The Merriam Webster dictionary definition of a résumé is short, or “a summary”. The origins of the word are French and date from the early 19th century. Humans have been creating résumés or “Curriculum Vitas” (CV) for hundreds of years. Like music, the notes have all been played before, but the way you put them together is key to how you build a powerful, useful tool for yourself.
If you Google to find rules, a format, or a sample of a résumé, you will get gobs of information. There are thousands of résumé writers, coaches, and books about the subject. There are lots of good resources out there, and if you ask four people, you will get four different opinions on what and how to present information. It’s one of the topics that I receive the most questions about during the process of identifying the next opportunity. The reality is that it’s a piece of paper that is supposed to summarize who we are. How is it even possible to sum up, in words, paper, or electronically, the essence of who we are?
Remember that the purpose of a résumé is to share a summary of your many talents with a potential employer, but the true goal is to make the person reading your resume WANT TO MEET YOU! We are not striving for a perfect résumé, but to translate or share enough of our essence to get an audience. I’d like to propose that we remind ourselves of why we create a résumé (to earn an interview) and then concentrate on how we create a résumé (best summary of our skills) that is focused on the basics.
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
I suggest creating a core resume that is all inclusive. Regularly add to this document; additional roles, increased responsibilities, ongoing training, publications, presentations, and extracurriculars. Keep it up-to-date. Think of a core resume as your portfolio. The next step is to tailor it. It’s your responsibility to craft a document for your specific audience. A résumé is the first item that introduces you to a potential employer, but along with it goes an email or cover letter. The content matters as much as the presentation. Trust me… they are looking at your format, your ability to write and express ideas, and your attention to detail. Your resume is a tool to gain an interview so you can deliver a marketing presentation of yourself, face-to-face.
How creative you are, what format you choose, what information you share; all are personal choices. Be consistent whatever you choose. The core stays the same. You can customize your résumé for your audience each time you use it. This means selecting the items from the all inclusive résumé that are going to appeal the most to your potential employer. Don’t combine too many ideas or make the resume so busy that it detracts from the content.
Pick one style, keep it simple, and stick with it-check your entire document for consistency. Bold the same things, italicize the same things, layout the same format, but don’t use all the “bling” at one time because it can overwhelm. Remember, be consistent. I’m going to repeat this again and again. Be consistent. Neither of these examples below are wrong, but all the positions must be presented in the same way throughout the document.
RRLLC, McLean, Virginia
January 2010 – present
Account Executive Jan 2010 – present
RRLLC, Mclean, VA
Present the information in powerful ways, traditionally in third person. Boring doesn’t get you an interview. “Show, don’t tell” is key. Use a strong opening statement that shares skills, describes accomplishments, and translates how you add value to an organization.
20 year market research executive with a proven track record of successes
Innovative 20 year market research leader who’s deep industry knowledge has successfully attracted and retained clients.
Clearly present the facts with powerful details that express the depth and breadth of your experience – quantify and qualify any information you present. Pick a paragraph or use bullets (I prefer bullets).
Managed 7 staff members.
- Hired, trained, and managed 7 professionals with a 80% retention rate over a five year period.
Proof your work. Make sure to check grammar or for spelling errors and typos. If this isn’t your forté, find someone who can help. Content is important, but your presentation matters too. Most of your tasks on your resume were completed in the past, so make sure to use past tense. If you are presently in your job, that is the only description that will be in the present tense. Be specific and share details.
Lead teams on a variety of successful projects for a client.
Led teams of five on simultaneous business analytic projects that were delivered on time, within budget, and client requested additional work.
Include pertinent information in the resume. The opening statement is important. Highlights or a showcase of special skills can be valuable. Descriptive powerful statements about your roles, responsibilities, and accomplishments is crucial. Skills, certificates, licenses, education, continued training, memberships, or extra curricular activities add impact. If the item adds depth or demonstrates an additional dimension to your candidacy, include it.
Another way to increase your chances of that in-person meeting are to allow the reader to connect with you. The prescreen person needs to be able to see you have the skills and abilities to do the tasks, and it’s a plus if they can relate to you too. The rule of thumb has been if you have under seven years of experience, stick to a one pager. After that, try and keep it short but you can have a two to three pager. Professionals in more research or academic worlds often use a longer style or the CV format. It will never be perfect, but good enough is what you want. The true test is if you get results: interviews. Do your best or get help from someone who can. Then get out there and start the conversations.
We have about 30 seconds to capture someone’s attention, use it wisely.