How Much of Your Personality Should You Show on Your Resume?

Apr 7, 2021 | Resumes

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Writing a resume requires finding a measured balance: between pride and bragging and between personal expression and unprofessionalism. Here’s how to showcase your accomplishments in a way that makes a memorable, positive impression.

By: Grace Mitchell | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

We’ve all seen those resumes that may technically hit all the marks, but could put any hiring manager to sleep. On the other hand, there are *shudder* those resumes that dive headfirst into unchartered creative territories, leaving the receiving hiring manager questioning if they’ll ever sleep again. Your resume should be tailored to the job posting, but it should also read like your resume. So how do you find that balance between memorable and professional?

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Our recent Career Warrior Podcast guest Kerri Twigg did an episode on how to craft your personal narrative for your job search, and she offered advice for walking this fine line. For Kerri, a huge part of letting your personality show in your resume stems from knowing your values and core skills. In knowing what you have to offer, and recognizing the value of what you have to offer, you can approach the resume-crafting process with confidence. Here are some of her suggestions:

Think Through Your Core Skills (Before Even Looking at the Job Description)

stack of index cards

Creating “career cards” will help you define your personal narrative.

Kerri is a big proponent of what she calls “career cards.” You can make your own career cards by thinking through your best moments on the job, in as specific detail as you can remember. What skills were you using? Were you listening empathetically to customer concerns? Collaborating with a team to solve a problem?

Whatever skills went into these moments, write them down on a few index cards. These are your career cards, and they’ll be valuable to you as you continue your job search. This process should take time: Kerri recommends repeating the exercise for 7-10 days to really get to the heart of what skills bring you joy in your work.

Once you have your career cards, you can start viewing job descriptions with your core skills in mind. These core skills demonstrate what you bring to the job. Once you know them well, you are in a great position to craft your resume.

Write a Killer Summary of Qualifications

Kerri recommends incorporating two key terms from the job description in your Summary of Qualifications, as well as one term from your core skills. The job description terms should be key components of the job posting. The core skill you incorporate should be in your own words, but directly related to the job description.

Your Summary of Qualifications is a great place to let your unique brand shine. This is often the first section your hiring manager sees, so don’t be afraid to throw in some bold word choices. After all, a “relationship-driven service specialist” is more likely to pique a hiring manager’s interests than a “customer service representative.”

Learn the Language of the Job You Want (While Still Including Some of Your Own)

While transitioning into human resources from a theater background, Kerri had to be thoughtful with her word choice, making intentional swaps in terminology (like “clients” rather than “students”). At the same time, though, she stayed true to her core skills while navigating her transition. She wasn’t falsifying her qualifications, just changing her language in order to translate her experience into terms relevant to her new potential career.

Word choice is key in crafting a successful resume, and taking care with the words you use is a great way to showcase your personality. As with the Summary of Qualifications, Kerri recommends mixing keywords taken from the job description with your own language.

What Not to Do

Photo by Danny Lines on Unsplash

Your resume is all about you, without the “I”. Photo by Danny Lines on Unsplash

As with everything, there is a balance when it comes to showing your personality in your resume. Job seekers who try to be too personable on their resumes sometimes come across as unprofessional or awkward.

Since you’re applying for a job, you should avoid language that is too casual. And leave the first-person pronouns out of it: Your resume should incorporate your own words, but “I” shouldn’t be one of them!

Imagine you had a boss who greatly admired the contributions you made to the company, and that this boss was talking you up to their boss in hopes of getting you promoted. What achievements would they highlight? They’d want to keep the listener engaged, but they’d also keep the language professional. This is how your resume should sound! You can think of this document as your business-world hype-person: professional, courteous, and 100% on your side.

Approaching the Writing Process with Confidence

Letting your personality show through in your resume is much easier when you spend time discerning what you bring to the table. And remember: too much creativity can backfire. You don’t need gimmicks to stand out!

Instead, spend some intentional time thinking through your skills, and impart this knowledge while avoiding pronouns and matching your tone to the industry you’re applying in.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Kerri recommends repeating these words to yourself throughout your job search: “They’re gonna love you.” 

Ready for more job search help?

Sign up for a free Senior Writer Resume Critique to see what's holding you back from landing interviews. One of our top professional resume writers will give you personalized feedback on the top 3 items you can improve based on our expert practices!