A Good Read - Stop Sending Out Boring Resumes
Influence in day-to-day life is hard enough to achieve, let alone execute on paper.
I have written and read more resumes than I would care to admit. As a CEO, for some years now, it is only read mode for me.
More than anything, it is clear that people have lost the art of creative (but honest) writing and influencing the reader to want more. Somehow, people have learnt to surgically remove their personality from their resume. Each time I begin to read one, I brace myself for another inhumane, chronological account of a professional existence.
I want to share an irony: the employer, me, is sifting through a multiple number of resumes looking for difference, when the prospective employees are serving up the same. Similarly structured resumes littered with the same words, conservatively framed, safe and, to be honest, mostly boring.
What I am looking for are insights gleaned from a professional journey or adventure, not merely an outline of an existence. What is your personality like? What have you really achieved in outcomes? Have you bounced back from adversity? Have you owned your career decisions, or, have you pin-balled from one activity to another? Have you positively influenced me?
Do you think any future employer wants you to draw from the same thesaurus as everyone else? ‘Innovative’, ‘passionate’, ‘team player’, ‘motivated’: sadly these words have become clichés.
A resume, in my view, is a story of personality, performance, persistence and persuasion (my ‘four Ps’). The length should aim to be short but interesting enough for me to want to meet you. It requires the use of simple language, short sentences and evidence by brief example of outcomes achieved.
A resume, like life itself, can be lived on the basis of standing out, or in a defensive or protective mode. In my calculation, the bigger life, or the more effective resume, is written with no fear of rejection but with every focus on standing out by stamping it with the ‘four Ps’.
I accept that resume writing and style will depend on the stage of your career. Early on, the many websites and templates available will be of use. However, more and more, I see similarly structured resumes for more senior roles. This provides me with little evidence that the applicant’s career and mindset have grown beyond the constrictions of a template. Anyone with a substantive career behind them should not accept the confines of a template, as I would assume their career has been successful because of the individuality that they brought to it.
So what to do?
Instead of writing the same thing for different jobs, stop and try this exercise. You have two pages available to write down in its most interesting form your life story so far. You are writing it to a publisher to persuade them to commission your story into a book. I am not joking: you need to learn how to represent your whole life in as interesting form as you can. This has to be personal, compelling, illustrative and emotive.
Now for the courageous part.
Select five people - they could be friends or colleagues - and ask each one to read your story. Observe their body language and reactions. This is likely the first time you are able to see the response someone has to your story. In life, we don’t have the luxury of seeing the employer’s reaction. Ask the five people what they liked, what they didn’t like and what they found most interesting about you. Compare and contrast each of their perspectives.
You will likely find common feedback on what compelled them about your story. Keep in mind we are often surprised by what makes us interesting to others. This exercise will give you a greater sense of self-awareness. You may well have made it one step towards standing out.
Vive la difference!
Alex Malley FCPA is the chief executive of CPA Australia and the host of the Nine Network television series The Bottom Line. Alex is also a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and he is a regular business commentator on the nationally syndicated programs The Money News on 2GB and Sky News Business.
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