Three Steps to a Résumé with the Power to Influence
As a professional résumé strategist, I have clients from around the globe who share their résumés with me. I see résumés that are unproductively sparse and contain nothing that might entice a recruiter. I see equally unproductively dense résumés, containing every little, tiny, itsy-bitsy thing the person ever completed, provided, and maybe even dreamed — and still they have nothing that might appeal to readers. The authors range from students to seasoned professionals, from clerical to health workers, from educators to trades people, from financial whizzes to organizational gurus. It seems that most people have no idea what belongs or does not belong in their résumés.
Hans Hofmann, an abstract expressionist painter, uttered these now famous words: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” The key words for the professional résumé writer are “eliminate the unnecessary.” Hofmann shared those words with art students; however, that approach will undoubtedly lend your client’s résumé the power of a true work of art — the power to influence.
Three Steps to Eliminating the Unnecessary
Step 1: When asking clients about specific bullets on his or her résumé, I am astounded by how often they respond with, “Oh, I haven’t really done that; it was just one of the things on my job description.” I can imagine the thoughts of the interviewers who get that answer in a job interview. Such responses are anything but stellar. Including something a client has never done shows lack of strategy and evaluation of material, and by inference, perhaps a lack of good material, or at the very least, a lack of judgment. Eliminate the client’s “I wish I had done that” material.
Step 2: The next step to purging the unneeded, unwanted, and unproductive on your client’s résumé is to remove everything that doesn’t relate to the targeted job. Think of it this way: some information represents what the client once did, but it doesn’t build their case for the new position applied for. Referring to generic tasks of their past employment, as opposed to their progress and achievements within that role, can keep them stuck in that old position. Let me explain:
Imagine you have a brilliant and energized client with a history in sales who wishes to move up to an Executive Sales, Account Management role. What good would it do him or her to continue including information from long-past roles, such as: cash register, open and close, tidying store after customers leave? That information paints the client, not as a super-sales person, but as a good retail clerk. Highlight your client’s sales abilities, how he or she dominated their store’s, or perhaps the chain’s, statistics in highest monthly sales, highest add-on sales, or highest repeat customer sales. Eliminate your client’s “I also do unrelated work” material.
Step 3: Eliminate hobbies, outside activities, and religious affiliations. These rarely have a place on a résumé. No one cares that your client enjoys gardening, going to the movies, or spending time with family. “Real estate” on this document is valuable. You only have one or two pages in which to convince the reader that your client is an excellent candidate. Don’t waste that space on details that don’t get read.
Each and every bullet — and indeed every word — in a résumé must be considered carefully. If the content doesn’t build your client’s case as a stellar candidate for the job, with related skills, relevant education, and perfectly suited additional value, out it goes. Create a work of art — influence the reader by allowing the “necessary to speak.”
If you’d like to learn to create exceptional résumés that get positive attention, consider earning CPC’s Certified Résumé Strategist designation.
Stephanie Clark has earned her rank among North America’s top résumé services. Enhancing her innate talent for the written word with training in business communications, Stephanie is recognized as a Master Certified Résumé Strategist with Career Professionals of Canada, as well as a Master Resume Writer, conferred by Career Thought Leaders (US). Stephanie’s skill at capturing and communicating each client’s distinctiveness has revitalized more than 1500 job searches since 2007. You can find her work in Best Canadian Résumés and Best Canadian Cover Letters, Modernize Your Resume, and Expert Resumes & LinkedIn Profiles for Managers and Executives.