Your Resume: How to Tell a Compelling Story

Resume Content to Get You Noticed

Hiring managers and recruiters are looking for specific content in your resume, so you need to include the right information to land your dream job. You have a unique professional and educational background that sets you apart, so show employers how your past can benefit their future!

“Tailor your resume specifically to the job posting.”


Include experience relevant to the position, and list any related industries you have worked in. Be concise, but be specific—ensure that every task description shows why the employer needs you. LaToia Kell, Manager of Sales and Marketing at ProEdit, looks for specific qualifications when hiring. Her advice? “Tailor your resume specifically to the job posting.”

In fact, it’s a good idea to use key words from the original job posting. Some companies use digital filters that match the job advertisement to resumes, so including those golden phrases will not only show that you’re qualified but also that you’ve done your research.


Include both soft (such as project management or leadership) and hard (such as technical writing degree-based) skills on your resume, and don’t forget to list any relevant training or certification you’ve received. Software skills are also important, so tell the employer about your experiences using any required or relevant software applications.

Work Samples

“You should view your resume as your first work sample to an employer,” according to Kell, but always include samples of your work. At any job, ask the appropriate supervisor if you can keep samples of your work. Proprietary issues may mean you have to build work samples on your own. Have a portfolio ready to go, and you’ll be able to pull the types of samples you need (writing, editing, design) when you’re updating your resume for a specific job.

Show Hiring Managers Your Software Skills

Interviewing Word Cloud

Hiring managers are team builders. Each manager blends tactical and strategic hiring practices to find the right people for their team. Tactical candidates have a high degree of specialized skills, experience, and knowledge. They are often referred to as Subject Matter Experts or SMEs. Strategic hires are quick learners. They may have less experience, but hiring managers place more importance on the fact that these hires can be molded to perform well on a wide variety of projects.

Use your resume to show that you already have the required or relevant software skills described in a job posting or the proven ability to learn new software quickly. Knowing which details to include and how to display them on your resume will give you the edge you need to assure any hiring manager that you’re a perfect match for the position.

Software Section

Give hiring managers a quick idea of the programs you’ve used by listing your software skills in a separate section of your resume. If the job you’re applying for requires strong skills in a particular program, include this software section at the top of your resume so it’s one of the first things the hiring manager sees. Jacque Henson, Manager of Information Development at ProEdit, suggests, “You can never go wrong putting it as a summary at the beginning of your resume. That will help a recruiter determine if it’s even worthwhile reviewing the rest of your experience.”

“A summary at the beginning of your resume . . . will help a recruiter determine if it’s even worthwhile reviewing the rest of your experience.”

But don’t stop there. Under each job description, include the software you used and what deliverables you created.

Software Skill Level

Many applicants assume that the more software they list, the better they look. But unless a hiring manager knows how familiar you are with each program, he or she may assume that you’ve inflated your experience and pass over your resume. List your skill level with any software you include, and qualify it with terms like “beginner,” “intermediate,” or “advanced.”

Keep your skills up to date. If a software program is listed as a required skill, make sure you’ve had recent hands-on experience using that tool. In a tactical hire situation, you are the SME. The hiring manager is expecting you to be up to speed and not to require additional training.

Include any experience you have managing or training others to use a particular software. Be sure to list any software certifications.

Software Version

Due to the frequency of software updates, include which version (or versions) of each program you’ve worked with on your list. Be honest, and don’t be discouraged if it’s not the latest version. Experience with previous releases shows a hiring manager that you’re familiar with the software and can potentially transfer your knowledge of the older version to the newer version. In a strategic hire, the hiring manager will place a higher level of importance on your ability to learn rather than on your existing knowledge.

“Make it clear and easy.”

Clear and Easy

The bottom line is to “make it clear and easy,” says Kell. “And if the position is asking for a particular software, then make sure it’s highlighted on your resume. Otherwise, you’re going to get passed up.”

Resume Length

Think of your resume as a website. Are your qualifications neatly organized on your home page, or will a hiring manager have to surf your site to determine if you’re a good fit for their position? While a single-page resume is nearly impossible for an experienced candidate, a long resume is not necessarily a quality resume. Hiring managers want to quickly see how qualified you are for a position without wading through extra pages of employment history.

Keep your resume to one or two pages. If you have contracting experience or change jobs frequently, create a separate project list that provides additional details for short-term or temp projects. Showcase your work samples in a separate document, or create an online portfolio and provide a web link.

Today, hiring managers are flooded with hundreds of resumes for a single position, and most won’t take the time to sift through several pages for one candidate. According to Tony Beshara, author of Unbeatable Resumes, “The average resume gets read in 10 seconds.”

Resume Duration

The purpose of your resume is to get an interview, so keep it current. Don’t include experience from more than 10 years ago. Daniel Griesbeck, Manager of Project Services at ProEdit, says, “People are so afraid to trim down their resumes, even if it means leaving off experience from more than 10 years ago. As a hiring manager, I’m most interested in what they’ve done in the last three years.”

If you’re looking for ways to trim your resume, make sure that everything listed is relevant. Be concise. Aim for clarity, and avoid bogging down prospective employers with too much information. Look at your resume as a fact sheet that someone can glance over and quickly learn about your qualifications.

What About Resume Gaps?

Peggy Fenton asked us, “I took five years off to be a stay-at-home mom. Should I explain the gap on my resume or wait until I am asked about it in an interview?”

That’s a great question! If you’ve been back in the job market for more than 10 years, leave out the explanation. However, if you recently returned to work, then it is relevant information to a potential employer and needs to be included.

“When I’m looking for the right person to fill a position, I review the candidate’s pre-employment questionnaire answers as my first check. If the candidate didn’t answer the questions, or doesn’t have the minimum qualifications, I move to the next candidate. A reasonable gap in work history doesn’t impact my decision if they still meet the minimum requirements for the position,” said Molly Scott, HR and Marketing Manager at ProEdit.

Resume Format: Functional vs. Chronological

While we would not recommend this for everyone, because of your gap in employment, you may want to consider using a functional resume instead of a chronologically formatted resume. This format will highlight your past skills and experience instead of your work history. You may also want to have a chronological version on hand for use in completing application forms.

Once you get an interview, be ready to talk about the time you spent at home; but remember, the purpose of a resume is to convince the hiring manager that he or she should bring you in for an interview in the first place.

All About Presentation

Make a list of any volunteer work, continuing education courses, and household responsibilities that can translate into skills that can be applied in the workforce. Then carefully review the job description for each position that interests you. Describe your experience in terms that will appeal to the employer. This will come in handy when you fill out a pre-employment questionnaire.

Here is an example taken from an actual ProEdit job notification:

Minimum Requirement: Excellent understanding of MS Word, Excel, and Windows

Response to that Requirement: Used MS Word to design, develop, and deliver monthly HOA newsletter. Used MS Excel to benchmark and track household budget.

Strong presentation also means putting on some finishing
touches. Here’s a resume review checklist to make sure you covered all your bases. And don’t forget to check your spelling. These ten words get spelled wrong on resumes all the time.

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