Every year for the past four years I have written and critiqued hundreds of resumes from professionals who hired me to transform their fairly good resumes into impressive, targeted marketing documents, and from job seekers who emailed me a professionally or self written resume for a no cost critique and professional advice on how to improve it.
After reading all these resumes I’ve identified three distinct writing approaches; and many people who endeavor to write a resume are not aware of which approach best fits their objective.
So today I would like to share my take on these three approaches and who should be employing them.
A Tech Sheet Resume
My definition of a Tech Sheet resume is one where the writer’s emphasis is on making the reader instantly and easily aware of specific skills sets and it focuses heavily key words usage rather than narrative and achievements.
As you may surmise this is an excellent approach for job seekers on the techie side of IT and in other fields where the screener’s initial focus is to ascertain whether what the candidate brings to the table aligns with the skill sets required for the position such C++, C#, J2EE, AJAX HML, Linux Unix, Siebel, Cognos, Active X, SAP, SAS, Oracle Financials, Cisco Pix firewall etc.
These resume often include lists so the eye can easily scan categories and the skills that go with them such as OS, Software, Hardware, Networking, Languages, Scripts etc., and on occasion I’ve seen these lists creatively broken down into the number of years of experience using them and/or the candidate’s proficiency level.
For these types of positions this is an excellent approach; however I have seen people apply this writing approach to non-technical position resumes and in doing so the final product falls way short of impressing the target audience.
A Classic Novel Resume
To me creativity and style in terms of format, content and narrative are essential to making a resume stand out in the crowd, and over the past few years resumes have evolved quite rapidly and creative approaches are no longer frowned upon; quite the contrary, today they are looked upon quite favorably by most decision makers.
However there are certain fields where a resume must follow a time-tested old fashioned traditional format or else it will be rejected out of hand. Lawyers applying for positions in a law firm instantly come to mind. The people who review their resumes expect them to follow the decade’s old tradition in terms of format, style, presentation and content much like a Shakespeare sonnet or a classic 18th to 19th century novel that has a certain period look and feel.
Once again I see way too many resumes of candidate’s in other fields, especially creative ones, that look and read like old fashioned resume fact sheets that rely heavily on describing a candidate’s duties and/or responsibilities, and include way too many key words and skill sets listings ala classic 1980’s and 1990’s style resumes. Unless you are in a traditional or ultra conservative profession people who choose to apply this approach need to rethink their position and try to adjust to what works in 2012.
A Best-Selling Thriller Resume
There are certain authors whose work constantly lands on the NY Times Best Seller List; among my favorites are James Patterson, David Baldacci, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Robert Parker, Nelson DeMille and Elmore Leonard.
As a resume writer what I appreciate about these authors is their ability to tell a story that captures the reader’s attention from page 1, and their ability to artfully bring their characters to life, and inform us what makes them so unique and what they are most passionate about.
For me, in most cases this is the task of a resume writer. We must understand the business world the candidate and the person who’ll be reading and screening the resume live in; and we must write a resume in such a way that we tell a very compelling story that piques interest in the candidate’s availability and prompts the reader to invite the candidate in for a job interview.
This for me is what a resume writer must strive to accomplish and what most people who write a resume fail to do.