The World’s Best Guide… For Adding Powerful Resume Content (Ensuring that your resume will stand out in an AI world)

Move past keywords and add powerful content that both AI bots and recruiters will notice and remember.

Start By Realizing That… AI Is Dramatically Changing Resume Screening

Yes, job search has long been intensely competitive because an applicant may compete against 250 other resumes. However, having your resume successfully pass an initial screening is now getting much more complicated. The introduction of AI-driven resume screening software means that AI-driven robots, and not humans, will soon do 100% of the initial resume screening at major companies. That is a major change.

Unlike humans, robots don’t care about your resume’s length or design (they don’t count pages). So, their dominance of resume screening means that you can (and should) now add more content to your resume. In addition to finding keywords, the AI Bot will catch and use all that added content to identify patterns across multiple jobs/experiences. Those patterns (e.g., they use metrics, are strategic, and are innovators) will help the AI bot accurately predict the current and future value that each applicant will bring to the company. 

When humans eventually get their turn at scanning your resume, my research has discovered at least 17 “power factors” that will cause a human recruiter first to notice and then remember your resume days later. And because these power factors have such a significant impact on making your resume stand out. The remainder of this piece highlights these resume power factors.

Resume Power Factors That Will Get The Attention Of Both Robots And Recruiters

For decades, I have been an acknowledged influencer in the recruiting field (Fast Company magazine once called me the Michael Jordan of hiring). During that time, I had access to literally thousands of recruiters and hiring managers. I have used that access to ask them to identify the memorable “resume elements” that make an individual resume initially stand out and then be remembered days later. 

Today, for the first time, I’m revealing these, which I now call “resume power factors,” to all job searchers. I will go even further and guarantee that if you take the time to embed them in your resume, your resume will stand out from the rest.

Note: The highest impact power factors appear at the beginning of each list.

The 10+ most impactful resume power factors that now must be in your resume

The factors in this initial list will have the most impact on having your resume stand out.

