Less Fat, More Substance: Clearing the Pork out of Your Resume

Job seekers face a mixed message when looking for advice about how to write a good resume. Some human resources directors suggest that a resume of more than one page will get tossed into the trash, while others call for a resume that provides as much room as necessary to squeeze in a candidate’s every last accomplishment.

Because resumes today can be offered electronically – through job boards, resume builders, and a candidate’s own home page – length is a less important issue as long as the layout and presentation effectively conveys your value to the reader. Having the ability to combine elements presenting who you are, your skills, awards received, samples of your work into a presentation of your personal brand stands far above the information that can be conveyed in a traditional resume.

However, simply presenting yourself on your own blog or your own domain, won’t present the sense of validated presence that hiring managers and human resources staff expect. Instead, your resume should be presented on VisualCV.com where you have the tools necessary to build a media-rich resume tailored to a specific niche or even a prospective employer.

Non-fiction authors often think of a catchy title for their book and then a subtitle that clearly conveys the promise of the book. No matter how many bells and whistles it may have, the book needs to say something and your VisualCV needs to do the same. Your VisualCV conveys your brand. If you were a book on the shelf, what would you say in those first phrases to stand out and convey your promise? Consider this first and then make sure that all elements of your VisualCV – video, scans of awards and recommendations, work samples – reinforce that message.

Start a good resume by clearly defining who you are. If you are looking for a specific position – say a job as a payroll accountant – call yourself a Payroll Accountant right up front. However, if you want to be considered for a number of positions, extend the description off your profession by making it more general; for instance, call yourself an Accounting Professional.

Cement the employer’s opinion of you as your professional self by detailing exactly why you are so good at what you are telling him you do. Provide concrete examples of skills, accomplishments, and credentials. These should be solid illustrations of your work abilities, laden with unambiguous descriptions of achievements that will put you ahead of the pack.

Don’t say, for instance, that you “gave assignments and trained employees.” Write that you “planned company initiatives and directed workflow for positive results including greater overall sales for the company. Built and trained teams to achieve management goals.”

Really hit the resume home with elaboration of your branding statement – what is it that makes you stand out from the pack? Are you a creative thinker, who can provide the employer with well-directed, but out-of-the-box ideas? Are you a super-organizer who can guide a number of diverse projects to achieve a company goal? Maybe you are a self-starter who can work individually or as part of a team to complete tasks critical to an overall plan.

Any book about management will give you a list of really great-sounding team-member personalities, and you may fit those descriptions to a ‘T’ or be a combination of two or more.

It is always a little tempting to try to fit yourself into a mold in an attempt to anticipate what employers would want. Don’t do it. If you are a creative thinker passing yourself off as a super-organizer, you will be miserable in your work and probably not terribly successful. Instead of trying to be what you aren’t, you should focus on the positive aspects of your personality type and skills, and sell those to employers. Remember New Coke? It just wasn’t ever the Real Thing.

After you’ve outlined your skills and special talents, you need to provide prospective employers with information about your work experience. If you’ve had a very solid, long-term work history, you may choose to write a chronological CV. Many hiring professionals prefer such resumes because they provide a clear picture of work history, without any muddying of gaps in employment.

However, you can’t rely on a good tenure in the workforce and well-known company names to tell your story. Hiring professionals are looking for a well-developed picture of the positions you held, where you held them, and how long you were there. They also want a brief – keep it concise – description of your job requirements and your achievements at each place. Using an outline form, with bulleted accomplishments, will keep the resume a fast read.

If you are new to the workforce or have a turbulent work experience, you can put together a functional resume, which will focus on your achievements rather than your history. This type of resume can be harder for some human resources folk to stomach, because it requires them to fill in some of the missing pieces of your work tenure.

Because the functional resume is a favorite technique for those trying to disguise lapses in their work tenure, you must be very specific about your accomplishments. Don’t inflate anything, but this is not the place to downplay any positive achievements. Use very specific words and really, really play up your skills.

Dave Saunders helps people stand out and “Be the Brand” as a personal branding and marketing specialist. Manage your career online: Create, Enhance and Share a better resume, free at VisualCV.com

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