Your Resume: How Original is Too Original?

Last week there was an interesting discussions topic on LinkedIn entitled “How Original is Too Original.”

As soon as I saw this post I thought this is a question many of you must also be asking while endeavoring to write or edit your resume. So here is some food for thought from my point of view on this hotly-debated subject.

When I started writing for Career Rocketeer in early 2009 I decided as a bonus for making CR the #1 informational blog about job search and career transition on the web that I would review and critique any reader’s resume for free. I also had an ulterior motive; which is every week for the past year and a half I have received dozens of resumes and I have talked to countless people from CXO’s to new grads about the results they are getting (or not getting) with their current resume and why they think this is happening. After giving them some constructive criticism and professional advice on how to improve the document they have, I ask them to stay in touch so I can monitor their progress based on the changes I proposed. About 80% of the people stay in touch and this has been a big help to me in determining what works and what does not work in preparing a professional resume for various fields and professions.

Not surprising, the vast majority of the resumes I get sent to review are cookie cutter productions that don’t vary much one from another in style and content regardless of the field or profession of the person who submitted it to me. This being the case, you can only imagine how similar to each other the resumes are that decision makers get for specific jobs they are recruiting for and how hard it is for them to determine which 5 out of 25-125 totally unknown people are worth inviting in for a job interview.

This brings us to the great debate on “How Original is Too Original.”

Another LinkedIn discussion last week had a survey in which 60% of the respondents who review resumes said they prefer candidates to submit resumes in standard chronological formats. Since the survey did not describe who these people are in great detail I can only take their responses at face value. But I would tend to agree that this answer is an accurate assessment of what is BEST FOR THEM! However this does not necessarily mean that what they prefer is BEST FOR YOU! The unasked and unanswered question here is although 60% of these respondents say they prefer you sending them a standard chronological resume, do they reject 60% or more of the candidates who break this mold or do they ask to meet people with more original resumes in greater numbers? I believe they included headhunter types and their opinions skewered the survey since their priorities are dichotomous to those of their client’s internal decision makers.

Here is what I discovered about the changing perceptions of decision makers from the countless people just like you that I spoke to and helped rewrite their resumes in 2010 alone. Originality works wonders for most people, especially when the person who is reading the resume is under 35-years-old; although there are still some professions, like law and finance, where it may be best to tone down the originality to a bare minimum.

Furthermore, I found in professions like sales, marketing, PR and customer service, just to name a few, originality is a key factor in getting a higher percentage of responses from resume submissions.

What personally startled me the most over the past 15 months are the results you can get by pushing the box to the limit in terms of originality. You see, in April 2009, I was sent my first Guerilla Resume to critique and I immediately saw how this format stood way out in the crowd. I also got great feedback from people I spoke to who experimented with this new resume style. So what I did next was speak with decision makers and HR people in my network to get their feedback on this revolutionary approach to resume writing. After sending them a copy they agreed that this format was actually quite unique and they actually liked the way it looked but found certain flaws that they felt could be improved upon. So my next task was to take this format and process engineer it to come up with a better prototype, which I named a Bio-Rez because it combined the best features of a resume and a professional bio.
If you want to view samples of this resume style you can visit my website

Now here is the bottom line. Since I started offering this Bio-Rez format I have written quite a number of them for clients. Most in creative fields but some have been in fields like IT and accounting. I was amazed at the positive feedback I got from these clients in terms of the marked increases in their submission to response ratio, the number of job offers they received, and especially in the immediacy of the results. This may be an anomaly that speaks more to the candidates themselves rather than the style, but I do not believe this is the case because they were the same people before they started using the Bio-Rez than they were afterwards. Nothing about them changed other then the way they presented themselves. And as I said people who use the original Guerilla Resume format seems to enjoy similar success.

So in answer to the question of “How Original is Too Original,” this writer’s opinion is that the sky is the limit for many of you. Whether this includes you is another question, and it should be discussed 1-to-1 with a professional resume writer. However, from my experience I think a more important question most of you should be ask yourselves is this – “How harmful is a lack of originality in my resume?” On this question, I say that your chances of success are much greater standing out in the crowd by being original then blending in with the competition with mediocrity. Especially if one of the keywords on your resume describe you as being forward thinking, innovative, creative, a leader, a great communicator etc.

If you have any questions or comments please contact me. I’m very interested in knowing your thoughts you’re your opinions.


Perry Newman, CPC CSMS is a nationally recognized executive resume writer, career coach, AIPC certified recruiter and SMMU certified social media strategist known for his ability to help his clients get results. You can view his sample resumes at, and email him your resume at for FREE resume critique.

Perry Newman CPC/CSMS is a nationally-recognized career services professional; an executive resume writer and career transition coach, certified social media strategist, AIPC certified recruiter and charter member of the Career Rocketeer team. Passionate about all things related to career management, Perry has been critiquing Career Rocketeer readers' resumes at no cost since 2009. For a complimentary critique, email your resume to

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