  • Emphasize your accomplishments – accomplishments are the handful of an employee’s final business results, deliverables, or major outputs. Both robots and hiring managers prioritize accomplishments that generate bottom-line business results. So, instead of the traditional approach where your resume is essentially only a work history and when most of the content covers your job duties and skills (which are pretty much the same for all applicants). The smartest applicants that absolutely must stand out. Instead, transform their resume into “An accomplishment sheet.” This accomplishment sheet approach makes each accomplishment a separate bullet point. It gives each accomplishment a name, describes it, and quantifies its impact in dollars. That means that each of your major jobs will have several bullet points of accomplishment under it. You should also highlight the accomplishments during your volunteer work and your education. Focusing on your accomplishments demonstrates that you are results-oriented and have successfully provided your expected deliverables. An example of an accomplishment: I reached 100% of my sales goals (averaging over $300,000 each quarter). While simultaneously maintaining a record 97% customer satisfaction rate. The director was so impressed with these accomplishments that she promoted me to head sales manager. 
  • Quantify your results (with numbers and dollars) – robots and hiring managers focus on numbers and dollars because they are the common language of business. Numbers and dollars are often used in tandem (e.g., we sold 12 at a total value of $1.6 million). However, the dollars will have the most impact if you can only use one. And, of course, you won’t know the actual number or dollar amount in many cases. But it still must be included, so honestly, estimate it whenever the improvement rate is dramatic. You should also add a benchmark comparison number so the reader can see the extent of improvement (i.e., compared to the average, last year, or the previous best number). Saying that you had only 14 complaints last year might seem low unless you include the comparison number (we had only 2 last year). And that comparison number reveals that you have a real problem. An example of quantifying results: I implemented changes to our customer service process that resulted in a 32% increase this year in the number of return customers. Which increased our revenue by an estimated value of $206,000. Last year’s increase was only 6%.
  • Include measures of the quality of your work – in many industries, hiring managers and robots are forced to put a high value on work quality. So whenever the quality of the work is a major concern (like in healthcare, aviation, and technology companies), applicants who want to stand out must include quantified measures of both their work volume and quality. Quality is often measured by Six Sigma, customer satisfaction, return rates, and new features. An example of demonstrating work quality: I was consistently ranked as the division’s top volume job estimator. I produced 76% of all estimates; however, my estimates were also high-quality because they had the lowest % inaccuracy rate of 6%. And the highest customer satisfaction rate of 98%. 
  • Show that your work is always completed on time – in jobs or industries where completing work on time is absolutely critical (i.e., transportation delivery and retail service). You should periodically include “on-time metrics” showing that the most important work was completed on or before its deadline. An example of on-time work: The top goal of our supply chain operation was on-time delivery. In 2022, my supply chain team met its goal of having at least a 90% on-time delivery (it was actually 96%). I estimated that our savings (in not having to pay late fees) were worth $67,000 that year.
  • Reveal the quality of the organizations you have worked for – when you have worked at an organization that wasn’t well-known. You need to realize that because recruiters/managers know nothing about your company, this lack of information may cause them to discount all of your work there automatically. That is unless you proactively educate the reader about the quality/exceptional work being done at each of these lesser-known organizations. You can reveal the organization’s qualities and strengths by adding a line immediately after you list the employer’s name at the beginning of each job. Simply put a dash after the name. And provide a sentence that describes the quality of the organization. Indications of a quality organization might include citing their best place to work awards, industry rankings, stock growth, best-selling products, quotes from major business publications, or even Yelp ratings. And in the cases where you actually worked at a mediocre organization, you might still impress the reader if you show that you worked in an exceptional business unit or team within that average organization. A sample description of a quality organization: XYZ is an industry leader in AI research. It won the Steve Jobs Award for innovation. And it has been on Inc.’s fastest-growing tech companies list for the last three years. Its stock has gone up 67% during the last 24 months. Its primary customer is Amazon.
  • Show that you have worked with key internal people and well-known customers – robots and managers are impressed whenever you have worked directly with either key executives or well-known external customers. So whenever you highlight some important work you’ve done, make the reader aware of the importance of those executives you worked for/with. Start by mentioning the names of internal executives you worked with. But also show that you have worked with well-known external customers. Whenever possible, include quotes or positive comments that these leaders might have made about the work that you are involved in. Don’t be shy. You can mention them even if they only provided input or if you only consulted briefly with them. An example of working with executives: My product development project was funded by the COO. I consulted with her weekly. And she labeled my work ” exceptional”. After the product reached the prototype stage, I worked with a key external customer (the C00 at Google) to vet and polish our final product. 
  • Show that you have used technology – in a business world increasingly dominated by technology. Obviously, your use of it will impress both robots and hiring managers. So, in all of your recent jobs, explain how you have continuously learned about, embraced, implemented, or used the latest current and emerging technologies in the case where the technology you are using is from a well-known vendor. Be sure to mention the vendor’s name. An example of technology use: I pride myself on embracing new technologies. So, on my own, I became an AI expert by reading and benchmarking its use within our industry. Subsequently, I recommended an AI implementation plan to our director. Who then appointed me to lead the implementation team. The project met 9/10 of its goals. In addition, the AI project was completed on time and under budget.
  • Provide a web link to your actual work – because even the best resume can only provide a brief glimpse of your work. It’s smart to provide the human resume reader with a direct live link to a sample of your work whenever possible, even though they might not have time to access it. Show you are proud of your work and that it is good enough to be made public. Maybe it is enough to impress recruiters and managers. An example of providing a link to your work: You can access a direct link to my customer service revision plan here (it is posted with the permission of my superiors). I also write a monthly blog covering emerging trends in our industry, which can be accessed here.
  • Show that you operate using data and metrics one of the primary patterns that AI can identify is that you routinely use metrics and data to make important decisions. So, it’s important that you “pepper” your resume with multiple examples of how you used metrics and data to improve performance. An example of how you used data/metrics: Because you can’t improve what you don’t measure, I developed a set of five strategic performance metrics, first for assessing and then for guiding the continuous improvement effort of our maintenance team. As a result, the team’s performance improved by a record-breaking 26%. The head of Google’s maintenance team even called us to benchmark our final measures.
  • Make it clear that you are on the leading edge of your profession – continuous self-directed learning is another pattern that both robots and hiring managers will notice. This is important because, in our fast-changing world, there is often little budget available for formal training/learning. So, your resume will stand out if you effectively show that you have been and will continue to maintain mastery of your profession. Reveal that mastery by periodically including hot industry and functional buzzwords throughout your resume. You can also demonstrate that you are a continuous learner by using learning-related terms like benchmarking, collaborating, podcasts, and gaining certifications. An example of demonstrating that you are on the leading edge: To maintain my mastery of AI. I assembled my own AI learning group with internal and external members. I also completed two online AI trends courses. I also convinced Mary Smith and Joe Keselowski to be my AI mentors. 
  • Use powerful quotes so you don’t appear to be bragging – this is the most underused power factor. It is beneficial because it allows you to highlight your accomplishments without appearing to be bragging. That’s important because many hiring managers are especially concerned about hiring a candidate who has a big ego. And that can happen when you are the sole assessor of your performance and success. The best way to avoid appearing like you are bragging is to provide any external validation of your work. And by external validation, I often mean quotes others have made about your work. Begin by searching your memory, performance appraisals, text messages, etc., for both executive and customer comments about the value of your work. And in the cases where you can’t honestly find direct quotes. Instead, use less precise phrases without quotes. Like “my boss noted that… “. * Many users commented that… * The feedback revealed that the users were excited. Examples of using quotes have external validation of your work: The director said that he was so impressed with the project “that he would fund it with his own budget.” * My manager noted in my performance appraisal that my work was the primary contributor to our team’s success. * My manager took the time to mention that “my work ethic was the role model for the whole team.” * My manager relayed to me the fact that our team members were continually commenting on “my exceptional contributions to the team.” 
  • Obviously, you must still mention all of the required skills and knowledge areas – because keywords are still essential qualification factors during regular and AI-driven resume scans. You must compile a complete list of all the job requirements (skills, knowledge, and experience) in the job description. Then, you must mention each one at least once in the resume. The best way to show that you have a required skill is to mention how you used that skill to reach one of your accomplishments. If you don’t have work experience involving one or more of the required knowledge areas or skills, note that you experienced it during your volunteer work. And/or mention that you learned about it in college (note that in your resume’s education section). An example of embedding your skills as part of an accomplishment: I used my influence skills to nudge my teammates into volunteering for the new AI committee (all six who were approached accepted). * I learned Python during my project management course in grad school. * I honed my planning skills as a volunteer community leader.

