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Write Your Resume By Thinking About … Hypothetical Me

March 22, 2010

I have a bit of a reputation as a resume polisher-upper. I think I was always a decent writer and editor, but it wasn’t until I started having to read resumes and consider candidates on my own that I became a really good resume editor. The trick to writing a great resume is to think about what the person who is reading it wants to see. This could get tricky, of course – because so much relies on personal preference, and there are a few people who could be reading your resume, depending on the size of the company (HR, recruiter, hiring manager, etc.)

There are tons, tons of resources out there to give you advice on format, explain how to fill in the gaps in employment history, and reminding you that you should have different resumes depending on the job you are applying for.  I won’t go into all that here. I will share a link about your resume not showing your age. What I will also talk about are the same things I say to almost every single person who has asked me to look over their resume.

  • Explain stuff to me, the reader. Are you applying for a job in the same field? This is easier, because they will be familiar with your crazy mortgage software, or know about HIPAA regulations or whatever industry-specific terms you use. But if you are taking your crazy industry-specific knowledge and applying for a job doing the same thing, but not necessarily for the same industry? Don’t use acronyms. And don’t take for granted that I know what that stuff means. Maybe you do “inventory” and that would elicit knowing nods from all your co-workers, because they know it means overnight shifts cataloging all the merchandise in the store, and it’s an important measure to stop loss and get merchandising budgets improved. Tell me something like that. Don’t use shorthand.
  • Don’t treat your reader like a dummy who can’t see through your fancy trumped-up book-learnin’ talk. If you were a cashier, don’t tell me about your “successful completion of financial transactions.” I get it – you were a cashier. It’s practically in the name. Tell me something about how your register was never short, and you were able to increase checkout time by 5 percent? But don’t BS me. If you didn’t accomplish a hell of a lot, it’s okay – you were a cashier at Target. I’m gonna get that it was a summer/part-time job. Just list it, mention any accolades and move on.
  • Please, impress me. You were responsible for training new people. Great! How many new people? Was there high turnover? Did you develop new training methods? Did you have to go through management training to do that? Tell me that stuff!
  • If you tell me you are hard-working, dependable and all that other awesomesauce, you better show me how or why in that resume. Otherwise, it’s just your random platitudes, and it’s taking up valuable space on the document that’s supposed to get your foot in the door.

Other Stuff

Yeah, I’m on to your crazy large/super small font. I know your references are upon request and your objective is to get the exact job I listed in my job description. Leave it off.  If your resume is two pages and you aren’t a big player in your industry, then you most likely don’t know how to edit. And if I catch a typo, I am going to assume you either have no friends who are willing to help you out, or you don’t know enough to ask for help in proofreading.

Remember Me

Just stop getting so caught up in the idea that this is a resume and has to hit all sorts of notes, and remember that barring all sorts of crazy recruiting software stuff looking for keywords, an actual human will have to read this thing. You want to explain what it is you do, and what you can for them. Show results. Stand out. Everyone is going to tell me they are dependable, a team player but also self motivated and is detail oriented. Show me that you really are, and make me want to go through the hassle of giving you a call to come in and learn more.

  1. March 22, 2010 9:18 pm

    Nice post – interesting because I wrote on a very similar theme. You were nicer about it, though. 🙂
    .-= MeredithElaine´s last blog ..Forgive me, but in the past 2-3 weeks, I’ve sifted through probably 500 resumes =-.

  2. March 22, 2010 9:37 pm

    Well said! Especially the whole “successful completion of financial transactions” thing. No one likes to feel like someone’s trying to BS them.
    .-= Ask a Manager / Alison Green´s last blog ..should I address my weight gain in an interview? =-.


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