Oh, don’t be so modest (just be accurate)

The customer isn’t always right.  On those rare occasions, it’s fortunate if someone else has already said so.

That’s what happened with the recent job hunter who slid his resume across the reference desk, sighed, and related his situation.  After applying three times to an area employer with zero response, he was finally (and constructively) informed by an HR staffer: “You will never get hired with that resume.”

Strong words, I thought, curious to see what could be so off-putting.  Answer: everythingInconsistent spacing and bulleting, clashing fonts, and grammatical errors immediately lowered the reader’s opinion of the applicant–but at least they distracted from the content.

Chunks of text appeared to have been excerpted randomly from an in-house training manual.  Descriptions of positions and responsibilities failed to cohere or to register a logical career progression.  Instead of crisply proclaiming, “Here’s how my experience and capabilities can benefit your company!” this resume shrugged, “Here’s two pages of stuff…”

No one would match that document with the well-spoken, promising candidate at the desk; I agreed that the resume misrepresented him.  Satisfied with the consensus of the Complete Rewrite camp, the patron cheerfully agreed, “I’m totally on board.”  Then he added, “It just needs to be quick.”

Uh-oh.  A competitive, from-scratch resume isn’t a reference question; it’s project–a serious one with a potentially life-changing payoff.

It’s not the writing that’s labor-intensive; it’s the conceptualizing:  selecting the words to prove that you’re the choice among potentially hundreds; finding phrases to convey both hard experience and openness to learning opportunities.  Sometime you also need to compensate for gaps resulting from relocating for your spouse’s job, caring for family, the economy.

Hiring a resume expert is one solution, but where’s the challenge (and savings) there?  Using library resources, you could promote yourself better than anyone else can.

I showed the customer our array of resume guides; one even featured makeovers.  ResumeMaker online could enable him to produce a professional-looking document, as would Job & Career Accelerator.  And a colleague and I both quickly scanned his pages to share our first impressions.  (I’ve read that first perusals commonly last ten seconds or less before submitted resumes are designated “discard” or “consider”.)

You’re wise to keep abreast of current resume style trends, too:

  • Strive for 1-2 pages in length (more realistic than the strict one-page model).
  • Jettison the “References on request” line; that’s a given.
  • Envision your resume as a portal: provide links to your online publications, web page, LinkedIn (then keep these features updated).
  • Consider featuring an accolade from a supervisor, client, etc. (quotation similar to blurbs on a book jacket).
  • Drop the Objective statement, which can appear old-fashioned or limiting. Instead, compose a “headline” to snag readers’ attention.
  • Customize each resume to echo when possible the same keywords used in that job posting. The initial reader may be a scanning program, not a human.

As always, rely on your knowledge of each employer to determine how edgy your style for that document should be.  If possible, use multiple proofreaders to catch those little missteps before submitting your finished product; unless you’re entering a bake-off, no one wants to read that you’re a “roll model”.

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