Writing a good resume: Man for sale!

Centre for Labour Economics June 1981

Image by LSE Library via Flickr

by Madeline Laughs

What can you tell me, in writing, about yourself, that I can read in 25 seconds and be impressed. It has to be true.

It’s impossible to to figure out exactly what today’s person responsible for hiring really wants to see. In a push button society, our allotment of time granted to shine is very, very small. And getting smaller everyday.

A well written resume is a necessity. Without one you will never have the job you really want and you will always be settling for the job you could get instead. 

I have been helping a friend re-do his old resume. I took a week just to study what he already had. Two resumes, one recently refurbed and one a bit older. I dissected each one to see which parts I liked and why. This process made me realize just how far into the future technology has pushed this whole process.

Neither of his old resumes would cut the mustard of today’s job market. He was already starting to feel this himself, which is what drove him to ask me for help. No one was responding to his resume or his cover letter. He wasn’t even getting called for interviews. Someone with his kind of experience should have people beating a path to him. He shouldn’t even have to interview! But here he was…unemployed with no prospects.

The first thing a hiring professional is going to look at will be your work history timeline. Not your work history, but your consistency. During the dot com rage, a timeline was almost obsolete because folks were bouncing all over the place, but now it’s back in vogue. Any discrepancies will cost you.

Penelope’s Trunk wrote a great piece called How To Quit Every Job and Still Have a Great Resume. I recommend reading this if you have jumped around a lot in your work history.

The second thing they’ll look at will be your Summary and your Objective. They’ll be looking to see if what you want to do is the job they’re hiring for. This is where your 25 seconds will start to count down.

I know you’ve seen these summaries “Highly motivated individual. Great organizational skills. Closer.” There are words in there like “executed” and “skilled” and “multi-tasker”. I have to tell you that if your Summary reads anything like this, you’re losing the hiring game. You’ve just described yourself the exact same way everyone described themselves. Almost every resume these days has that same Summary because almost everyone writing a resume has copied these pat lines from the Internet.

Realistically, is this what you want to tell your next employer about yourself? That you’re just like everybody else?

I’ve checked out some of the latest resume writing websites and they all have the same advice. Sell yourself. Treat your resume like it’s your own personal ad. Make You look like you’ll be the best thing that ever happened to their company.

That’s what a good resume does, it sells You.

In your Summary you should be talking about awards you’ve won, concrete accomplishments, bottom line numbers and kudos for a job well done. Make them want you to work with them.

25 seconds is counting down and you still have to tell them what you want to do. This is your Objective.

What are they looking for? Do they want a sales professional? Then that’s your objective, to be their new sales professional. Tell them that’s the job you’re applying for  and why you think you’re the person for the job, but keep it short and direct.

It is a misconception that you only need one resume. If you’re serious about your job hunt, you should be prepared to tailor each and every resume you send out to match whatever job it is that you want. This means you can have as many resumes as it takes.

Hopefully you know what you want to do. Hopefully you have a little experience in that field. But even if you don’t know and you’ve never done the job, there is enough about you to meet the needs they seek. When you find your work history isn’t impressive enough, dig around in your personal life. Were you a Boy Scout, a Sunday school teacher, a camp counselor? All of those are excellent selling tools. Use them to build and flesh out your resume.

Flowery words and filler will only annoy the hiring professional. How do I know this? I worked as a recruiter as part of my job responsibility for many years. I always had a stack of resumes to read. It wasn’t my favorite part of the job.

After a while I made it into a game. I would take each resume and with a red felt tipped pen, I would cross out every adjective. Some resumes ended up looking like a blood bath, but once I finished, I knew if this was a candidate for Round 2, or a candidate for the garbage can. Guess where the blood bath resume went.

Another good way to grab attention is with a nice Cover Letter. These days everything is done electronically, so your Cover Letter has become an email. Use good grammar, use your spell check and always have an opening and closing salutation.

A good tip is unless they specifically ask you to attach a Cover Letter separately, never attach one. Use the body of your email instead.

Name your resume file with your name. Don’t name it something cutesy. One guy I knew always named his resume, Dashume. Funny? Yes. Professional? No. Most recruiters refused to even download it because they thought it was either spam or a virus.

If you are asked to mail a hard copy resume, make sure the paper you print it on says something about you. If you want to make six figures or more a year, then invest in some nice linen stock with matching envelopes. White will do just fine. Hot pink resumes are just wrong.

My last bit of advice on this subject is to stop using the word “proactive”. It had it’s day in the sun and that’s now over. No one says this anymore and if it’s stuck all over your resume they will wonder how long ago you sat down and went over this tool you’re using to sell yourself in today’s market. Deactivate proactive.

I guess I should get back to work now.

About Madeline Scribes

A writer with a sense of humor. If anyone can laugh at life, it's me.
This entry was posted in All kinds of Advice and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Writing a good resume: Man for sale!

  1. Susan says:

    These are great points, M. Laughs. I’d like to add one. . .
    With so many job hiring websites, if you see a job you really like, find out more about the job, find out so much about it that you can actually address the job to the person who posted it. For instance, when I’ve posted jobs on CreativeHolist.com for a designer, apparently it gets sent to other job postings and then, even though the post that I made says to email inquiries to Susan, I get an email to Hiring Recruiter. To me that is a sure sign that this person does not have the ability to follow directions and that he or she also has a certain arrogance or laziness that makes them think that they don’t need to address me appropriately. Why would I show any interest in hiring that person when I can get an email that is addressed directly to me.
    While I’m at it, I’ve always given special consideration to someone who sends me a thank you letter.
    What ever happened to manners? I really don’t want to hire people who don’t have manners to work for or with me.
    I love your point about not using the same words as everyone else. Chances are, if you are sending your resume to someone who has any experience in hiring someone, that person knows what they are looking for and all those extra words are just annoyances. I hire designers and what I look for is how much experience they’ve gained at the jobs they had, what software they know, and their attitude. If someone has the core skills and the right attitude, I can teach them to be the employee that I need *and* teach them what they need to grow as professionals.


    • Great additions Susan!

      I like the thank you note advice. I remember sending thank you notes for the jobs I really wanted and a few of the hiring managers were always shocked to get them. Did I get hired? Did I get special consideration once that card hit their desk? In two instances, the thank you card was what sealed the deal. So they DO work!

      Whenever I see a lot of adjectives on a resume, all I can think is the person has very little to no experience. There are many aspects of our lives we can pull from in order to show leadership or team player experience. There’s no need for adjectives.

      And you’re right, attitude makes up for a lot of inexperience. With the right attitude you can win many interviews.

      Thank you for adding so much vital information 🙂


  2. Heather says:

    Great Article! (And thanks for the Pingback!) 25 seconds to make or break you future is not long at all. Let alone the fact that the computers do the first (and sometimes second) round of eliminations from most job applications in this technologically advanced day and age. It is extremely difficult to get past the computer and then set yourself apart from the pack when a human finally gets a chance to look at your resume.

    Someday we will find a way to do it.


    • Sadly, the boomers trying to get back into the job market have no idea that in larger companies a computer is doing first round selections on their dated resume. Key word searches and auto-filing is a way of the future hiring process. It was invented by recruiters tired of hand filtering massive stacks of unqualified resumes.

      Thanks for stopping by Heather 🙂 Your information about computer selection is a nice addition to the post. People need to start realizing this and make adjustments.


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