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I'm Sorry but Your Resume Sucks!

Kelly Studer

If you're reading this article, chances are you're worried that your resume isn't up to snuff yet. Perhaps, you're not getting interviews for those ideal jobs but getting asked to interview for jobs you're not excited about?  Getting no bites at all?  Wondering whether you need multiple versions to sell yourself differently depending on the job? Then, it's official.  Your resume(s) may kind of suck. I know that's harsh but don't worry, we've all been there and I'm here to help.  

Resumes are like online dating profiles. Even if you've never been on an online dating site, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.  If one's dating profile isn't authentic and they pretend to be whatever they think someone is looking for, it doesn't usually turn out so well.  Essentially, they get a bunch of losers and weirdos contacting them and it makes them feel even worse about themselves! They wonder why they aren't attracting the type of people they want.  Whereas, if one takes the time to demonstrate what makes them special, show their true personality, and are honest about what they want, the quality of pursuers goes up exponentially.  

So, if you relate this to your resume, it's not all that different. The key is NOT to be everything to everyone but to truly reflect what makes you unique, amazing, and worth taking a chance on (translation: interview).  You want a recruiter or hiring manager to look at your resume and say, "I really want to meet this person.  They have so many attributes and experiences that could be a fantastic match for the position.  They are very clear on what they want and what they have to offer." 

Here are my 5 tips for creating that "wow" resume and making you irresistible to your future employer. 

Tip #1: Custom fitting your resume for each job/company is a mistake

I've read tons of resume advice articles and many will tell you to custom fit your resume for each job but I completely disagree with this approach.  Why would you want to modify who you are just to suit a particular job? Again, like dating, it's a smarter approach to present your best, most authentic self, not the one you've modified to get the other person to like you.  Your LinkedIn profile can only show one version of your professional experience so why would you need multiple versions of your resume? These days, your LinkedIn profile is viewed as your "real" resume by recruiters. If your resume and profile don't match up, it could raise a flag.  They should both provide the clearest picture possible of your strengths, skills and expertise, your major accomplishments, and what differentiates you from everyone else.  

Tip #2: Your resume should be your highlight reel

Does your resume contain a laundry list of everything you've ever done? This is the most common mistake I see people make.  You do not look more impressive by adding sheer volume of achievements. In actuality, it's just making it harder for the person reading it to figure out what you're really good at, enjoy doing, and how you can impact their business.  

In a recent resume review with a client, I mentioned this concept and he said, "Oh, I get it.  It's like creating your highlight reel." Brilliant! Yes, it's just like that.  If you're a wide receiver, would you show clips of plays you made while on special teams, if you don't ever want to be on special teams again?  Or would you include clips of passes you dropped?  Not a chance!  Your resume should contain all of your best work…the accomplishments that you are most proud of, exhibit your greatest strengths, and things that you would happily do more of…because you are AWESOME at it.  There is absolutely no need to include things you've done that you didn't particularly enjoy, weren't very good at, or wouldn't want to ever do again. Take those things off your resume immediately. 

Tip #3 - Show some personality

I've never quite understood why everyone is so afraid to show a little personality on their resume.  Have we all become gripped with fear that we'll appear unprofessional and won't get the interview because of it?  Of course you want to be professional but not at the cost of appearing robotic, dull, or lacking a sense of humor.  You will be much more memorable if you insert a little bit of your personality and show your non-professional side.  

One easy way to do this is to add an Interests or Hobbies section at the end of your resume and include 2-3 bullet points of personal trivia.  While you may want to stay away from mentioning religious, political, or family related interests (no need to give people a reason to unconsciously discriminate), think about including activities you love to participate in, a favorite movie, something you aspire towards. etc. Do you volunteer with an organization, are an avid science fiction book reader, or secretly dream of being the lead guitarist for Metallica?  You get the idea.  

I'll never forget one resume in which the candidate described his interests as "amateur photographer, ridiculously bad singer, and aspirational marathon runner."  It was clever, memorable, and definitely fun to ask him about during the phone interview.  In fact, this made me want to talk to him even though he wasn't necessarily the perfect fit for the job.  We all want to work with people we like, so take a chance and share something personal.  It also gives the recruiter and interviewers a great opportunity to connect with you by asking about it during an interview in order to break the ice.   

If you're not sure what is appropriate, share it in the comments section and get mine and others feedback! 

Tip #4 - Brand yourself

Time and again, recruiters see "skills and expertise" in bulleted lists or as an overview at the top of the resume but typically cruise right past it and skip down to the experience section.  It's not necessarily a bad idea but it's not very well executed 90% of the time.  To do it right, you have to capture the reader's attention and get them excited to read the rest of your resume.  This is similar to the first chapter in a book or the first 5 minutes of a film.  You've got to hook them or they won't stick around for the rest of it!  

You have a tremendous opportunity to brand yourself and demonstrate 4 things right at the top of your resume:

  1. Give yourself a job title - come up with the best umbrella job title you can think of that describes what you're all about.  (e.g. Product Management Executive, QA Engineer, Operations Leader, etc.)  
  2. The first sentence of your overview should explain what you're looking for.  Be specific. For example, do you want to lead a talented team of engineers to develop the next generation of innovative, insanely profitable mobile apps for the entertainment industry? Then say it! It's all about coming up with something that can translate across multiple job openings but still clearly articulates what you want to do.
  3. The second sentence should outline what you are absolutely brilliant at without even trying.  These are your 3 core strengths and talents that distinguish you from the average bear.  
  4. The third and final sentence is your opportunity to share what you're all about.  Why do you do what you do?  What purpose does it serve? What impact does it make to a business?  What are you passionate about in your work that fuels you?  Maybe it reads something like this:  I'm passionate about providing the best technical support and customer service possible to clients by helping to improve their business and lives.

This is one of the hardest sections to do well on your resume and it will require some deep thinking and plenty of iterations.  It can make a big difference though and help you stand out from the crowd.  

Tip #5 - Formatting matters

Formatting really does matter on a resume. You want to make it as easy as possible for someone to pull out the information they are most interested in as quickly as possible.  If they can do that, they are more likely to continue reading all of those bullets that you put your blood, sweat, and tears into writing. Check out this recent article on eye tracking of recruiters during the first 6 seconds they look at a resume.  They tend to go straight to your name, companies you worked at, your job title, and time spent in each position.  So, it's imperative to format your resume in a way that makes this data very easy to find. 

Ask a few friends to look your resume over, give you feedback on the formatting, and to catch any spelling or grammatical errors.  These errors, while they may seem minor, can sometimes be the difference between you getting an interview or not. And believe me, nothing is more embarrassing than having a recruiter point them out to you.  They are doing you a huge favor, so please thank them. But that won't happen to you…because you won't have any spelling errors!

Finally, make sure your LinkedIn profile is fully updated to match your resume.  The dates need to be the same, the job titles…basically, everything.   

Good luck! I know you'll craft something that has all of your dream employers calling you.  They won't be able to resist.