How to write a resume that make a hiring manager say, “this is the one!”

Writing is not everyone’s forte. In fact, writing can be one of the most cumbersome parts of a job and often the most put off. 

The biggest challenge to writing isn’t always the process itself, it is the outcome. Does your message translate well? Is it easy for other people to read and understand? 

When it comes to resume writing, you want to make doubly sure that what you write is easily understood by your audience (aka, hiring manager) because they use that to determine how qualified you are for a job.

So how do you make sure your resume is up to snuff? This article will help you write a better resume by breaking down the process into three parts:

  • Choosing which words to use
  • Creating a sentence
  • Building out the resume

Choosing Words

Before you start writing an essay on why you are the *perfect* candidate for the job, take a moment to think about the words you need to include.

Use Keywords

Simply put, keywords are the important words used in a job application that tell you what the job is about and what skills the company seeks in a good candidate. 

Use keywords in job descriptions to help you write resume sentences.

As you can see in the image, keywords can be adjectives (descriptive words), verbs (action words), and proper nouns. After you have read through a job post and determined it is a good fit, go back though and identify all the keywords. These are the same words you will want to use in your resume.  

Why use the exact same words? Because an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is likely the first scan of your resume. An ATS, or Applicant Tracking System is a software program used by companies that scans your resume to see how well it matches the job description.  It looks for words used in the job description to determine if your resume contains the same skill sets.  

If you use the same keywords in your resume as you do in your job, your resume has a chance at passing the test and being moved forward to human eyes.

What an ATS won’t do is look for is synonyms.  This means, if a job is looking for a Project Manager and your resume lists you as a “coordinator of various systems during product lifecycle”, you may be the perfect candidate that no hiring manager ever sees.  This statement doesn’t include either word, project or manager, even though to another project manager it may appear that is exactly what you do.  

In addition to software programs, it is important to keep in mind that hiring managers are often HR personnel who don’t necessarily have a good understanding of what your job entails.  This means you want to make it abundantly clear to them, as well, that you are a good candidate.  Basically, don’t assume someone with your skill set is screening your resume.

Use Action Words

Verbs (words that describe an action, like run, talk, coordinated, or managed) are strong words that indicate to a hiring manager what you actually did, instead of just what you were assigned to do.  They can also be used to demonstrate achievement.

Here is an example of how the verb “established” can be used to show your accomplishments:

“Established product quality assurance program that saved the company $1.5 million in repairs”

This sentence tells someone that the benefit to the organization (saving money in repairs) directly involved you (you established the program).

Wake Forest University has a great resource this: Action Verbs for Resumes.

Now that you have a list of verbs and keywords you know you want to include, it is time to create those sentences.

Write in Third Person

Unlike when writing a cover letter, where you write in first person, a resume is presented differently.

When you write sentences in your resume you want to make sure you are using a “third person” voice.  Not sure what that means?  Here is a quick reference:

First Person Point of View

How we generally speak (I, we)

  • “I received a B.S. in Geology from the University of Washington.”
  • “We coordinated a large event of over 500 attendees each year”

Second Person Point of View

When referencing other people, often at someone else.

  • “You will see a resume with a number of valuable skills”

Third Person Point of View

Either referring to yourself by name, or not mentioning your name at all

  • “Taylor enjoyed building strong customer service skills”
  • “Established standard protocol for product development”

Rules of Thumb

  • Don’t use your own name in the body of your resume
  • Avoid “I, you, we” (pronouns)
  • Start sentences with action words (verbs)

Use Full Sentences

Using complete sentences makes a resume easier to read and allowed you to get your point across.  This doesn’t mean sentences can’t be somewhat fragmented, but avoid lines that don’t complete an idea.

Instead of this:

  • Python and C++
  • $50,000 in sales in one year
  • Was in team of 10

Try this:

  • Proficient in both Python and C++ with experience in over 20 client projects
  • Set company record for generating $50,000 in sales during one fiscal year
  • Worked closely in a team of 10 other designers to meet company-wide initiative

Imagine, as a hiring manager you are looking over a resume that lists “$50,00 in sales in one year”.  Your next question is going to be “why is this important?”  You will want to know if this is a lot in sales for the organization, if this was a personal best, or if the applicant completed this goal on their own.  Context can help a hiring manager fill in the gaps.

Quantify Your Work

Use numbers, facts, figures, and statistics.  This is a more advanced resume technique that has a big impact.  Quantifying your achievements helps a hiring manager understand how well you performed, how much their organization can expect to gain from your expertise, and how successful you are as an employee.

More than just adding numbers, you want to then show how these numbers made an impact.

Example #1

Instead of:

  • Proficient in Python and C++


  • Over 10 years combined experience in Python and C++ working with 20 client projects

Even better:

  • Used 10 years of experience in Python and C++ to complete 20 projects, saving clients over $35,000 in lost product sales.

