Resumes – Three Raves and a Rant

The RAVEjob_opportunity_door_open_400_clr_10042

I’m raving about resumes that address the audience for whom they are intended – the prospective employer.  Did you think your resume was about you?  Not really.  We don’t write a resume to impress ourselves.

A resume is intended to impress future employers and to announce that YOU have the skills to address their problems.

Consider that if the employer didn’t have a problem, they wouldn’t need to hire anyone.  (Applause to Liz Ryan for her article, What Every Job-Seeker Needs to Know About Selling in which Liz eloquently addresses “the Pain Hypothesis”.)


Now, dear reader, if you know me well, you know there has to be a Rant here somewhere. Here it is: Although some application software systems, professions, and professional communities require (dare I say “mandate”?) a more standardized resume style – the old-fashioned kind that lists each position you have had with full description of every task, role, and supervisor. This is becoming less and less the case as the economy picks up and employers have to look more broadly at candidate pools. Thus it is important to:

Know your audience!

In my work as faculty, trainer, and business consultant I am privileged to meet and work with many human resource professionals.  Most of these decision makers inform me that applicants must get their attention by addressing their pain if they ever want to move beyond the HR in-box.  They care secondarily about where you worked and what you did in those positions.


RAVE #2:  If you have opted for a less conservative resume style, consider what (if anything) goes in the top area traditionally reserved for applicant goals.  Realize, PLEASE, that HR professionals often chuckle at how applicants use this most expense piece of resume real estate.  Of course you want a job – if you didn’t you wouldn’t be sending them a resume, so to re-state the obvious (typically something like: “To obtain a career in a fast growing . . .  and use my skills . . . “ is a waste of your resume real estate and the HR manager’s time.

There are no right or wrong answers in writing a resume – there is only the perception that the HR manager has of you when they read it.

Once that decision has been made, move on to skills that will resolve their pain.  Yes, that means that you will often customize a resume for a single or at least a category of job.

RAVE #3: For many job seekers, addressing the skills they possess that will resolve the “pain” of a prospective employer, are not reflected in their employment history.  The skills may instead be reflected in their volunteer experience.  In these cases, consider that the majority of your resume may be a section titled (as an example), “Relevant Experience”.  This is your chance to spotlight projects you have done (paid or unpaid).  Keep the items short – this is not the time for complete sentences.  Use action verbs. What have you done that will address my (the employer’s) pain?  In more than 30 years of hiring professionals, I can assure you that applicants who answered my question:

Why do I need you and how do you differentiate yourself from the rest of the applicants on my desk?

are the ones that got the interview and often, received a job offer.  Was I just different or weird?  I used to ask myself that until I began working with HR professionals and now I know I wasn’t weird.  OK, I’ll admit to being a little outspoken but at the end of the day, it turns out that every HR manager wants two things primarily:

  1. Recruit less
  2. Hire the right person for the job and the corporate culture.

Below the “Relevant Experience” section of your non-traditional resume is a good spot to place a simple “Employment History” section.  Since you’ve already expressed your relevant experience, this segment can simply include “Date-Date; Employer; Job Title”.

Want to know more?  Applicants and HR professionals, please connect with me on LinkedIn to share your RAVES and RANTS about resumes.  Let’s keep this conversation going!