Are you looking to get your business analyst resume into the “yes” pile when you apply to a business analyst job? Are you wondering how you can showcase your business analysis experience and qualifications when you’ve never held the job title of business analyst? Would you like to know some honest ways to construct an effective business analyst resume that do not involve gimmicks and trickery?
In what follows, I’ll walk you through the process I use to help aspiring and experienced business analysts alike showcase their BA qualifications, even if they’ve never held the job title of “business analyst.”
1 – Your Business Analyst Resume is a Sales Document
Many professionals fall into the trap of thinking they need to include a complete catalog of their work experiences and skills in their resume. The first thing you have to believe when putting together your resume is that it’s a sales document. Your resume needs to sell you.
This means you can be selectively honest about the skills and experience you include and emphasize in your resume, and you should organize your resume so that it presents your qualifications in the best possible way. It also means you might break some of the “resume rules” you see elsewhere.
This piece of advice comes down to two basic truths:
If you are getting calls for a different type of job, then you are presenting yourself as qualified for that type of job and selling yourself for that job.
If you are not getting calls for business analysis positions, then either you are not qualified for those positions or you are not presenting yourself (or selling yourself) as qualified for those positions.
This might not seem like a “secret” but I see people forget these truths again and again. They agonize over their resume, focus relentless energy in word-smithing their resume to get past the resume eaters (aka applicant tracking systems), and write and rewrite their resume based on feedback from new reviewers.
The next 7 secrets give you concrete advice you can use to create a resume that you own and are comfortable with and can stop agonizing over.
2. Create a Specific Summary So Your Resume Isn’t Quickly Sent to the “No” Pile
Because most recruiters scan your resume instead of read it, there are a few elements of your resume that will get you the most attention. The first one of these is your objective or summary statement. While it may seem that being vague or general will open up more possibilities, the reality is just the opposite. Highlight your business analysis accomplishments and make it crystal clear that you are qualified for the types of BA jobs to which you are applying.
Because many recruiters skip right past the objective on your resume, you need to make sure that other parts of your resume draw them in too. Let’s move on to those other parts.
3. Tweak Your Job Titles to Get Your Resume Read
If the recruiter skims right past your objective and even that accomplishments section at the top that you spent so much time tweaking, their eyes are going to rest on the most recent job titles you’ve held. These are typically in bold (if not, they probably should be) and stand out.
Do your job titles present you as a candidate that is qualified for the types of jobs to which you are applying? If your most recent job title is listed as “Network Engineer,” “Software Developer” or “Customer Support,” you are most likely to get calls for jobs with similar titles.
Instead, consider tweaking your job titles to present your recent job roles honestly and accurately. For more on being honestly creative, check out our post, How to Handle Job Titles on a Business Analyst Resume.
4. Highlight Your Most Relevant Skills and Still Be Honest
Remember how we said that your resume is a marketing document? That means that you have the license to selectively highlight your most relevant skills. One way to do this is to focus on the projects where you held the most BA responsibilities – this enables you to get beyond being a “jack of all trades” and focus on your business analysis career experiences. And it does not mean “overselling” yourself – it’s just a matter of selectively telling the truth.
Out of all the business analyst resumes I review, by and large this is where most professionals need to invest the most time. Here are some of the mistakes I see.
- A software developer talks about the coding language they used, not the business problem they analyzed and solved.
- A customer support person details their primary responsibilities and the “special project” they participated in as an SME/BA is relegated to a single bullet point that goes unnoticed.
- A prior manager is so “accomplishments focused” that they overshadow their abilities to roll up their sleeves and do business analysis work such as role definition, business process analysis, managing change, and obtaining buy-in across multiple departments.
5. Use Business Analysis Terminology to Demonstrate Your Capabilities
The fact that your business analyst resume is a marketing document also means that you can use different terminology to translate your skills into business analysis, even if you did not use those terms when you actually did the work. These are called transferable business analysis skills.