Depending on what kind of work you do, you may not always have access to the financial figures at a macro level.  However, you can still quantify your work in other ways.

Example #2

Instead of:

  • Worked in a team of 10


  • Worked closely in a team of 10 other designers to meet company-wide initiatives

Even better:

  • Reduced processing errors 23% by working with team of 10 designers to establish project criteria based on company-wide initiatives

What Can Be Quantified?

  1. Size of your organization
  2. Amount of money you made or saved
  3. Number of employees you train or manage
  4. Number of board members you report to
  5. How many times a week you complete a task
  6. The size of your duties (3 baseball fields mowed; 75 deliveries each day)
  7. Customer satisfaction ratings
  8. Sales outcomes
  9. Marketing metrics 

Be Selective

Now that you have the sentences you want, be selective about what you include.  

Repeat after me: I won’t include everything.

It can be tempting to include everything you have ever accomplished on your resume.  Certainly you want a hiring manager to see how versatile you are?  Well, it could actually be used against you.

You don’t need to tell the whole story in your resume – that is what the interview is for!

An ATS may dock you points for having too many unrelated keywords in your resume, so make sure it is targeted.  A hiring manager is only looking for candidates that fit a specific job, so other skills may actually look like you haven’t used the pertinent skills for very long, or perhaps it isn’t your primary interest.

You don’t need to tell the whole story – that is what the interview is for!

Keep Sentences Concise

If your sentences run more than two lines at 10-12pt font, you need to trim it down.  Consider breaking up those sentences so they are two or three points, instead.

Another way to shorten sentences is to take out filler words.


Too long:

  • Worked with team of over 10 other designers to put together important documents to be used for clients over the course of 3-5 years after initial meeting to make sure all deliverables are addressed and client needs are met in keeping with company-wide initiatives.


  • Gathered documentation of deliverables for clients in conjunction with team of 10 designers as related to company-wide initiatives.

Highlight One Point Per Bullet

Just like above, you don’t need to cram in too much.  Instead, use another bullet point to make that item stand out.

Too much information:

  • Set company sales record for generating $50,000 in sales during the same month received employee of the month of helping out during training, all within one fiscal year

Break it down:

  • Set company sales record for generating $50,000 in sales during one fiscal year
  • Received Employee of the Month award for demonstrating leadership during team training exercises

Building the Resume

Now that you have your resume sentences, it is time to put it all together.  Think about it like creating the building blocks of a story.  You want a beginning, middle, and end – without anything unrelated.

Combine Sentences for Full Picture

Alright, you have a list of strong sentences that describe the work you’ve done.  You’ve trimmed away all the excess that doesn’t relate to the job you are applying for.  You now want to make sure your resume creates a complete picture of who you are.  Double check your resume and make sure you have at least one sentence of each of the following:

  • Time or money you saved
  • Career accomplishments (awards, honors, speaking opportunities)
  • Jargon used in your industry
  • Demonstrates leadership
  • Tackles a challenge

Some of your sentences may contain more than one of the above, and that is okay.

Finally, make sure your sentences are in an order that makes sense to a hiring manager.  

Start Broad

This will give a hiring manager the best idea of who you are.  Which of these sentences do you think should go first on a resume?

  • Reconciled $40,000 following over expenditure of discretionary spending, resulting in 75% reduction in net loss and the ability to reinstitute nonprofit programming budget.
  • Used over 10 years of nonprofit financial management to establish reliable fiscal team and board treasury.

One of those sentences helps you understand what their job was, the other addressed the details.  While the first sentence certainly showcases a success, the second sentence helps set the stage.  By reversing the order, a hiring manager can tell that this candidate “reconciled $40,000” as a financial manager, rather an as a bookkeeper.

End with Growth

While the middle and end are not as important (most HR just scan a resume anyway), one of the ways to end strong on your resume is with an example of how you want to grow.  This helps a hiring manager understand why you would want a new job, how you can continue to bring new things to the table, and knows you aren’t just phoning it in.

Which one of these sentences do you think packs the most punch as a conclusion?

  • Took initiative to enroll and complete ABC Sales Training Certification course in order to advance my career.
  • Worked closely with 4 other sales managers to meet department goals.

In this case, the first sentence indicates that the candidate is ready for more. The second sentence might imply they enjoy their coworkers, maybe they aren’t ready to let go, or maybe they prefer working in teams with less responsibility.

By following these steps you are ready to write better resume sentences. Once you have your sentences, don’t forget to format into a nice, clean, and easy to read format!

Use one of Office Otter’s resume templates to get you started.

Photo Credit: Patrick Fore on Unsplash.

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Posted by Amanda Parsons

Amanda has always had an appreciation for writing instructions that are easy to follow. When not curled up with her laptop trying to figure out why Word on the Mac is so weird, she can be found kayaking in the Pacific Northwest.

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