To Resume Or Not To Resume? Bullet Points, Job Descriptions and Little White Lies

Resume writing is an exercise in concise and intentional language. My less traditional route through employment hasn’t much required this black and white, two-dimensional snapshot, so when I recently was asked to submit one, I actually laughed out loud.

People still use resumes!? How very 20th century of them.

Conventional job searches rely on outdated methods – sweat out a resume (fudging facts here and there), scan the want ads, pound the pavement (a metaphor that conjures up painful Siberian exile), and sit across from a manager who doesn’t know who his ideal hire looks like, but expects you to grovel for the gig anyway.

No wonder why so many of us are unfulfilled in our work. Does this sound like the road to job satisfaction? Not so much. Since I parachuted out of the proverbial airplane of my first career in 2010, I’ve been fascinated with how we can feel both free and deeply committed to making a living that uplifts, and not depletes.

Knowing what you want to do next and where you want to do it are much more effective in opening the door to right income. (Thanks Gandhi.) Meet with people. Have conversations about what you do and why you do it. Let them see you in action – show, don’t just tell. Of course, certain professions require licensing, certification, and such, and you can supply that information, but don’t be solely represented by bullet points and fonts. Would you rather read about a new gallery exhibit, or let the vibrancy and emotion of an artist’s painting captivate and enchant you?

Given the choice between reading someone’s biography or having dinner with them, which would you choose?

Please, right this way to your table, Ms. Steinem…

However, for the sheer experience, I complied and penned the Cliff Notes version of my history, skills, and education. In 15 minutes. It was actually fun, and damn, if I didn’t want to not only hire me, I wanted to pay me more than I was asking!

Turns out that writing a resume is an end in itself, because whether you get the position, you’ll learn how to recognize, streamline and highlight your strengths with confidence. If you’re going to be judged by mere words on a piece of paper, shouldn’t you be your first and best cheerleader? This is not the time to be humble. Shine like the North Star. Brag like a gold medalist.

Distill your talents and sell your assets.

  • Keep it simple. One font, one page. Leave lots of white space so the eye may rest.
  • Name and contact information. No need for address or SS# or anything more personal yet.
  • Stay relevant. Include only necessary dates (no months, just years) and pertinent information.
  • Include experience not compensated monetarily. How have you created value for another? Charity work or volunteer position? Ran a social organization or club? Recipe writer or master of DIY? Your talents lie in more realms than financial – ever hear of social profit?
  • Tech skills. Indispensible and all too rare. (You know more than you think.)
  • Don’t list out minutiae – no one reads the admin. It’s clutter on the page.
  • Tell the truth. Own your accomplishments with integrity.
  • Focus on your excellence and strengths. How are you consistently educating yourself? A leading edge gives you the edge.
  • Give them no choice but to meet with you – right now.

If you’re even slightly discontent with your work, take a few moments, go to Google Docs, grab a resume template, and practice being concise and intentional. Shine! Reframe life experience into lessons learned ~ what used to ‘look bad’ are pluses nowadays:

  • Gaps because of travel or parenting translate into highly prized traits: communication skills, prioritization abilities, time management, adaptability, risk-taking, etc…
  • No degree? Enter self-direction and innovative thinking. See: Steve Jobs.
  • Change jobs often? You have a larger network, demonstrate flexibility, and adjust to new situations with dexterity and humor.

Ultimately, though, wouldn’t you want to be hired because someone thought ~ Hey! I know who would be just perfect for this project? Wouldn’t it be great if people gauged us more on direct experience and our full selves? But try it anyway – sketch one out on your lunch break. You’ll see yourself in a whole new light. I sure did.

I’d really like to hear about YOUR job-seeking. Tell me in the comments below how you opened up your last revenue stream and how, if at all, a resume was at play. (at play!) And if YOU’RE the one doing the hiring, how do you use a resume, if at all, in determining the outcome?

Thanks! Looking forward to hearing your stories…

{Addendum on Feb 3, 2012: From Seth Godin’s blog today:
Can I see your body of work?
Are you leaving behind an easily found trail of accomplishment?
Few people are interested in your resume any more. Plenty are interested in what you’ve done.
The second thing you’ll need to do is regularly note what you produce in a log or find some other way to keep track.
The first thing is more difficult: If the work you do isn’t worth collating and highlighting, you probably need to be doing better work.}

 

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29 Comments

  1. looking for a job, fun? writing a resume revelatory?? well who woulda thunk! Preach it sister!! EVERYTHING we do in life is work experience and a lesson all wrapped up in one big teaching moment package!!

    Chapter One, Page 1….she has begun :)

    Reply
  2. Jill, what was most interesting about the exchange (when asked to forward my resume), was the missed opportunity to engage. Instead of getting a sense of who I was, (s)he instead reduced me down to a paper directive.

    Imagine the difference if we looked up at the person in front of us and spent a couple of minutes in conversation. Oh, what could be revealed!

    Reply
    • Jill ~
      My comment #2 for you…how would YOU frame “EVERYTHING we do in life is work experience and a lesson all wrapped up in one big teaching moment package” in a resume – how could that be incorporated successfully? How would that seem to you, as a hiring manager, if someone were to do that?

      Reply
  3. Wrote a resume for the first time in my life this year. It was an emotional experience to unpack and frame my life that way. Powerful feelings aroused. It was a great experience.

    Reply
    • CAR,
      It’s one of the few times we really see ourselves on paper. Such a strange form of introduction, isn’t it? Kind of like modern medicine – narrow, focused, and doesn’t take in the whole person. Not that it doesn’t have its use; it certainly prompted me to see what I’ve accomplished and what I’d still like to.
      Glad it was a great experience for you – makes perfect sense!

      Reply
  4. I guess I did use resumes a couple of times, moving in and out of law. I had a couple of judges as references that would hopefully substantiate my hyperbole, but nobody called them. Resumes probably help get the interview, but there may be better ways. For the lab job, rather than send in a resume as the ad requested, I did a corporate search, found out who the president was and phoned him. In our chat he said send him my resume, which I did, pointing out a typo in his website and offering some dates when I would be available for an interview. He picked a date, and then I studied like mad so that I would sound halfway intelligent at the interview, including studying their website thoroughly so that I would be asking most of the questions. I think the key, in my case anyway, was just to let the boss know that I was someone who would shoot straight, not be intimidated, and be easy to work with. Best of luck getting a good one, Kellie!

    Reply
    • David~
      I just love that you called the president!
      I learned a few years ago that leaders want to work with people that are not intimidated by them. Sounds funny to write that out, but often people are nervous, etc…and that doesn’t inspire trust too much. At a meeting with the 5 partners (all men) from my previous company, I held my own and they actually commented on how at ease I seemed, in the face of Partner Pressure (their words!). Perhaps if we start to consider ourselves on equal footing as human beings, and remove some of the hierarchal pressure, we allow others to see our strengths more?
      Thanks so much for sharing, and for the good wish!

      Reply
  5. After my graduation, i started hunting for jobs,To apply for job i need to create Resume, But as a fresher i dont have enough knowledge about resume, and how to create.And i have copied a resume from one of my friends everything is same except name and address, and we both went to interview, and interviewer came and said you both rejected, and i asked for the feedback, he simply answered,you both using copied resume,Then i came to know, the value of a Resume. Now i am creating my own resumes relates to my job description.

    Reply
    • Sounds like you learned a valuable lesson! Representing who we really are, and not feeling ashamed of any particular lack of experience or education is key, I think, to getting the right position. I believe if more hiring managers relied less on the paper, and more on their exchange, great matches would be made, with time being saved. Thanks for sharing your story!