Here’s an example from my own resume: As a QA Engineer I coordinated multiple business groups to review a particular application before it went live to our customers. At the time, we called this activity “data testing.” Later I learned the formal term was “user acceptance testing.” I now use “user acceptance testing” on my resume. It’s accurate and honest and presents me as more qualified for certain business analysis positions.
Here’s how to test your own resume: Once you’ve emphasized your most relevant qualifications and rewritten them using business analysis terminology, match up your resume to a sample job posting that you believe you are mostly qualified for. Could a third party reviewer who knows nothing about you personally go one by one through the job qualifications and easily find relevant skills and experiences from your resume? If no, then consider how you’d turn this test into a “yes.”
Once you have selected your most relevant skills and the right terminology for them, you’ll want to craft bullet points that clearly communicate those skills and build instant credibility. And that leads us to secret #6.
6. Get Instant Credibility by Blending Accomplishments and Responsibilities in Your Bullet Points
I’m often asked whether to highlight your accomplishments (what you achieved for your project or organization) or your responsibilities (what you did for your organization) in your work history section. My answer: Both.
In this post, How Do I Craft Bullet Points for My Business Analyst Resume?, I share some examples for using a responsibility to back-up an accomplishment while also showcasing your relevant business analyst qualifications using the right terms you’ve selected above.
As this recruiter points out, in your bullet points, you also want to use a variety of concrete details to talk about your contributions. Even if you don’t have access to precise project results, you can include a variety of numbers and details that help give shape to your experiences, thereby helping your reader see what kinds of things you might be able to do for their organization.
7. Address Any Employment Gaps Clearly
Some of the resume gurus will tell you to hide an employment gap in your resume by reorganizing it in a functional resume format. In all the work I’ve done with aspiring business analysts and transitioning professionals, I’ve never seen this approach work. Assume the person reading your resume is a relatively intelligent human being who is not going to miss a gap because you’ve reorganized your work history in a confusing way. Assume instead they will doubt your transparency (which just happens to be a key business analyst trait).
Don’t give others the opportunity to make false assumptions about you and your work. It will only get you in the “no” pile. Proactively address your employment gap on your resume. Tell an honest story that shows you are ready, able, and willing to do the work of a business analyst.
8. Bringing in Outside Help is a Great Idea, Just Own the Results
Creating a resume that clearly showcases your best business analysis qualifications is not easy work. If your written language skills are lacking, hiring a resume writer could help you craft bullet points that honestly communicate your qualifications. But keep in mind that as a business analyst you will be writing a lot of documentation, so your resume is an artifact that demonstrates your ability to fulfill a key business analysis competency, just like the business analyst job interview is a time to demonstrate you can ask insightful questions.
Another approach is to engage a third party reviewer. A reviewer will provide an evaluation of your resume, but the changes are up to you. As Michelle Swoboda pointed out in How Do I Get Beyond Being a Jack of All Trades?“, hiring a resume reviewer that took the time to understand her transferable skills enabled her to own her resume her qualifications.
Exchanging resumes with another aspiring business analyst, asking a local business analyst mentor to review your resume, or hiring a professional resume reviewer such as myself are all options to bring in an outside perspective. Just remember, your resume is your marketing document and you own the final result (and the job success that will come from using it).
Go Update Your Resume
Yes, I know it’s painful to, yet again, update your resume. But if you aren’t getting calls for the right type of jobs, then outside of investing in your professional network, this is exactly where your job search time will be best spent.
And if you’d like my help creating a resume to showcase your business analyst qualifications, especially if you’ve never held the business analyst job title, check out How to Construct an Effective Business Analyst Resume. In this virtual, self-study course, I walk you through my step-by-step process to creating a resume that gets beyond tricks and gimmicks by applying tested patterns to draw out your business analyst qualifications and catch the attention of potential interviewers.
Click the link below to learn more about the course and the evaluation option: