3 ways to make your résumé less boring

Yup, you heard me. Your résumé is boring. Back in the day, the tag of an IIT or a foreign university might have helped you stand out, but not anymore. There are going to be too many IITs and last year alone close to 200,000 students went abroad to study. How are you going to be any different from any of them? For every working professional, there is always going to be someone younger, someone more flexible and someone less expensive, who can do everything that you can do. Unless you've had stellar academic and/or professional performances, you're up for some serious competition.

And guess what; your résumé is not going to help you there.

Why? Because it's boring.

Traditional résumés just don't cut it anymore. A résumé provides very little insight into a candidate's professional choices and character. You could have a candidate who's switched jobs on a yearly basis and all a recruiter thinks at this time is that the candidate can be easily swayed by a better offer. While in reality, the candidate could have been gathering experience to ready themselves for a job they thought they weren't ready for yet.

A résumé does a very bad job of conveying that to a recruiter.

Also, by interesting, I don't mean to make people go over the top with video résumés or interactive HTML pages about yourself. These are good means but are worthless if they don't convey the right message. Employees today aren't just resources anymore. A good employee today is in a way expected to be vested in the progress of the company. For this, the company and the candidate need to know each other as people. Your résumés have to help recruiters understand you as a person.

Here are 3 things your résumé must convey to a recruiter -

About yourself as a person 

Recruiters want more personalized data about a candidate to understand if a prospective recruit will be a culture fit too. In fact, at HackerEarth, we see talented young programmers being rejected by our clients because they're not a culture fit. And unfortunately, their résumés provide little or no information about what they're like as people.

You must describe your characteristics and your attitude towards a job. Tell them how you approach work. For example, some very talented developers work in spurts of productivity. A recruiter will not know that unless they tell them that. Similarly, there are those developers who code a lot, outside of work with open source project or their own personal ones. Explaining the motivation behind doing these projects provides a great deal of insight into the kind of person that they are.

Tip 1 - If you're sending out a résumé, put out a decent cover letter which encapsulates all these things about you as a person. If it's a more interactive medium, then state of things that you do and why you do them. For e.g. - I have always worked at startups because the I love the feeling helping build the foundation of a company.

About your professional decisions 

Say you've graduated from college and you had 2 offers in hand - one at a large multinational and the other at a startup. And you took a job at the startup. Put in a word in your startup on why you chose to do so. This can be done for everything - your career choices; choices you made at work.

Work structures are not as rigid as they used to be, and switches between departments are very common. If you have made such a switch, explaining the reason behind it could help you a lot. It also lets recruiters know that you're flexible and if you have the track record to back it, it will also tell them that you pick up things quickly.

Tip 2 - Take three professional decisions of high impact that you've made before and describe the circumstances that led you to do so. Add in a "turning points" section where you can list out 3 or 4 impactful decisions you've taken at the college or work.

About your professional achievements 

Nothing screams "HIRE THAT GUY" like a set of achievements that are relevant to the kind of job you're applying for. And remember that these are achievements, not a mention of a project that you worked on. Quantify your work and achievements with numbers and objectives that you achieved while doing it.

In the case of applying for a developer's position, you've got to talk about products that you've helped launch, the time that you took to do it and the complexity involved. This information provides a recruiter with a lot of insights on your competence as a programmer.

Tip 3 - Not all of your professional achievements will be relevant to the job that you're applying. Subdivide your achievements section by putting up the most relevant achievements first and the rest as miscellaneous. You can't have a generic résumé for all the jobs that you apply for.

The format of the résumé is completely up to you. It could be anything from a good cover letter or a video presentation with a voice over. But along with the usual information, these three additions will give you application the status of a person, as opposed to a prospective "resource".

About the Author

Raghu Mohan
Raghu is an engineering grad handles Marketing at HackerEarth. Prior to this, he was an editor at YourStory.com. When he’s not working, you can find him at the nearest music shop having a jam session.