      Reply
  6. Andy K

     /  3 December 2011

    Being married to someone who has worked as a recruiter I can tell you that a resume has a place in the hiring person’s tool-set. It’s properly used as a filter to narrow applicants down to a set of people that are worth the time and effort of an interview. The person who interviews well enough to hire, despite a misspelled, poorly written resume, is the exception. So all things being equal and, in a market like today where people are shotgunning their resume out to jobs that don’t even come close to things they are qualified for, having a resume review be a first step makes sense. My wife told me the story of how in the early days of one of her recruiter jobs her new boss came to her with a significant pile of resumes (say 4 inches thick) and asked her to narrow them down to a best candidates. She started separating the pile right there in front of her and before she could finish their conversation had narrowed it down to 30 possibles. You might think that that was unfair but using criteria such as spelling and other grammar typos (these were jobs that required people who could communicate well and who can use a spellchecker), a properly formatted document (which showed if they actually had the word processing skills they claimed to have), and a professional email address (with free email services out there like Google no one should have a resume with LadyKillaPimp@aol.com or Assman978@att.net or CatLuvrLady22@verizon.com [and these are tamer than some of the ones she saw]) she was able to eliminate a significant portion. Then she started looking for more specific qualifications like the specialized skill-set that the job required or relevant experience. Admittedly some people could be lying on their resume but that’s what the next step, the interview is partially for (referral checking is the other part and yes, my wife did check referrals).
    So being able to craft a respectable resume is a job skill worth developing. The pile she weeded it down to was then scheduled for interviews with both managers and tech people to evaluate both the person and their purported skills to see if they were a good fit.
    It’s a nice fantasy to say “Well if only the person would take me to dinner or a weekend in the Hamptons they could see what a perfect fit I am for this job” but for the most part your historical behavior (in previous jobs) will say more about your ability to do a job than your charm and wit even if your desired job is completely different from what you did in the past.
    There are always exceptions to this rule but the majority of the time this is both true and the most efficient way to hire candidates. If you are one of those exception then more power to you. Go out and charm your way into that job but it would probably be easier to just learn to write a resume.

    Reply
    • Andy ~
      First, thanks for taking the time to so thoughtfully respond!
      So much of what your wife did as she went through that stack was what my mother taught me – if someone was applying for a job at the vet hospital, she’d chuck any application that misspelled ‘Veterinarian.’ (or during the interview process when they’d pronounce it Vetrinarian.) I totally agree with that philosophy, especially if those skills that the job requires are tested in the resume. Efficiency definitely speaks to my sensibility! As well, having and developing good writing skills is CRUCIAL, certainly in these days of texting, social media & marketing.
      I do think, however, that giving so much weight to a resume’s content can have the effect of removing the focus from the real, live person in front of you. There’s much more to what a person brings than what can be seen on paper. But I surely see your point about the exception to the rule – although you know I’m all about the exceptions ;)
      I wonder about those who follow the rules – and miss all the opportunities to find gainful employment through networking and being top of mind with someone. So many dream positions get filled by who you know, right?
      I think I’m going to want to chat with B on her recruiting experience. Think she’d be open to it? (Between diaper changes?)
      Thanks again, Andy! Psyched to see you here.

      Reply
      • Andy K

         /  3 December 2011

        I’m sure she’d be willing to talk to you about her recruiting experience. She was really good at her job.

        And I don’t say that the resume should be the thing that has the most weight. I think that the ability to interview well is what gets you the job every time. You can have the best resume and totally bag the interview or vice versa. The job I am currently in I believe I got mostly because of a lunch time phone interview with a crowd of managers on the other end of the phone. The interview was setup by a headhunter who called me after seeing my resume on Monster. And the person who offered me a job was not the person who the interview was setup for. So instead of getting an offer for a contract job from the original manager one of the other managers on that call made an offer for a permanent position at a higher salary. So I personally have experience of how important both are.

        A resume can be abused too. Many co-workers that I would have gladly taken a shovel to their heads were people who were either hired off a resume without a comprehensive interview or referral followup or someone who was hired based on an interview without a proper vetting of their qualifications. The best places to work usually have pretty professional HR policies and they are in place for a reason. They work in getting the best people if people follow them.
        I also had an experience with this when I went to an interview where the company required a minimum of two interviews before someone could be offered a job. This was directly to prevent someone from BSing their way into a position. When I finished my interview my interviewer asked me if I would mind waiting while he found someone else to come and interview me because he wanted to offer me a job and didn’t want to lose me. But he followed the policy.

