How to SHOW instead of TELL on your Resume

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you need to read this.

Is your resume little more than a list of facts?

Are you worried that your CV is bland and uninspired?

There are a number of strategies you can use to make your resume more effective.

In this article, you’ll discover how to make your CV “show” instead of simply “tell”.

How to Show instead of Tell on your ResumeIf I were to be forced to only share one out of all the resume writing tips I’ve got, it would absolutely be this one: Show, don’t tell. This might seem like a small difference on the surface, but it’s hugely important. Think about this: what is more reliable? Actions or words? You know the old adage. Well, it rings true as ever when it comes to resume writing. But don’t freak out, it’s actually not that difficult to go from zero to hero.


Watch the Skills Section

Resume Writing Tips - Show don't tell - Ditch the skills section

Simply listing the skills you have is becoming a more and more tired way of conveying what you can do. Instead of listing skills, try to work these skills into a more detailed explanation of your experience. Conversely, you could also work your experience into your skills section.

Using this logic, we can take a bland skill statement like “communication skills” and turn it into something like “Advanced communicator responsible for bridging the gap between sales and marketing teams.” I’ll admit, after having worked on boatloads of resumes over the years, these kinds of sentences flow out of me quite easily. It does take some skill and practice, but identifying the problem is the first step towards solving it.

You might also think of creative ways of showing your skills. If you are a writer, instead of putting something like “writing ability” in your skills section, why not demonstrate your writing ability on your resume in some creative way that reflects what kind of writing you do. Or, if you are a designer, instead of saying “photoshop expert”, you could actually design an amazing infographic resume. A little creativity goes a long way.


Kill the cliches

Resume writing tips - Show don't tell - Remove cliches

Before we explore how to choose better words to show your skills, we need to take some time to figure out what words we absolutely should not put on our resumes. People spend so much time in this day and age trying to conform in hopes of getting a job.

Although there are some key job skills employers are looking for, we need to differentiate between concrete skills and worn-out cliches. I’ve written at length about cliches in my article, The Top Ten Resume Cliches to Avoid, but I’ll list a few of them here so you can begin to get the idea. The words below are taken from LinkedIn’s 2014 list of overused phrases:

  • Motivated
  • Passionate
  • Creative
  • Driven
  • Extensive Experience
  • Responsible
  • Strategic
  • Track Record
  • Organizational
  • Expert

Now, some of these words are just straight up no-no’s, like “passionate” or “driven”. Others could be used if used as part of a well constructed sentence perhaps, but if it were me, I’d be looking to use words that convey the same (or better) meaning while showing that you have an eye for detail and are trying to stand-out.

Hiring managers end up seeing a lot of resumes, so you can imagine using these kind of cliche phrases is going to make them want to punch you instead of hiring you. Remember, get hired – don’t get punched. Easy.

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Actions Speak Louder

Resume writing tips - Show don't tell - Action words

If you want to show your experience rather than telling it, you’ll need to write using ‘action words’ to give your resume a sense of movement. There’s a great list of approved action words here to get you started. You want to think in terms of color and vibrance when writing your resume.

Instead of saying “web design”, instill some color and movement into the phrase by saying “designer of streamlined websites”. Instead of saying “technical writing”, give the phrase some much needed pizazz by saying “refined technical writing expert”. These are good little bite-sized chunks, but next I’m going to show you how to take a few little bite sized chunks and turn them into resume sentences to be reckoned with.


Don’t just tell it, show it.

Resume writing tips - Show it don't tell it

Taking a skill phrase and making it more interesting by using more interesting words is all well and good, but we are only half way there. We still want our resume to demonstrate what we are capable of doing. If you want employers to imagine where you are going, you need to show them where you’ve been.

Let’s work through an example. First, we need a skill phrase. We’ll go with “marketing ability”. Marketing ability isn’t a cliche skill, so we’ll move to adding pizzazz: “proven marketing ability.” Now, for the demonstration: “proven marketing ability with over 10 years experience running online and offline campaigns.” Look what we’ve done here – we’ve stated that we have marketing know-how and we’ve taken it a step further by demonstrating how we have put that know-how to use.

We are doing really good with a sentence like that, but there’s one more thing you want to always try to do. You want to make your resume measurable and quantifiable – something you can read about here.


A Word on Resumes

Resume writing tips - Show it don't tell it - Resume is a marketing document

In closing, I want to bring up on important point that many people fail to realize. The resume is a marketing document. It’s designed to get you the job, or at least to get you an interview. It should be an accurate and (hopefully) realistic reflection of who you are and where you have been. If you don’t put any effort into it, or if it is laden with cliches, what does that say about your professional ability? Put in the time and effort with your resume and I guarantee you’ll be paid back in spades.

Did I miss anything? Feel free to tell me on LinkedIn or comment below!

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Ryan - The Resume Ninja

Ryan - The Resume Ninja

The Resume Ninja is Ryan Cordoni. His work in marketing, print design and executive training has transformed him into a finely tuned resume writing machine. And what good is a finely tuned resume writing machine without a blog?
Ryan - The Resume Ninja

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  • Ryan Cordoni

    Hey Team!

    Leave me a comment if you have any questions! Seriously, do it!

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