How to Take Your Resume from Bland to Bold

Following on from my last post  about 30-second resume screenings, I am going to give some ideas about how you can use the first few lines of the profile section of your résumé to grab and hold the reader’s attention. Of course, there is no single perfect approach and almost every résumé can benefit from further ‘word smithing’.

These are examples based on real documents of some of my clients and are used with their permission. They have received positive feedback from recruiters and potential employers, and helped the job seeker to get noticed in a competitive market. Some details have been omitted or made generic for privacy reasons.

Example 1


Able to work constructively across all levels and brings stakeholders together to embed sustainability practices and to create unique solutions within business structure and processes.  Is focused on enabling organisations to reap the benefits of operating sustainability.  Industry exposure includes a mix of professional associations (Australian organisation), global not for profit (NFP Organisation) and industry-specific NGOs focused on environmental sustainability.


Inserted this as a separate statement above the paragraph in the Before version:

A decisive and energetic leader with deep expertise in the creation of sustainability/CSRstrategies.  Achieves traction, and has the grit to take these through to completion. Outcome driven and able to draw threads through complex environments in order to deliver change.

Example 2


A highly experienced senior executive in the banking industry. A results driven innovator with a proven track record of process re-engineering, portfolio management and Basel II solutions. Well known within the Australian and overseas credit models and portfolio analytics community with access to a large network for establishing new departments and liaising with local and overseas banks and regulators. An individual that brings a unique combination of experience, strong technical skills and state of the art operational efficiency.


Inserted this instead of the first sentence in the Before version:

A pragmatic senior banking industry executive who creates and delivers efficient process without compromising quality and service standards.

Other changes – ‘well known’ was changed to ‘recognised authority’, which the client felt he could justify in an interview and through reference checks. We also changed ‘unique combination’ to ‘rare combination’ to avoid over-claiming.

When it’s working, don’t mess with it too much!

The last two examples could probably still use some tightening up, but they have been very successful in positioning these clients with their target audiences and have been effective in helping them to secure meetings and interviews.

Example 3

An accomplished business leader who has developed a strong reputation for program delivery and project portfolio management in a large complex organisation.

Over xx years within the financial services industry, with a successful track record in leading teams across many parts of Major Bank. He has delivered in senior line and project roles, in Australia, New Zealand and Other Asian Country. He has strong leadership skills in managing large teams and achieving business results.

Client Name holds relevant tertiary professional qualifications including Master Project Director and Advanced Diploma in Project Management.

Example 4

Leadership Qualities

  • Demonstrated leadership founded on earned respect and deeply embedded trust which inspires others to outperform expectations
  • Influences others and engenders personal commitment in areas such as strategic development and execution, and driving commercial outcomes
  • Can quickly address a wide range of issues simultaneously and remain focused and positive in difficult situations
  • Deep experience in senior leadership roles particularly in businesses with integrated value chains exposed to highly cyclical and structurally challenged conditions
  • A relentless drive for business profitability, with a strong financial and commercial background based on analytical rigour and a fundamental knowledge of business drivers, balancing customer and operational needs

It can be challenging to shift the profile like this but it is invariably well worth the time and effort. It usually does not take invention of completely new content. I usually find the key phrases we need somewhere in the rest of the profile, or hidden away in some achievement statements. A conversation with client often brings these to the surface as well.

Prove it!

Parting thought – many people feel a little uncomfortable with this at first. There is a natural desire not to seem like they are ‘big-noting’ themselves. None of us really likes to brag too much.

The test for this, which can give you the confidence to state your claim boldly, is simple:

  1. Make sure that your value proposition is backed by substantial achievements in the first two pages of the resume
  2. Make sure your claims will stand up to a thorough reference check.

Related: Personal Branding: Blending in to Stand out.

Image: Shutterstock

By Gavin Lister

Gavin Lister is an executive career coach who guides senior leaders through transition. A former recruiter and manager, he is dedicated to helping clients articulate and communicate their "special edge" in a competitive marketplace.