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Hit The Ground Running

The One Word You Really Need To Add To Your Resume

"Which" can transform your resume if you know how to use it.

[Photo: Flickr user Szabolcs]

There's one word that can transform your resume and help put you ahead of the pack. Know which one it is? Here's a hint: We use it in our everyday lives all the time. Here's a second hint: I've already used it once in this article.

The magic word: which.

Introduce "which" into your resume and it will instantly gain depth and substance. Why? Because the explanations that follow from "which" put all your accomplishments and responsibilities into context. They show off your unique approach to your work and, perhaps most important of all, the results they bring.

Here are some examples of which-craft in practice:

Before: Led global sales conference.

After: Led global sales conference, which united 200 sales leaders from five countries for the first time in order to share their cost-saving practices.

Now we know what the conference achieved.

Before: Built a new product marketing competency.

After: Built a new product marketing competency, which aligned sales, product management, and service and is still in place today.

Now we know what that competency was meant to solve—and that it worked.

Before: Launched new product.

After: Launched new product, which evolved into a $5 million business.

Now we know that product launch didn't end in a face-plant.

Before: Reduced product development costs by 25%.

After: Reduced product development costs by 25%, which tapped into my extensive network of international outsourcing partners.

Now we know not just that you got costs down, but how you did it.

Here are three quick steps to help you do an inventory of your own resume and work a little which-craft on it.

1. Extend Your Bullet Points

Let's assume, first of all, that the bullet points on your resume already describe concrete actions, rather than just generic duties (that should be a given). Start with the very first bullet and read it out loud to yourself, pause for a moment when you get to the end, then add "which." Now think about the context or approach that led to action that the bullet describes or the result it brought about.

It may also help to ask yourself, "How was this achievement distinct because I did it?"

After all, there are many people who can do the same job more or less equally well, each in their own a unique way. What was your secret sauce in this case? Did you combine previous skills? Create something for the first time? Establish a process that's still in use? Kick off a chain reaction that brought tons of value to the organization?

2. Flip It Around

Now look at each newly expanded bullet point. Can you reverse their order so your "which" statement comes first? Usually doing that will leave you with a line that sounds more compelling and specific.

Here's an example:

Before: Reduced product development costs by 25%, which tapped into my extensive network of international outsourcing partners.

After: Tapped into my extensive network of international outsourcing partners to reduce product development costs by 25%.

Flipping the bullet point like this can help a recruiter picture you in the job. Then repeat for each bullet on your resume.

3. Review And Streamline

Now that your resume bullets have more detail and differentiation, you may see ways to combine or streamline them.

Perhaps when you think through a bullet point, the "which" part doesn't really stand out, and neither does the business result. No problem—delete it! Or maybe you'll spot a novel way to combine two bullet points that demonstrate roughly the same skill or approach.

Working a little which-craft over your resume can help you zero in on the things that actually matter to your potential new employer. Grabbing a hiring manager's attention, after all, doesn't take magic.

Erica Seidel is the founder of The Connective Good, an executive recruiting practice focusing on the marketing technology ecosystem.