A Good Resume May Be Killing You

There’s an excellent chance that most of us can pull off a good resume with a bit of advice from the right YouTube video, a bit of borrowing from some dude’s resume online and a bit of help from your friend the aspiring novelist – that guy Paul who never had time for a wife, but he’s happy to b.s. with Davy who’s still in the Navy… okay I’ll shut the fuck up now.[1] Alas, I digress. My point is that a good resume isn’t good enough.

When we think about our resumes we usually think of them one dimensionally: will this thing get me in the door. Without a doubt that is one of the single most important criteria of any resume because if doesn’t open the door, you’ll never be able to stick your foot in there and keep it ajar. So, if we look at the resume from a broader perspective the next most important attributes to consider would be: “does this resume spur killer questions that in turn make me look better in the interview – does it in fact remind me of what a bad-ass I am?” and “is it strong enough to sell me past my closest competitors as it sits idle on a desk?” 

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That last point is crucial…really understanding that when all is said and done, after your four or five or god knows how many interviews, when they’re making that key final decision between you and your closest competitors, they lift that resume and take a final look under the hood. You’re not there with pat answers to tough questions… that job falls to that sheet of paper or two. Woe be the applicant that didn’t pay attention to the finite details, tighten their language and dig deep to express not just their day-to-day contributions, but the essential qualities and accomplishments that separate themselves from tight competition.

With the massive amount of readily-culled online bullets just waiting to be repurposed, most resumes out there do a decent job of describing the day-to-day elements of any given position, but they fail to include the most important element in your job history…you, of course. Simply borrowing from your HR department’s job description, adding some bad-ass content from that chick online and filling in a bullet or two here and there certainly won’t get the job done. But of course, most of us put a great deal more time and painstaking effort into trying to craft the perfect resume, so what is it that relegates 95% of the resumes I see to the “poor to decent” file? Perspective.

It is simply impossible to interview ourselves and cull all the necessary nuances of character, integrity and grit that should be interstitially dispersed among our day-to-day responsibilities, initiatives and accomplishments. We are simply too close to our own work history to be persuasive narrators that cut to the chase and deliver a tightly branded message. While I’m on the subject, the next most overlooked resume elements beyond the “you” factor in your resume would be initiatives and accomplishments. An employer wants to know that you take initiative, see things that could be done better and take action. Most of us know to sprinkle as many accomplishments as possible among our daily routine, but I’m still amazed at how many resumes I get from my free review button that simply look like a Glassdoor, Monster or Indeed job posting. Bloodless bullets veering way off target.

A great deal of those missing resume teeth might be chalked up to noble self-deprecation, not wanting to be seen as braggadocious or self-serving. And no doubt, there’s a fine line that we don’t want to cross but in general what I’ve found out to be the killer recipe is an appropriately aggressive, non-apologetic resume that complements confident, down-to-earth you. Now there are some caveats here, which is why my clients pay me the big bucks: when you want your resume to be flexible enough to not only give you greater opportunities outside your current employer, but also enable an internal promotion, we walk our wording back a bit. Even if we’re the sole engine on a particular project, we might put “Worked closely with C-level staff, fellow managers and Chuck, that back office guy to accomplish this amazing fucking thing that increased this good shit while decreasing that other bad shit by a number so specific it has to be fucking real.” In other words, know your audience. If you like your company but also feel you’re due a promotion, it helps to have a wordsmith create a resume that sings the praises of your partnering with all kinds of people to get all kinds of shit done.

Another key element missing from 99.9% of the resumes that pass my review inbox is superior writing. When promoting yourself it’s best to treat yourself like the brand and business you are in today’s marketplace. If you’re not really a graphic designer, don’t fart around with Illustrator, hire someone on Fiver to whip out that marketing sheet. If you’re not really a writer, hire one. Even if you are a writer, gaining that outside perspective is still a great idea and worthwhile investment. The one thing I learned in business long ago is to know what I’m really really good at and sticking to that while either delegating or outsourcing everything else to someone else better than me.

 

There are a million other reasons to hire an expert resume writer (it doesn’t have to be me) including the importance of formatting long-term employment with varying titles, how to minimize unrelated employment, where to put your education if you just graduated (it depends), where to cut off your experience, should I use a functional bullshit resume (hell no), how do I switch careers, do I need an objective (again, no-handle it in a more creative way), do I need to say this was my spouse’s company (not unless asked), I haven’t worked in a while, what the hell do I put? (we’ll figure it out) and many others.

The graphic design and logical formatting of your resume is way, way fucking more important than you realize. By simply looking at a resume at one glance, a clean, well-designed document presents you as put together, whereas a somewhat disorganized or out-of-date format (on taupe paper god forbid) makes you look like an antiquated, disorganized candidate. Appearances matter. And logical indentation, clean lines and appropriate spacing make a huge difference in the overall effectiveness of the document. Yes, you also have to have all the key words, and relevant skill sets… there are an overwhelming number of elements you have to get right, and after we do that we have to make sure you can talk to every bullet point we create.

In some following columns, I’ll try to get into more particulars regarding the do’s and don’ts of resume content and formatting so those of you wanting to beef up your documents on your own can take some swings in the big leagues. For now, just know that having a kick-ass resume doesn’t only get you in the door but it reminds you of why you’re such a bad-ass in the interview, prompting better questions and more impressive answers and literally makes the difference between being considered in the lower or higher end of an HR department’s salary range for any given position.

I can literally make a 5-figure difference in your new salary which can result in a 6-figure difference over time. On occasion, I get the opportunity to make a 6-figure difference in a person’s income in one resume, but those are highly unique circumstances and far from common occurrences. The point being, underselling yourself comes at a hefty price that is more difficult to address as time marches on. Whether you choose to utilize my resume genius skills or someone else’s, please make the investment in yourself and your future. You won’t regret it.

Don’t settle for a good resume, because the competition is fierce and people way less qualified than you may be hiring the services of a certain resume genius to get a leg up. And in fact, that’s one of my specialties, helping my clients that may not quite be there yet jump into the bigger tank and swim with the sharks. Stretching boundaries is important; we don’t want to put you into a position you’re completely unqualified for, but we also want to give you the opportunity to let the company make that determination after meeting you.

Should you hire a professional resume service, make sure they give you a thorough analysis of what’s going on in your resume, what needs to be addressed and whether they’re going to add on some extra bullshit fee for a profile or executive summary or some damn thing. You’re looking for some specific answers regarding what’s wrong with your document, as anyone who’s been doing this for a long time will be able to immediately dissect your resume. And by all means, you’re welcome to take advantage of my own complimentary resume review or career coaching consultation. I’m a frickin’ resume genius. Feel free to contact me with any questions.


[1] But seriously, how many of you had to almost blurt “and probably will be for life.”