pull.
When we talk about branding we mean a unique promise of value.
- Unique — We are different from other people.
- Promise — We do what we say we will.
- Value — We offer value to our target audience.
People also often think branding means becoming something that they are not. This does not work for a candidate or a company. It does not work because it is exhausting and people see through it.
This comes from the internal perspective of the client. What is true to them? What do they have that is a part of who they are? What are their strengths? These include the stories of their accomplishments.
An external perspective is also useful. What do other people say about the client? What are other people's perceptions of them? How can we align these without forcing it or by being inauthentic?
We need to communicate our clients' differentiation and how it connects to their audience’s needs. This is the big picture for creating branded documents. If we don't know the audience or the client doesn't have a focus for where they're going it's going to be hard to create branded documents. Without this vision, we can't connect all of those dots, and those dots are really what a brand is.
Generic Statements Weaken Differentiation
A great way to make a client stand out is to remove generic and overused phrases. This will make the resume much more compelling. Most resume writers overuse words or phrases because they are used to them. They are not, however, specific to the client to differentiate one client to the next. Some of these overused words are: successfully, dynamic, significant, able to/expert in, and track record of.
When employers and recruiters see the same terms repeated in every resume, the words lose impact. Of course, they might apply to some people, but when overused they stop working. If you say you are an innovator, then we have to show it somewhere and really have to back that up. The same is true with many soft skills – they are best demonstrated through a story, not in a skills list.
Keywords are still included so employers know the client has the qualifications and skills. However, if the whole client description is a combination of keywords, they are not going to appear different from everyone else. Also, many descriptors commonly used are not important keywords for employer search.
When we use a few descriptors – those that really fit for our clients – it connects for the client and for employers. Keep your resume language clean, crisp, and strong to communicate brand in a different way. When we use adjectives sparingly, they can pop. When we use them too frequently, they can get us in trouble.
The Power of Active Verbs
When you use verbs instead of descriptors, you have power, you have action, and it is specific. The verbs that you choose and the stories that you choose to tell communicate the personal brand. For a writer, this can make the process easier! What words does the client use to describe themselves? No thesaurus required.
The example in the video below shows the use of “rallied” for a client because it was her word choice and it helps us see part of her personality. We do not have to say that she is a cheerleader using that descriptor. We can use the verb rallied and we get the same feel.
Get to the point. Instead of saying, "History of producing" just say "Produce." The verb “driven” often gets writers into trouble because what does it really mean to “drive sales”? “Proven success” is one of the phrases we often overuse. Take that out and start with the verb. It is more powerful, clean, and crisp.
Stories in Summaries Create Specificity
Branding in a resume is in the stories we choose to tell and the language we use to tell them. Most summaries today are starting to use a short story format through quick bullets to get away from descriptors and get right to the stories of how the candidate wins. How they lead. Whatever is most important we can include it right there in the summary, which tends to be where we overuse these adjectives.
Carefully Selected Graphics Define a Brand
We know that a picture is worth a thousand words – the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than words. In resumes, graphics thoughtfully tell stories relevant to the client’s brands.
See examples in the video below.
Social Proof Validates Brand
A third party is a powerful recommendation of a brand. How can we incorporate what other people said about a candidate in their materials? First, help the candidate get clear on their personal brand. Then, you can select feedback that strengthens that brand and is differentiating.
Use testimonials, get references, and put testimonials into your documents. Endorsements can be placed in the summary, replacing more generic descriptor words. Put testimonials or pull quotes from LinkedIn recommendations and put them right into your document. Pull a quote from a letter of recommendation and use it in a cover letter.
Although letters of recommendation may not be part of your candidate’s application process, they can still share social proof to strengthen their brand.
As a professional writer, you spend a good deal of time carefully crafting your client documents. Challenge yourself to differentiate each document, eliminate those adjectives and descriptors, and communicate with the full picture of who your client is by building their brand one story at a time.
Looking to have your story told to differentiate your resume or LinkedIn profile? Consult a professional resume writer! Visit our resume writer directory.
If you want to be even better at writing client stories that build their brand, earn your Academy Certified Resume Writer credential.
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