        Reply
        • Note to self: hide the shovels on Andy’s next visit.

          RE: the 2 interview policy – that’s because you’re amazing! And I’m not just saying that so I can interview B.

          Reply
  7. “Given the choice between reading someone‚Äôs biography or having dinner with them, which would you choose?”

    I think I seriously wish that interviews were done this way. I have HORRENDOUS verbal test anxiety, and interviews are just that… verbal tests. No matter how much I study, I get to that office or interview room and my brain just shuts down on me. Meeting a perspective employer over lunch to chat and actually interact in a non-test setting? OMG! I would LOVE that.

    I have now decided that, if I ever get to a position or point in my own stuff where I need to consider hiring someone, I think I’ll be doing my interviews at coffee shops over coffee or tea.

    Reply
    • Melissa ~
      I wonder how much of my perspective is informed by the differences between the masculine and feminine. I read a book on interviewing techniques recently, and the author (a man) said a great way to really get to know someone was to take them out to lunch, and get to know them outside the office – just like you say. However, he also recommends speaking to the Maitre d’ beforehand to ensure that his gin + tonic is just tonic, and the applicant gets the alcohol – in vino veritas! Can you believe it!? I think male-dominated business can be very top-down (not across the board, but often) and woman-centric companies can be more ‘let’s get to know each other and see if we’re a good fit’ (also not across the board). But I think I’d rather see someone at ease, then wield my power over them. Your thoughts?
      Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
      • Wow, that guy sounds like an unbelievable creep to me. If I found out that a perspective employer (or one I’d already agreed to work for) pulled a stunt like that, I’d be out the door in a heartbeat. How dishonest and manipulative is that?! I’ve worked in both male-dominated and female-centric (and isn’t it interesting how we, culturally, use those particular words for describing the two) workplaces before, and in general, the male-run ones are much more rigid and “detail-oriented” (read: do it my way and my way only) where the female-run ones tend more toward “As long as the works gets done and done correctly, I don’t particularly care how it gets done” frames.

        Myself, I would much rather have someone at ease. They are much more likely to give you truthful answers, rather than what they think you want to hear. Besides, if I’m going to be spending up to a third or more of my day around this person, I want to know if we can get along! Then again, aside from being the office mom and an artist, I’m also a massage therapist… I’m slightly predisposed to preferring relaxed and comfortable. It’s so much healthier on so many levels.

        Reply
        • Melissa, a thought: I used to work at a company that acknowledged and rewarded our peak season push by setting up massage chairs in a side office for the staff. A 15 minute rubdown went FAR for morale. It was some of the easiest money spent to rally everyone through a grueling time. You may already cater to that market, but just in case…

          Reply
  8. Good to know that teaching students to limit their resumes to one page is still a good thing!
    I believe resumes will always be used in my field (education-old habits die hard)….but digital portfolios may be a requirements soon.
    I know that my professional blog will provide a better insight into my attitude and beliefs which means that I can provide an web address to that site for a better representation than a one page resume. (I blog at http://usedbookclassroom.wordpress.com/)
    The “cover letter” for the resume is more of a problem, but I have never failed to get an interview when I used the following three statements in a cover letter:
    I am interested.
    I am fully qualified.
    I am immediately available.

    Reply
    • C~
      Thanks for your input! I appreciate it. I agree that someone’s online presence/digital portfolio will be de rigueur before long. I actually think it’s happening more than people are aware of already – I’ve heard stories of people NOT getting hired because of how their social media appears…hmmm.
      In fact, I’m wondering what’s taught in education today concerning job seeking skills and marketing…care to share?

