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Joe Briones

Co-Founder

Sep 01, 2023

Descriptive Keywords vs. Metric-Based Resumes: Finding the Right Balance

In today’s fast-paced digital job market, your resume isn’t just a piece of paper – it’s a tool, a marketing document, and in many cases, your first impression to potential employers. Crafting the right resume is an art form, but there’s been a growing debate over whether to emphasize descriptive keywords or to focus on quantifiable metrics. In this article, we’ll delve into the strengths and weaknesses of both strategies and suggest ways to find the right balance.

Metrics based dashboard

Descriptive Keywords: Painting a Vivid Picture

Descriptive keywords are words or phrases that help paint a picture of your skills, experience, and professional persona. They typically focus on soft skills, personal attributes, and areas of expertise.

Strengths:

  1. Universality: Whether you’re a manager or a designer, keywords like “team player”, “innovative”, and “problem-solver” have universal appeal. They convey qualities that are desirable in almost any role.
  2. ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) Compatibility: Many companies use automated systems to scan resumes. Having the right keywords can ensure your resume gets seen by human eyes.
  3. Personal Branding: Descriptive keywords help create a narrative. They give your resume personality and can make it memorable.

Weaknesses:

  1. Overuse: Because of their universal appeal, terms like “hardworking” or “detail-oriented” are often overused and can come off as cliches.
  2. Subjectivity: What exactly does “effective” or “dynamic” mean? Without context, these words can be vague and may not communicate concrete achievements.

Metric-Based Resumes: Numbers Talk

Metric-based resumes revolve around quantifiable achievements. Instead of merely stating you “managed a team,” it quantifies it like “led a team of 15 professionals.”

Strengths:

  1. Specificity: Numbers provide clear, unambiguous evidence of your achievements. “Increased sales by 20%” is concrete and immediately communicates value.
  2. Standing Out: While many might claim they are “efficient”, showcasing that you “cut project delivery times by 30%” sets you apart.
  3. Building Credibility: Metrics can validate your skills. It’s proof that you can walk the walk.

Weaknesses:

  1. Not Always Relevant: Not every role or achievement is easily quantified. How do you measure the success of a school counselor or an HR manager?
  2. Can Seem Impersonal: Too many numbers might make your resume seem sterile or robotic, lacking a personal touch.

Striking a Balance

For most professionals, the key is to combine the strengths of both approaches:

  1. Begin with Metrics: Wherever possible, lead with quantifiable achievements. This immediately grabs attention and communicates your value.
  2. Use Descriptive Keywords Judiciously: Rather than filling your resume with generic terms, select a few that genuinely resonate with your experience and the role you’re applying for. Tailor these keywords based on the job description.
  3. Provide Context: Instead of just listing achievements or skills, provide a brief narrative. For example, “Leveraged cross-functional team collaboration (descriptive) to streamline workflow and cut project delivery times by 30% (metric).”
  4. Stay Authentic: Always ensure that the terms and metrics you use genuinely reflect your experience and achievements. Honesty and authenticity will always work in your favor.

Conclusion

While the debate between descriptive keywords and metric-based resumes may continue, the truth is that both have their merits. The most compelling resumes will thoughtfully weave both approaches together, presenting a holistic view of the candidate that’s both quantifiably impressive and personally resonant. By doing so, you’ll ensure your resume not only gets noticed but also genuinely represents who you are as a professional.