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Reinvent Your Résumé

January 18, 2019 | Filed in: Your Career

The last time you looked for a job, you probably updated your résumé—but when was the last time you really looked at it? Is it possible to write a résumé that’s more than just a list of experiences and accomplishments, one that grabs a hiring manager’s attention and captures your contributions as an employee? Our VP of brand marketing shares some hard-won advice for making your résumé stand out. 

I have the incredible pleasure of working at a company that’s growing, which means I read a lot of résumés…which can be ridiculously frustrating. I’ve come to the dismaying conclusion that most people do not know how to write a good résumé. I’ve also spent plenty of time on the other side, as a job seeker desperate for attention from hiring managers. That’s a disconnect that’s tough to accept. Here’s how to bridge the gap.

Please, just tell me what you do

So many résumés are so boiled down, devoid of detail, and crammed with jargon that it’s impossible to decipher what a candidate does during their day. Do you run social media for a healthcare start-up? Then say so—and for extra points, throw in some specifics, even an example. How about: “I run the Instagram feed for XYZ healthcare start-up. An infographic we created about the increase in the cost of mammograms brought us 50 new followers and drove 23% higher engagement than average.” Great! Now I understand what you might be able to do for me.

Give me the highlights, not the blow-by-blow

I know, you’re thinking, If I’m giving colorful examples, how am I supposed to fit everything in? Answer: You’re not. In fact, please don’t. A brilliant book editor once told me that great dialogue is more like dialogue’s greatest hits—not the “Hey, how are you” of spoken conversation. A résumé is the same way: Pick out the most interesting things you do. If you answer someone’s phone and do their expenses, but you’re applying to be my social media manager, then I don’t care about the assistant duties you perform. In your résumé, only tell me the things that you do that are relevant to the position you’re applying to.

Stick to one page

How do you find out what I need? The job description. Read it carefully, then edit your résumé ruthlessly. Your goal is to fit what you do that’s relevant to my job opening on one page or, if you’re extremely experienced, two pages. And yes, that means you’ll have to customize your résumé for the job you’re applying to. Most people seem to have one general résumé that they blast out to every open position. This isn’t going to get you the best results.

Narrow is not limiting

But I’m so versatile, you’re thinking. I can do so many things! Which is great. But I want to know that you’re going to be happy doing what I need. I have to understand where to place you. This week, I asked a candidate to tell me which of two things she liked doing more. She said she liked them both equally—which was not helpful. It made her seem vague. Have a point of view, pick a side. It doesn’t make you less hirable; it makes you clearer as an applicant.

For most people, ‘strategy’ is not a job

Unless you’re very senior, the word “strategy” is too vague to be throwing around. I’ve heard it from so many candidates now that I’ve started asking what people think it means. Most don’t know. They seem to use it when they want a promotion but aren’t sure what the next step looks like. And when I hear someone talk about strategy, I think, Is this person willing to do the work? Because even the most senior jobs require a whole lot of just getting it done. One of the best interviewees I’ve ever heard answered every question with a story about a time he’d done something similar and how it had worked out, even if it failed. He landed a C-level position.

I am willing to devote significant time to reading your résumé, but not to decoding it. By the time I’ve read it thoroughly, I should understand what you do, what you’re good at, and have some sense of who you are. That’s the only way I’m going to understand if you’re a fit for my open position. Show me who you are—and then let’s do great work together.


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Jennifer Braunschweiger is MM.LaFleur's VP of Brand Marketing. Read more of Jennifer's posts.

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