6 Practical Resume Tips – John Smith Case Study


This article contains resume-writing tips that have been developed from a real-life example. The personal and identifiable information contained in the following documents including gender, name, contact information, names of previous employers, locations, etc have been changed to preserve our client’s anonymity. The purpose is to share our experience with our clients, to help you reach your career goals. While many sites provides resume templates and samples, we believe that this approach does not account for your personal employment background and situation. A student out of college and someone with 10 to 15 years of experience should not be using the same resume template. For this reason, we feel learning resume writing techniques is the best approach.


John Smith2, was a client who came to us referred by one our corporate partners. In our consultation, John was definite about a career change but he did not have any specific jobs in mind. Through our consultation, it was apparent that John was a classic example of a candidate who was extremely qualified but undersold himself in his resume.

Resume Writing Tips:

Highlight Transferable Skills:

Since John was sure he wanted another management job but did not have any specific jobs in mind, we focused on transferable management competencies. These are skills that are typical of management jobs but were absent from his original resume. By highlighting your transferable management skills like leadership, financial acumen, planning, managing team performance, etc. you may broaden the opportunities available to you.

Focus on Results:

Often we see resumes describing only what someone does but not the result of what they do. Companies pay for results. So focus on describing and quantifying the results/outcomes of what you do. John’s Examples:

* “Supervised payroll department” vs. “Lead a team of 8 direct reports to process six payrolls with a cost of $76 million annually”.

* “Configured SAP for Org Management and Master Data reporting” vs. “Configured SAP for improved Org Management and Master Data capability and reporting that reduced errors by 30% and required 1/5 of the original turn around time”.

Demonstrate a Commitment to Continuous Learning:

We expanded the Education Section to show John’s commitment to continuous learning including recent courses taken. By showing your desire and ability to learn, it may help sell you in situations where you may not have the exact experience.

Include a Skills Summary section and Objective:

This section creates interest early in the document and enables the reader to quickly and easily form a candidate profile. We used this section to showcase not only John’s subject matter expertise but also to reinforce the transferable management competencies mentioned further in the document. This section will give you a better chance at being noticed and not being quickly dismissed. Also if possible, include an objective to get the reader’s attention and use the job title in this objective if possible. I.e. “To contribute in a Marketing Director position and apply my technology background”

Leverage Unique Strengths and Accomplishments:

Discover you strengths and accomplishments and highlight it. In this case, John has a strong career ladder with his current employer. He entered “Canadian Utilities” company as a relief clerk and within 5 years held a management position, growing his responsibility from one to two departments. We “stacked” his job titles with his promotion from “Manager of Payroll” to “Manager of Payroll and Time Administration” to highlight his expanded responsibility. We further reinforced this career ladder in the Skills Summary by indicating his “Years of Progressive Experience in Human Resources and Manager with Direct Reports”. Lastly, we anchored the above by showing his entry into the company as a relief clerk.

Identify and Eliminate/Mitigate Possible Concerns:

Look for possible weaknesses in your resume and devise a strategy to deal with them. In this case, John’s early work experience is characterized by short tenures that could be seen as a lack of employee commitment. We advised John to include contents in this section only if it is relevant to the job application. However, John felt strongly about including this section in its entirety. So we split his experience into two separate sections with distinct titles to create a separation between his early work experiences from his recent experience. Further, we re-titled his early work experience with the heading of “Temporary Work Experience” to re-position the short tenures (since he worked under a temp agency during this period).

Wanting to include every piece of work experience ever gained, thinking that “more is necessarily better” is a common mistake we often see in resumes. In this example, some of the work experience dates as far back as 1986!

Remember a well written resume will meet the employer’s requirements and create questions to be answered in an interview; don’t sell yourself short.


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