      Reply
  9. Cheryl

     /  4 December 2011

    The whole process of job hunting, interviewing, and submitting a resume is extremely successful….and, more often that not, for some of us it is discouraging….especially given today’s job market. and all the competition that we face. And truthfully, what can you really tell from a resume? It is very easy to embellish one’s resume and receive outside help while creating that all-so important piece of paper that advertises all that one has to offer. And if you are one of the lucky ones and you are chosen to be interviewed…..then you are onto the next grueling step of trying to prove your worth face to face while in the “hot seat.” The whole concept of selling ourselves does not come easily for some of us. I am one of these people. While my resume may be average and my interviewing skills are modest and can often be subdued….it’s my actual work performance that can speak volumes. I am truly a hard worker and I take pride in all my responsibilities….but throughout the years, this has not been weighed heavily in the eyes of prospective employers. While I understand that the employer may not know me, I do still believe there should be a stronger effort in determining one’s work ethics in a more proactive way other than the perfunctory recommendations and boastful resume. Perhaps there should be more contact with former employers, supervisors, community leaders, teachers, etc…..because these are the people who truly know the person’s worth. I guess there is no ideal format for hiring candidates, but everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and employers cannot limit their decisions based solely on the advertisements of one’s self……let’s look into the individual’s track record and reputation…..it may provide all the true answers and information needed!

    Reply
    • Andy K

       /  4 December 2011

      I think that sites such as linked in are attempting to fill in that gap you are bringing up. In it you can have people give personal recommendations whether they worked for you, were your boss, or maybe just had a vendor relationship. While all of these things can be gamed I think that for the most part they are a welcome addition to the tools out there.
      One of the things you can do when you are a high performer is to get a boss to write you a letter of recommendation as you leave. Ask them to be specific. I have included things like that when I think it may be read by perspective employers and it can help you with bullet points to talk about your past experiences when asked to in an interview.
      One of the problems here is that the job hiring scenario has so many variables. Applying for a job is a 4 person company can be a very different experience then applying for a job at a fortune 500 company. But a lot of what we have mentioned above works in the majority of cases.

      Reply
  10. Hopefully, I don’t have to apply for any more jobs. My resume would be crazy these days. What do you think….CMCA gift shop manager, salary $0? Hope you have a most happy holiday.

    Reply
    • Linda,
      I can vouch for your gift shop GENIUS! Send those references my way! Everything you choose sells like hotcakes…what an eye you have! Happy New Year!

      Reply
  11. what a thoughtful discussion of the resume process. and i didn’t know that google docs offered free templates. it was interesting to cruise through them and see what’s out there. thanks for posting this!

    Reply
    • Betty~
      We keep learning more and more all that Google offers. Let’s just hope that what we’re giving them in return is worth it! Best of luck in your new venture – Happy New Year!

      Reply
  12. I always enjoy your blog for so many reasons. In fact, I’m going to do something about it…I hereby nominate you for the Liebster Blog Award.

    Liebster is a German word that means dearest,and this award is given to bloggers with less than 200 followers who deserve more recognition.

    Here are the rules:

    Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
    Link back to the blogger who awarded you.
    Give your top 5 picks for the award.
    Inform your top 5 by leaving a comment on their blog.
    Post the award on your blog.

    Thank you for sharing your creativity and joy for life with the rest of us!

    Reply
  13. Love your straight forward and no nonsense approach to life. It is so refreshing to question stiff and outdated structures that include the traditional resume and interview style. I am at a crossroads and I am done with workplace atmosphere that not only tames creativity but also counters forward thinking. This resume discussion is rather insightful. Thank you.

    Reply
  14. Sara ~
    My pleasure is always found in a little bit of rabble-rousing :) There’s wisdom in questioning the conventional – glad you’re doing it, too! I’d be interested to hear where you’ve been and where you’d like to go…

    Reply
  15. I worked predominantly in the world of corporate finances before I accepted my current position in a, what I call, public corporate structure. That was a few years ago, and now I am getting ready to transition into self-employment and plan to utilize the internet with all its new advances. Kellie you are an inspiration!

    Reply

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