Some additional highly impactful resume power factors

Because they are most impactful, you should pack your resume with the above top power factors first. And when you have enough time to write them up. At some point, you also include the following five additional power factors.

  • Show that you are an innovator – in a rapidly changing world, few employee outputs are more important and impactful than innovation. And a pattern of innovation is something that AI bots will always try to identify in an applicant. However, recruiters and hiring managers have both learned to be suspicious when someone actually calls themselves an innovator. So, if you want to stand out and at the same time be believed. Try to include quotes from others that state that your work was innovative and/or the first of its kind. Also, use words innovators use, like developing hypotheses, benchmarking, collaborating with others, experimenting, and learning from failure. An example of showing that you are an innovator: I developed a more effective process for training salespeople. My boss said it was “brilliant and the first of its kind.” The head of our Asian division asked permission to copy it. Because “both the delivery and the assessment components were the most effective and innovative that he had ever seen.” And after completing this new training, our salespeople sold 22% more. 
  • Show that you have business acumen – in addition to the keywords from the position description. Both robots and hiring managers will also try to determine if each candidate has broad business knowledge and experience. So, provide evidence that you have what is called business acumen. Do that by periodically inserting examples of how you successfully used business skills in some of your jobs. Those business skills might include goal setting, customer service, selling, leadership, metrics, CRM, financial responsibility, trust, and problem-solving. An example demonstrating your business acumen: Even though I was the youngest employee, the store manager trusted me. So, she gave me the financial responsibility for store closing and cash reconciliation. * I used my sales skills to convince the vendor to give us a 20% discount. * I have extensive industry and social media contacts to learn best practices quickly. *  When the team lead was on vacation, I assumed the leadership role without missing a beat. *  I used my ability to work under pressure to calm our employee who had just been robbed. *  I knew that the leader needed one, so I put together an outline of a plan they could use to get started.
  • It’s okay to admit failure if you show that you learned a lot from it – because failure is now so common in our ever-changing VUCA world. One of the patterns that both robots and hiring managers look for is a history of learning from failure. So, instead of completely avoiding mentioning failure (which doesn’t look realistic). Instead, turn the fact that you took a calculated risk into a positive one. By revealing that you learned a great deal from that failure and shared that information with others. By mentioning that you used metrics to identify early failures and failure analysis to understand what caused it. That by itself will often make your resume stand out (because so few even mention failure). An example of learning from failure: Our new diversity training class for managers was beginning to fail. But rather than waiting, I acknowledged the failure and accepted its ownership. I subsequently collaborated with our company’s failure analysis team. Together, we identified the 2 root causes and the 6 critical success factors for DEI training. As a result, that type of problem has never reappeared.
  • Make it clear that you are promotable – the most desirable applicants include those who are promotable. Because they may become the team’s future leaders, as an applicant, you obviously don’t want to appear like you will need a promotion immediately. But it makes sense to show that you already have some of the qualifications needed to eventually get promoted to the next level job. You can show that you already have a leg up by reviewing the job description for the next level-up job. And identify the qualifications that you already have. Those promotion factors often include supervision, goalsetting, organizing, planning, coaching, and advanced degrees/certifications. And then, in your resume, when describing a job where you have used at least one of these “next job skills.” Be sure and show how you have already used it”. An example of how to show that you are promotable: While working in this mostly administrative job. I also had the opportunity to use my organizational skills to plan meetings and my financial skills to negotiate a loan. * As an HR generalist, I also used my influence skills to nudge managers.* Even though it wasn’t in my job description, I was tasked to train every new manager on how to effectively set goals because of my ability to set effective goals.
  • Show that you accept ownership of problems (before others) – accepting the ownership of seemingly unowned problems is a pattern that both robots and hiring managers look for. So, show instances where you have assumed ownership of a problem no one seems interested in. Accepting ownership (with permission) shows initiative and leadership, revealing that someone puts the team’s interests ahead of their own. This practice also accelerates the team’s overall problem-solving effort. An example of accepting ownership: After noticing that no one was addressing our team’s falling customer service scores. With my leader’s permission, I alerted everyone that I was accepting ownership of this problem. Next, I put together a volunteer team without formal authority and budget. Which resolved the problem within three months 

