In his new series for us, Kenneth Hein will survey the best ways that job seekers can promote themselves and their brands, both with the tried and true and with newer methods. Either way, Kenneth will be drawing on the hard-won experience and knowledge he gained, first as a journalist on the marketing and advertising beat and then working as a marketer himself.
As the “writer” among my friends, I have always been on the receiving end of “Dude, what do you think of this?” From love poems to term papers (back in the day) to cover letters and resumes (today), I am the go-to guy. And, of course, my experience with resumes has only grown more after having looked at hundreds of them over the course of my career in communications.
Lately, a month hasn’t gone by without an acquaintance reaching out to me to doctor their resume. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve found myself repeating the same mantras. Whether it’s someone who works in politics, production, or public relations, there are some very basic facts about resumes that most people tend to forget. Don’t be one of the forgetful. Here are six mantras to remember:
1. Human beings read resumes. Picture someone sitting down to read your resume. Imagine her eyes glazing over as she sees your 57 bullet-pointed sentence fragments. Observe as she throws it in the trash…. Seriously, human beings read these things, and resumes need to be compelling. You are not filling out a form at the DMV.
2. Serve up some sizzle. You are a star. You’ve done great things in your career and throughout your life. What is your highlight reel? What are your greatest hits? Play them up. Don’t be modest. Granted, you don’t want to go too crazy, but you do need to sell yourself to the reader. A good exercise is to write an over-the-top draft and then tone it down a bit once you’re done. If you need help, see point 6.
3. Don’t fall in love with meager accomplishments. You were promoted from assistant in 2004. Great. Does it really belong in your resume? Probably not. In journalism we use an “inverted pyramid” to write articles; the important stuff fills up the top and the less important information gets squeezed to the bottom. Don’t be afraid to squeeze. Take a good look at old job descriptions, especially if you are working off of a resume that hasn’t been updated for years. Delete to make room for new and more relevant accomplishments.
4. Write a story. There should be a narrative thread throughout your resume. To help achieve this, write a summary paragraph at the very top that describes who you are and why you are great. Add five definitive, overarching bullet points. Customize this top section according to the job description you are applying for (yes, you must rework your resume for different opportunities!). Then add shorter, two-sentence summaries for each job you have had. In short, use fewer bullet points.
5. Treat your resume like a living organism. You should always be working on your resume. It blows my mind when people say, “Oh, I need to write my resume.” Really? Come on. You should be adding it to when you do something cool, are given additional responsibilities, or just have a moment of inspiration. At the same time you should be tweaking the older sections. You’ll find it shocking when you actually read your resume to discover how badly some of the phrasing actually comes off. And if you slap together a resume at the last minute, it will surely feel that way. Just saying.
6. Show it to a friend. Float your resume by anyone whom you respect. (Or perhaps you have a “writer” friend like me.) They will catch everything from typos to grammatical errors to major gaffes or omissions. You’ll be surprised when they say, “Hey didn’t you win that major award? Why isn’t that in here?” In other words, always get feedback.