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Struggling to cut your resume down to one page?
Reducing your margins or font sizes to make everything fit?
We’ve all been there! But odds are, your resume is filled with wordy phrases and filler words. The trick is to cut back on those.
Remove all the fluff so that you’re left with only powerful, impactful words that will captivate the hiring manager reading your resume.
How? By remembering a few grammar lessons from school!
So here are 8 grammar tips to gain clarity and conciseness:
Use the active voice
Start each bullet point describing an experience with an action verb. Don’t say ‘In charge of the department’s accounting.’ It’s vague, it’s not action-oriented, and it doesn’t highlight what you accomplished.
- ‘Calculated monthly overhead.
- Targeted variable expenses for cost containment.
- Reduced office expenditure by 71%.
- Overall, achieved a profit increase of 61%.’
- ‘Established the company’s balance sheet, and income and cash flow statements.
- Analysed them and projected activity.
- Restructured liabilities and equity.’
When you read these, don’t you feel that you know so much more about the applicant, than before?
That’s the clarity you want to give the people who read your application.
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Avoid wordy phrases
Use simple words to construct your sentences: because, since, why, although, even, though, if, when, about, must, should, can, could, may, might, before, after, as.
Avoid lengthier expressions that say the same thing, such as ‘prior to,’ ‘with regard to,’ and ‘despite the fact that’. If it means the same, but has less letters, use it. By the way, this is good life advice in general.
Avoid inflated words
On the same note, also avoid inflated words. Having a large vocabulary can be impressive, but don’t make it difficult for your recruiter to understand what you are saying. Most of the time, simpler phrases work equally well, if not better.
It’s tempting to use words like ‘facilitate’, ‘impact on’, ‘implement’, ‘subsequent to’, ‘utilise’, but try to stick with the simpler ‘help’, ‘affect’, ‘start/create/begin’, ‘after’ and ‘use’.
Reduce prepositional phrases
Use apostrophe + s, instead of ‘of’ to denote possession of an object. So instead of writing ‘The approval of the manager’ write ‘The manager’s approval.’
‘The obvious effect of such a range of reference is to assure the audience of the author’s range of learning and intellect.’
Confused? So are we and so will be the employer.
Here’s how to correct it: ‘The wide-ranging references in this talk assure the audience that the author is intelligent and well-read.’
Don’t use expletive constructions
(‘it is’, ‘there is’, ‘there are’).
‘It is inevitable that oil prices will rise.’ Instead, say ‘Oil prices will inevitably rise.’
Forget vague nouns.
Vague nouns are all-purpose nouns, such as ‘factor’, ‘aspect’, ‘area’, ‘situation’, ‘consideration’, ‘degree’, ‘case’. They make your sentences sound generic, eating valuable space on your CV without adding anything.
Don’t say ‘Consumer demand is rising in the area of services,’ say ‘Consumers are demanding more services.’
Also forget vague nouns to quantify your results. For the example above, don’t say ‘Consumers are demanding more services,’ say ‘Consumers are demanding 15% more services than in the previous quarter.’
Similarly, don’t say ‘Employees were trained faster’, say ‘Achieved a 3-day shorter onboarding period through a new training program’ or ‘Shortened onboarding period by 3 days with new training program.’
Don’t say ‘Workflow was more efficient,’ say ‘Implemented new software to automate 105 daily tasks. Optimized administrative workflow, saving 2 hours daily.’
In fact, forget vague everything. Hiring managers are tired of reading vague words like ‘team player’, ‘enthusiastic student’, ‘results-driven’, ‘strategic thinker’, ‘detail-oriented’, ‘self-motivated’ and ‘hard worker’. These words don’t necessarily demonstrate how you add value in the workforce.
Use only noun strings from the company’s terminology.
Phrases with many consecutive nouns are difficult to follow, unless you are familiar with the industry and company jargon. Use long noun strings such as ‘store employee relations improvement program’ only if they are well defined in your field, and your targeted company also uses them.
Not sure what the company jargon is? Carefully read through the job posting and the company website and public materials for clues.
Clarify your thoughts
When you are having a hard time describing your responsibilities in a role, using the right vocabulary, and outlining your achievements, all the grammar in the world won’t save you.
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Clarify your thoughts with the STAR formula – which stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Before writing your experience, ask yourself the following questions:
- Situation – What situation or problem were you fixing for your previous employer?
- Task – What did you do to solve their problem? What did you do in that situation?
- Action – How did you do it? What tool did you use?
- Result – How did your action impact your previous employer? What was a direct result of your action? What did you accomplish?
Now it’s your turn!
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Mirona Agachi coaches millennial job seekers to take charge of their life, find a career they love, get interviews and land more job offers. She’s also a co-founder at www.buildyourtomorrow.org where she publishes step-by-step career hacks and word-for-word templates.