Here’s How To Write The Best Resume For Your Industry

An expert weighs in with resume-writing tips for jobseekers in four major industries.

Here’s How To Write The Best Resume For Your Industry
[Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

There are good resumes, bad resumes, and lots and lots of resumes that fall somewhere in between. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all the good ones and all the bad ones closely resemble each other. The approach you use to organize your resume at one stage of your career won’t always pay off later on. Likewise, a creative, eye-catching resume for a graphic designer might be an overwrought jumble for somebody applying to marketing jobs.


So Fast Company asked the Brooklyn Resume Studio‘s Dana Leavy-Detrick for tips on how to craft a resume for four major industry categories. Here are her top tips:

Related: This Is The Part Of Your Resume That Recruiters Look At First


Don’t just list your hard skills, say how you’ve used them. Leavy-Detrick concedes that “tech is one area where ‘jargon’ is relevant and even necessary (i.e., programming languages, frameworks), but what’s more important to convey is what you accomplished using those tools.”


Indeed, one researcher who recently surveyed hiring managers, recruiters, and others in the tech sector about the biggest reasons they have trouble filling roles, said weak technical skills topped the list. So yes, include a “skills” section on your resume where you can put all your technical chops front and center, but then use your “experience” section to explain how you’ve applied them.

“It could be as simple as building new features, replacing a legacy system with new technology that supports the business better, or improving the customer experience,” Leavy-Detrick explains. But no matter what you focus on, she says, “really it’s about how you used your technical skills to solve specific types of problems, and how and why that led to positive results.”

Related: The Low-Tech Skills I Look For In Every Data Scientist I Hire


Arts And Design

Show some personality–and that you understand the employer’s. “Creative companies place high value on culture fit, and this extends to the resume,” says Leavy-Detrick. “Culture fit” has earned some well-warranted criticism in recent years, since it’s sometimes used (knowingly or not) as an excuse to discriminate. But Leavy-Detrick says creatives still need to show that they grasp a company’s values, attitude, and brand identity–starting right on their resumes. In her view, that often means scrapping formal vocabulary.

“If you’re looking to appeal to design companies, advertising agencies, or other creative firms, make sure the language doesn’t sound too corporate, stiff, or jargony,” she suggests.

Explain your creative process. “When I recruited creatives, what the creative directors doing the hiring really wanted to see wasn’t a list of responsibilities, or even a great portfolio,” Leavy-Detrick explains. “They wanted to understand the strategic/creative thought process in getting from point A to point B. In other words, how did they take an interesting idea and move it to a winning final campaign/product/design?” Your resume is a great place to do this. Rather than bullet out your job duties for a given role (never just do that!), use each “kind of like a case study,” she suggests, zeroing in on a specific project creative and its outcome.


Sales And Marketing

Think beyond numbers to show your impact. For people with job functions in these fields, Leavy-Detrick points out, “metrics are important, and representative of success.” However, “a common assumption–and mistake–is that metrics have to be quantifiable, and limited to numbers.” Sales and marketing professionals may feel hard-pressed to share lots of data on their achievements but don’t always have access to it; sometimes that information is proprietary, and other times it’s just not available.

“But you can highlight impact in other ways,” she says, including by “the language you use in your job descriptions. Instead of quoting exact figures, use descriptive, impactful phrases such as:

  • Delivered significant brand and bottom-line growth through X, Y, Z.
  • Turned around a struggling business unit to profitability by . . .
  • Drove increases in top-line revenue by . . .
  • Strengthened performance by . . .
  • Expanded customer engagement and online following by . . .
  • Grew digital brand presence by . . .
  • Built out a multi-million–dollar pipeline from the ground-up by . . .”

After each phrase like this, say exactly what you did to bring about that result. This is a good rule of thumb for any industry, but Leavy-Detrick says it can be especially useful for sales and marketing roles since it lets you talk about your own role in driving growth.


Related: Try These Resume Templates For Every Stage Of Your Career

Nonprofits And Government

Tie everything back to the mission. Many nonprofits and government agencies, says Leavy-Detrick, have “limited budget and resources but still have clearly defined goals and mission. So your language should focus not only around impact, but specifically on how you helped advance the mission, vision, or values, or helped create visibility around the work they’re doing.”

If marketers’ resumes need to highlight growth and milestones, nonprofit and public-service professionals should zoom out further, she suggests. Don’t just say what impact that project had–explain how it advanced the organization’s larger vision. Your resume may not seem the best venue for writing about your work history in such sweeping terms, but connecting the dots from project to overarching purpose is a crucial requirement mission-based jobs. So for each bullet point on your resume, Leavy-Detrick advises, ask yourself, “What are they trying to achieve as an organization, and how did your role contribute to that?”


Again, that’s a great question to ask yourself while writing a resume for any type of job, but knowing which features to dial up depending on your field can make the difference between “just okay” and “when can you come in for an interview?”


About the author

Rich Bellis was previously the Associate Editor of Fast Company's Leadership section.


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