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Business Intelligence Careers

Data Analyst Resume Tips

10 min readView all articles
By John Pauler
Jul 20, 2020

Lately, we have been talking to a number of young Analysts who are trying to land their first role in a Business Intelligence or Analytics department. Next week, we will be addressing this challenge in depth, by putting together a detailed and actionable guide which talks about everything someone in this position should do to land that first job in Analytics.

This week, we will stay a little more narrow, focusing on one specific part of that broader challenge… writing better Data Analyst resumes.

Resume writing is an area we see people needing a lot of help with. It is a common question we get from students, and we also see aspiring Analysts sharing resumes that have a lot of room for improvement.

Why are young Analysts so bad at writing resumes?

  • Most of us don’t receive guidance on how to do this well, so we are on our own.

  • Early in our careers, we haven’t yet participated in the hiring process on the other side of the table, so we do not know what employers are looking for.

  • We may have seen one or two examples of a resume, and when we tried to stuff our experience into that template, it didn’t work.

Today, we’ll aim to change this. We’ll talk a little about what employers are looking for and how they “process” the information on a resume. We’ll also talk about the principles you should follow to best present yourself, even if you aren’t a 10 year Business Intelligence pro.

Before we get too deep into theory, let's make the conversation a bit more concrete by running through examples of a bad resume and a good resume.

I am a huge fan of real world stories and examples in teaching. In this case though, it didn’t feel right borrowing some poor young Analyst’s resume to rip apart in front of the entire internet. I know a few students who are great sports and would have said yes, but still, it felt wrong.

Then I realized there was one young Analyst I didn’t care about embarrassing at all… myself! I dug through email, Drive, Dropbox, and I found lots of actual resumes I had written over the years. Today, we will be talking through the earliest resume I was able to find, which is from when I had about 1.5 years experience in the Analytics field.

What you will see below was my actual resume.

I sent this to a potential employer back in 2008, trying to get a Marketing Analyst job.

The employer did not respond :(

If you’re up for a quick exercise, think about the following as you are reading the resume

  • What are the main “selling points”? From the hiring manager’s perspective, what seems attractive about this candidate?

  • Is there any “wasted space”? Are there things displayed here that don’t add value?

  • Are there any “red flags”? Would anything on this page make a hiring manager pause or give them concern that this candidate is not a good fit?

  • How would you rate my resume writing ability on a scale of 1-10? (don’t worry, I’ll never know, so be honest!)

Bad Resume Image

These are the things that I would get most excited about if I were hiring a Marketing Analyst…

  • The current relevant role (although I did a terrible job with the bulleted description)
  • Excel and Omniture (now called ‘Adobe SiteCatalyst’. It was more important in 2008)
  • Education section (mainly the display of work ethic - early graduation + 3 majors)
  • Peer Tutor role, teaching Excel-based Quantitative Methods (relevant to Analyst work)

Take note of where the sell points are located on the page. The current role is at the very top. Education is right below it. Then the Peer Tutor role is about 75% of the way down, and Omniture and Excel are at the very bottom and don’t really stand out. Later we will talk about why you want your best selling points located near the top of the page. I had some room for improvement here.

Next, here are some things I consider “wasted space”...

  • Study Abroad (perfect example of “wasted space”. Irrelevant to this particular job)
  • Customer Service Rep (some might see this as a plus, for dealing with clients and stakeholders, but I should have probably talked about it better)
  • Word, PowerPoint (while this is important to know, everyone knows it. It is assumed, and does not add value to the candidate)
  • Most of the Honors (maybe they look okay, but it is unclear what some of them are, and it feels like “filler” to stretch a weak resume)

Finally, let’s talk about the minor red flag I see here, which is a combination of 3 things…

  • Leaving the first job after 1.5 years (not immediate, but quicker than we like)
  • Student Managed Fund (Finance leaning)
  • Financial Advisor internship at Merrill (Finance leaning)

Seeing these three things together, I would unfortunately be starting to think about why this young Analyst might be leaving after just 1.5 years. Is it that he really wanted to be a Finance guy, but had to settle for a Marketing job? Is that why he’s unhappy? Is he hard to work with? Is he generally unhappy?

Short tenure on its own is always a red flag for employers. It makes them ask questions. They worry you are hard to work with or that you’ll get bored and leave as soon as they invest the time to train you. If you start to look like a job hopper, you are going to have to explain it to any employer, and some of them will just write you off without ever talking to you.

All in all, as a hiring manager, I would view this as a pretty weak resume for the role. The percentage of overall content that is directly relevant to a Marketing Analyst role in question is lower than we would like to see. I’m concerned about the short tenure, and worried specifically that he is frustrated or maybe difficult to work with and being pushed out. It just doesn’t make me feel excited, and I probably am seeing a number of resumes at the same time that look more promising.

Next up, I’m going to share another resume example.

Again, ask yourself these questions as you are reading...

  • What are the main “selling points”? From the hiring manager’s perspective, what seems attractive about this candidate?

  • Is there any “wasted space”? Are there things displayed here that don’t add value?

  • Are there any “red flags”? Would anything on this page make a hiring manager pause or give them concern that this candidate is not a good fit?

  • How would you rate my resume writing ability on a scale of 1-10? (again, I'll never know)

Good Resume Image

You probably noticed this resume is also mine. Did you think it was written later in my career? Or, did you realize that this was just a more well-written resume for the same 2008 Analyst with 1.5 years experience?