These “Above And Beyond Factors” Will Reveal That You Will Be Easy To Manage

One final differentiator between the two top candidates. It is whether the new hire will be easy to manage. This is the last category of content that you should include. It covers “Above and Beyond” factors (A&B). These positive employee characteristics will make a new hire easy to manage. Because if there is a tie between two close applicants, these factors will be dealmakers for hiring managers. If you fit any of the following A&B features, you must find a way to mention them somewhere in your resume. 

I am self-motivated
I am agile and quickly adapt
I excel at influencing others
I have consistently been highly rated
I am a problem solver
I have a sense of urgency
I assimilate easily
I am disciplined
I am honest
I am easy to work with
I make others around me better
I have a bias toward action
I have a big-picture perspective
I work effectively in diverse teams
I won’t be a turnover problem
When idle, I find new work
I have presented in front of large groups
I always meet my commitments

Examples of being easy to manage: In my performance appraisal, my manager noted that I was a pleasure to manage because I was self-motivated and had a sense of urgency. * On my last day, my manager noted that I was their best employee. * During college sports, I developed a sense of urgency. * My manager said they wished they had a dozen of me because I improved everyone around them. * Because of my loyalty, I stayed on the job until the day that the company closed its doors. 

Never ever lie on your resume…  but always tell “the best truth.”

(True things, told in a way that makes you look your best)

Why You Must Be Aware Of AI Resume Screening

Most recruitment has focused on AI’s generative aspects. However, AI/machine learning’s most powerful capability is actually recognizing complex patterns that humans can never detect. So, before it’s too late, both smart recruiting leaders and applicants must realize that machine learning will soon completely change and dominate resume scanning.

It is superior because an AI bot can find previously undetected skills and accomplishment patterns in a resume (even when you don’t mention a particular skill or capability). Based on those detected patterns (e.g., good with numbers, business savvy, forward-looking, etc.), Machine learning will be able to not only accurately assess this candidate’s current capabilities but also accurately predict the candidate’s future (something that in the past was purely guesswork).

An example: When an applicant describes their accomplishments in every job listed in their resume, AI will be able to spot that pattern of continuous achievement both in their work experience section and in their education section. So, the AI robot will then accurately conclude that this candidate has succeeded at everything they have attempted. It will accurately predict that this applicant’s success pattern will continue into their next job! 

Never Forget That Content Is King

If you follow the advice in this guide, your final resume (“your maximum length power resume”) will likely run several pages. And to those who worry about that length, I remind them that robots don’t count pages. I would also further note that cutting down a powerful but too-long resume is much easier. Then, it is to build up a short one at the last minute. Of course, you will sometimes want to cut down on your resume’s maximum length. However, you should only do that when customizing your resume to fit the specific requirements of a job. (I call this shorter version your “customized power resume”) which is one where you remove any content that isn’t required for this particular job. And yes, that means that you should have several versions of your resume.

Note: For a limited time, you can access a sample “Power Resume” here, which you can use for ideas and examples.

Final Thoughts

The world of recruiting is changing so fast. Every applicant must realize that they will pay a steep price if they continue to rely on the widely available but now outdated historical resume content advice found on the Internet. 

Instead, take it from an expert who knows the inside scoop on how corporate recruiting functions are evolving. And stop worrying about resume length. Instead, pack your resume with content that will impress all four of your resume audiences (ATS scanners, AI robots, recruiters, and hiring managers). Because of today’s competition level, Anything outside of a maximum effort to add content. It will likely make your chances of earning even a first interview “no better than a snowball in hell.”

Author’s Note

Please spread this advice by sharing this article with your team/network and by posting it on your favorite media. Also, join the well over 20,000 that follow or have connected with Dr. Sullivan’s community on LinkedIn.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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