Writing Persuasive Resumes: A How-To

From the desk of Monique Bouyer, MBA


Your resume is typically the first thing about you that a hiring manager sees. Its purpose is to provide an accurate snapshot of you, and it functions to give your potential employers enough information to convince them to call you in for an interview. With these goals in mind, you should think of your resume as a persuasive document.

For centuries, clever communicators have been using three primary modes of persuasion to get results. These modes are ETHOS, an appeal to the authority or credibility of the speaker; PATHOS, an appeal to the audience’s emotions; and LOGOS, an appeal to the logic of the listener.

You can use the three modes of persuasion to write an effective resume that will convince hiring managers to pause and consider you for their open positions. How? Let’s look at each one:


1. ETHOS – No Pajamas in an Interview!

Ethos deals with expertise and credibility. A persuasive argument based in ethos seeks to build trust in your audience by providing support for the things you say. Credibility develops through appropriate use of language (including word choice and grammar), properly cited sources, and aesthetically appealing visual design. People in your network can also lend you their credibility.

You can convey ethos in your resume in three ways. First, by proofreading and eliminating any typographical or grammatical errors, you show that you are an apt candidate for the position. Next, by providing credible references who will speak positively and lend their own ethos to the work you have done, potential employers can gain confidence in your ability to do the job. And finally, by choosing a resume format that is nice to look at and that highlights your key achievements, you will set you apart from candidates with a more haphazard style.

Just like you wouldn’t show up for an interview in your pajamas, your resume shouldn’t look like it just rolled out of bed. Demonstrate to potential employers that you pay attention to detail and that you care about first impressions.


2. PATHOS – Your Elevator Pitch

Pathos deals with emotional appeal and personal stories. A persuasive argument based in pathos seeks to tug at the heartstrings of your audience and endear them to your situation. Pathos-based arguments are best when written in the personal voice of their author. So, how can you use personal anecdotes to make your resume a more persuasive tool?

The document you send to potential employers has two main opportunities for carefully considered use of pathos: the cover letter and the professional summary. Your cover letter is designed to be personal. Use a personal story to make an emotional connection. This connection will help convince potential employees of why your unique experiences make you an excellent candidate for their position.

Of course, cover letters sometimes get lost or separated from their pack, so having a concise professional summary as part of your resume provides the second opportunity for pathos. Your professional summary serves a similar purpose to your cover letter, but it needs to be more succinct – one to two sentences rather than one page.

Remember the classic sales tactic: the “elevator pitch”? This tactic tries to sway a listener in 30 seconds or less. To write a persuasive, pathos-based professional summary, consider 5 words you would use to identify yourself and then create. Boil down your personal story into one memorable, meaningful phrase. Yes, this is hard, but you can do it!


3. LOGOS – Just the Facts, Ma’am

Logos deals with logical appeal and cold, hard facts. A persuasive argument based in logos supports itself with analytical data. (Note: A logos-based argument can be boring and difficult to read all by itself; when used to support something more complex, it can be very powerful.) Persuasion using facts and findings from research is best when it presents data in clear, concise formats to convince readers of their broader claims.

In your resume, logos is best used to quantify work you have done in prior positions. Using statistics and quantitative analysis helps support the idea that you were a productive part of your previous employer’s team. A bullet point that claims you “collaborated with team members to develop creative solutions to complex problems” sounds nice. However, if you are able to infuse the same claim with logos-based argumentation, you can strengthen the impact of your point: “Collaborated with a team of 6 other HR professionals to streamline application intake and implement automated responses, leading to a 200% increase in department productivity.”

Of course, this data needs to be both accurate and honest.


The strongest, most persuasive arguments combine ethos, pathos, and logos. Take a look at your current resume and see if there is anywhere you are already implementing the modes of persuasion. Then, develop each element of the document to convince a new hiring manager that you are the perfect fit for the job!


At Professional Staffing Group, we work closely with our candidates to help them understand how to present themselves professionally and make a good first impression, on paper and in person. Register with us today and let us help you connect with the best job opportunities in our region.


Monique Bouyer, MBA – PSG General Manager

Monique joined Professional Staffing Group in 2010 and assumed the position of General Manager in 2013. She functions in many roles as she continues to bring best practices and processes to the company. Monique’s goal is to expand the reach of PSG and differentiate the company from traditional staffing firms.

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