Career Advice

Resume Yawn vs. Resume Gold

Last night, Glassdoor hosted its first teleseminar with career expert Liz Ryan.  During the call, Liz tackled common issues we all face when creating or updating our resumes: boring objective statements and plain, non-descript job summary bullets. Here’s Liz’s advice on avoiding these issues to create a stand-out resume.

Note: We’ll be posting a transcript for those who weren’t able to join, but we wanted to offer you some of the resume examples Liz described on the call.

Resume Issue #1: Summary Vagueness

Problem: Your resume summary is too broad.

Solution: You have to customize it for each specific opportunity. Add a human voice to your resume and get rid of “corporate speak.”

Here’s a before-and-after example:

Before: Resume Summary

Results-oriented professional with a bottom-line focus and a proven track record of success in multiple industries including law, aerospace, marketing and human resources. Capable and proactive team player with a dedication to successful project management and effective team building skills. Able to work with all levels of staff and to solve complex problems effectively. I would like to make a contribution in a challenging position that will make use of my technical and people skills and allow me to learn new things on the job.

When we start our resume summary with “results-oriented professional,” it’s a strange kind of governmental/bureaucratic language that has no ‘person’ in it. We know that the phrase “Sally is a sweet girl” refers to Sally in the third person. “I’m left-handed” is written in the first person. What person is used by resume-writers? None at all. ”Results-oriented professional” is neither first-person nor third person. It’s a ghostly kind of no-subject language. Let’s get rid of corporate speak, and speak to the reader in the first-person in our resume summary.

After: Resume Summary

I started out in HR before discovering a love for marketing, and I’ve found the human aspect in every marketing project I’ve undertaken since. At a blue-chip law firm and a Fortune 100 aerospace manufacturer running $500M contracts, I’ve built nimble communications and PR engines that got our messages to the right people in powerful ways. In the law firm, we architected and launched a strategy to enter the burgeoning green-building industry and gained $10M in new billings in nine months. In the aerospace arena, I built a new-client-outreach campaign that put us in the top three vendors for a major space program contract. I’m looking for a new marketing challenge with a vendor in a highly competitive marketplace.

From the revised summary – we get a strong sense of the person behind the resume. There are zillions of job seekers in the market, but this person knows who she is. The first-person voice in her resume speaks directly to the reader, and it’s confident. On top of that, this person knows what she wants to do and what she’s good at. She is speaking very specifically about her talents without detailing her skills out of context in the usual boring, laundry-list approach.

Resume Issue #2: Blah vs. Powerful Bullets

Problem: There’s no ‘wow’ factor describing your accomplishments.

Solution: Show your skills, don’t just tell them.

Here’s a before-and-after example:

Before: Job Experiences Bullets

Acme Dynamite
Pasadena, California
Quality Control Manager
2002-2004

  • Managed the Quality Control department of five employees.
  • Created Quality Control processes and procedures.
  • Led Quality Control task force to improve our dynamite’s effectiveness against roadrunners.

This section doesn’t help the job seeker. It’s more likely to put a reader to sleep than to help anyone get a job. It tells us what’s in the job description. We could have guessed at these duties, since they’re the typical tasks a person with the Quality Control Manager title performs. We can do better! We can bring more of our power and personality across in our resume. Let’s try it again:

After: Job Experience Bullets

Acme Dynamite
Pasadena, California
Quality Control Manager
2002-2004

  • I was recruited to join Acme, the world’s largest supplier of dynamite to the coyote market, by a colleague of mine who knew Acme’s CEO. I was brought on board to build a QA team from scratch and allow Acme to penetrate the lucrative ‘toon market.
  • Took apart the design-and-release process and rebuilt it with a team of hourly-to-senior-exec peers, taking three months out of the concept-to-ship cycle.
  • Reduced manufacturing cost by 30 percent and slashed the defect rate by half.

How is this resume stronger than the first version? The second take has five advantages over the first one. For starters, it has a human voice. The job-seeker uses “I” only twice in this section, but he uses it to his advantage. He was recruited by a friend of the CEO of the company–of course he wants to tell that story, because it shapes the way we perceive him. Second, this job seeker tells us a story. He tells us why Acme Dynamite needed him. That’s huge. It’s clear that he understands the business ramifications of a strong quality program. He isn’t a guy who takes a job and just does what he’s told. He spots opportunities and problems and dives into ’em. Who doesn’t want a guy like that on the team?

Third, this candidate doesn’t bore us with his job description. Every bullet in his resume describes an accomplishment he’s proud of. He uses numbers to showcase his results. He packs a lot of punch into those short bulleted phrases. Fourth, this job seeker doesn’t use abstractions to highlight his skills, such as “I’m a team player.” He tells us what he did with a team and lets readers see that he’s a team player.

Last, this fellow uses vernacular like “took apart” and “slashed.” He is confident. He uses business slang because he’s writing for a fellow business problem-solver, not a bureaucrat. This writing style honors the reader by signaling, “Look, we’re both in this game to make things happen. I’m not going to waste your time with corporate-speak gunk like ‘Seasoned leader of cross-functional teams’ and ‘Meets or exceeds expectations.’ I assume you don’t have time for that. I know for dang sure I don’t.”

Try a human voice and action-packed resume bullets the next time you revise your resume. If you’re looking for a job, try them today!

Thanks so much again to those who joined the Glassdoor.com teleseminar with Liz Ryan last night. It was great to have people on the line from all different locations including: Florida, New York, Illinois, Texas and California and down on into Mexico.