On this improved resume, the first thing the reader sees is a section called ‘Analytics Skills’, and each of the 6 bullets listed is clear, descriptive, and starts off listing a relevant technical skill that a hiring manager will be excited to see. In general, leading with your sell points is a great move. We’ll talk more about that later.

Next we see the Experience section is a lot more descriptive of what the actual role entailed compared to the previous resume. Another win.

Same story for the next three sections; Student Managed Fund, Internship, and Peer Tutor role...each of these is now being described in a way that the experience relates in some way to skills a Marketing Analyst might need. Generally speaking, writing your resume for the specific job you are applying for is a great idea.

The Education section has been condensed. In the previous example, this was 12 total rows when combined with the Honors section. Now, it is only 7 rows, and feels less like “filler” trying to stretch a weak resume.

The minor red flag is still there. Why is this guy leaving after 1.5 years? There’s nothing to be done about that one. It is what it is. But some other non-descriptive or irrelevant items (study abroad) have been removed to focus more on sell points.

All things considered, this second one is a much better resume. This candidate would have a much stronger chance of getting noticed and brought in for an interview. Take a moment to process that… same person, same skills, experience… better chance at getting hired, all because they wrote their resume in a way that better communicated their relevant skills.

To really hammer this point home, I’ve included a side by side comparison below:

  • Big green arrows = sections are generally on-point, relevant to hiring manager
  • Little green arrows = supporting bullets are on-point, relevant, exciting
  • Red cross outs = shouldn’t be on the resume at all
  • Red question marks = description could be more relevant / descriptive

Good Resume Bad Resume

Now that we have gone over these concrete examples, let’s discuss some general principles you should try to follow to market yourself on a resume…

1. There are no hard “rules”

A resume is simply a tool to help you talk about your experience. There is no “proper” way to do it. There are no rules about what order things need to appear in. You should think about your resume as a marketing document, and you should write it however best sells your abilities.

2. Lead with your best selling points

Hiring managers will read your resume for about 5 seconds, and will already be deciding whether or not it is worth reading the entire page. I know that sounds harsh. Get over it, accept the reality, and use the knowledge to your advantage.

Make sure your best selling points aren’t at the bottom of the page. If the top stinks, your amazing credentials at the bottom won’t redeem you because they likely won’t be read. Anytime you are applying for a role, think about all of your relevant skills, rank them in terms of which you think the employer would be most excited about, and then organize your resume in a way that includes the most valuable skills at the very top so they are guaranteed to be seen.

3. Tailor your resume for the specific job

A lot of young professionals think they will have one resume that gets sent out for every job application. That's a weak strategy. Especially if you are applying for Marketing Analyst roles and also Financial Analyst roles (or any other combination of similar yet different jobs). If you are applying for slightly different roles, you should customize your resume to better highlight the things that are relevant for each opportunity. There will be certain things that are universal, but other aspects of your experience can be talked about differently based on your objective.

4. Be descriptive and talk about the right things

When you are talking about your experience, try to use more specific language, and highlight specific responsibilities and experiences you had which relate to the job you want. “Leveraged Omniture to analyze and optimize websites” is better than “generated strategic insights and recommendations”. The former makes it easier to understand exactly what the Analyst was doing. Always try to be descriptive, and describe the most relevant aspects of your experience.

5. Don’t waste space on things that don’t sell

Be objective when reading your resume. Is there anything there that isn’t selling you very well? If so, is there a way you can talk about it that sells you more or that relates more directly to the job you want? Some things just shouldn’t be on there. If you’re applying for a professional “office job", the employer doesn’t need to know you were a babysitter when you were 14. You have limited real estate on the page. Make sure you pack it with the good stuff. Like we talked about before, hiring managers have limited attention. If you are talking about something that sounds wrong, they’ll stop reading. Cut out the nonsense, and focus on selling.

6. No typos

I have sent a resume with a typo before. Don’t do that. Proofread it. Then ask someone else to proofread it. Then send it.

7. Understand your red flags and address them proactively

Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. If you have a hard time doing this, request a friend do this for you. Read the resume, and ask if anything jumps out as concerning.

Red flags include anything that makes you look like one of these…

  • “A job hopper” - no one wants to train someone who will leave quickly
  • “Not relevant for the role” - if the first couple of sections don’t scream “Data Analyst”, you’re done
  • “Not technical/quant enough” - this one you may not have thoughts about. Analytics hiring managers are looking for some level of technical skills or math aptitude. If there isn’t at least something on your resume that highlights this, you’re probably out.
  • “Sloppy” - typos, inconsistent formatting. Enough said.
  • “Displaying concerning history” - not having any experience is okay. That is expected for younger candidates. If you do have some experience, be aware that large gaps in employment will be red flags, as will large amounts of time in irrelevant roles or roles that suggest you aren’t very bright. If you were unmotivated early in your career, this will come back to bite you.

Having a red flag on your resume doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get an interview. Still, if there is anything you can do to make it appear like less of a red flag, do it. Always be honest with yourself about the red flags that might be there. You will need to be prepared to field questions on them if you do get a chance to interview. They will come up.

Hopefully this guide helped and will improve your chances the next time you are applying for a role.

Happy learning!

-John

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Author

John Pauler

John brings over a decade of business intelligence experience to the Maven team, having worked with companies ranging from Fortune 500 to early stage startups. As a MySQL expert, he has played leadership roles across analytics, marketing, SaaS and product teams.

John brings over a decade of business intelligence experience to the Maven team, having worked with companies ranging from Fortune 500 to early stage startups. As a MySQL expert, he has played leadership roles across analytics, marketing, SaaS and product teams.

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