Thursday, September 27, 2012


Resumes are hard to write. They're also complicated depending on with whom you're talking - mission statements; making sure there are no "hidden" years; formatting issues; CV or not to CV....

The chronological resume seems to be the format of choice these days. That's where everyone makes a list, starting with the most current, of the jobs held and the main duties involved. It's factual; it's consistent; it is a terrible way to sell oneself.

Of course most folks seeking to hire aren't trained how to read a resume either - so if the resume writer can't tell a good story and the resume reader can't infer one... opportunities are lost.

Use the accepted chronological format but ask yourself a few questions as you write it:
  • Do I want to only be seen as capable of doing a job I've done before? If no, then what skills and accomplishments can I highlight in each section that will let the reader see how my experience transfers neatly to this new role I'm seeking?
  • Does each bullet point below each job title tell a story?  Does it create an opening line for conversation around a skill or an accomplishment?
  • What line merely reflects the table-stakes...the basic expectation of the job title above it...and do I really need to explain or include it?
  • Have I included lots of adjectives or have I given concrete, unadorned examples of my skills and accomplishments?
There's a lovely blog post about things to not do with your resume on the Burns & McDonnell Careers Blog. I would debate the last point about hobbies & interests though - sometimes discovering someone has a passion for something that is linked to an internal company project (Habitat for Humanity volunteer) or shows a skill for which there was no other place on the resume ("volunteer wrangling" is my favourite so far), can tip the scales towards getting the interview. (in a matrixed organization, wrangling those volunteered is a valued skill!)

Most of all, a resume should reflect the professional "you" that can be substantiated and enthusiastically endorsed ... first and foremost by your own stories and insight.

1 comment:

Sacha Chua said...

I recently came across great resume and cover letter ideas in Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0 - the authors suggested including mini-testimonials right on the resume itself, and using sales letter techniques in the cover letter. Good stuff!